This is the first of a 2-part story based on an interview with Sally who is profoundly deaf; how she found out about sex as a naive schoolgirl and, in part two, what impact that had on her own parenting.
Sally was born into a hearing family with ’very narrow’ views. They didn’t talk much and certainly not about sex or relationships. Sex education at school consisted of a film with no subtitles, and nothing at all about the physical changes to expect. There were no books to refer to and no internet for advice. Periods came as a big shock and no-one had effectively explained to her how to use tampons, why they come in different sizes or how often you should change them. (These, and similar questions are still being asked in our SRE and identity classes across the country). Cheaper brands had no diagrams and the level of written English was generally too high or used too many unknown medical terms.
Swapping guesses and half-truths with classmates was the source of most ‘information’ with the occasional fact from big sister thrown in. But nothing from Mum. In fact, after a dare when all the girls in the class bought condoms, Sally’s was discovered in her school bag and this caused a huge row at home with accusations of her being a slut - and worse. She didn’t really know what it was for.
At 17, Sally discovered that she was pregnant. The family rallied round, full of regret and guilt, but the system had yet more surprises in store for the mum-to-be.
To be fair, the hospital did provide some information, including pictures and a diagram, but there were no accessible pre-natal classes and Sally hadn’t a clue about the process, pain and options of giving birth. Not knowing even how to push, after a 27-hour labour and the shock of a forceps delivery, Sally had a beautiful baby boy, and her parenting path had begun.
Determined not to repeat the mistakes of her parents, Sally now has a very open relationship with her children. To find out how things worked out, and to get some of her insights and opinions, look out for part two of Sally’s story. If you have any comments or would like to know more about the courses we run to educate deaf children and young people about sex and relationships, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.