x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Deaf mother of four conquers disability to raise children

'There should be more sign interpreters and I would like to see an association for the hard of hearing in Dubai.'

Hessa Hassan Al Jaber says the struggle of raising four children who had no hearing difficulties, intensified four years ago when her husband, who was also deaf, died. Jaime Puebla / The National
Hessa Hassan Al Jaber says the struggle of raising four children who had no hearing difficulties, intensified four years ago when her husband, who was also deaf, died. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // Hessa Hassan Al Jaber’s first thought was “please tell me my child can hear”.

The Emirati was just two when doctors discovered that she was deaf in both ears.

And she was terrified that her baby boy Rashed, now 14, would be unable to hear too, despite statistics showing that more than 90 per cent of deaf parents have children with no hearing problems.

“They took my first baby and I was crying,” she said. “I asked why did you take him? I was so worried, I began imagining he could not hear. But he is OK.”

During her pregnancy Ms Al Jaber sought advice on how to cope as a deaf mother.

There were many worries, she said.

One of the things she was terrified about, she said, was being unable to hear the cries of her newborn.

Advice she was given through support of other deaf mothers led her to buy a baby monitor that flashed a light instead of emitting a sound.

“I tried to know what to do,” she said.

Ms Al Jaber went on to have three more children Rawdha, 12, Sultan, 9, and Hassan, 6, and she admits it has been a struggle.

“It was very hard when they were small. There were many challenges,” she said.

“Educating them was very difficult. I paid for a private school, even though things were tough and money was short. As time went on, my family tried to help, but I really did everything myself.”

The mother said the struggle of raising four children who had no hearing difficulties, intensified four years ago when her husband, who was also deaf, died.

As a now widowed deaf mother, the 38-year-old said life was very difficult raising her family in a small home in Sharjah.

This changed two years ago when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, heard of Ms Al Jaber’s story and gave her financial support and a house in Dubai.

“At the time I was living in Sharjah, in an old house, and we were bearing it, but we struggled and then the Sheikh visited us,” she said. “I was amazed and very glad.

“He heard about my plight and basically ordered us to move,” she said. He said you shall move and we were given everything a person could need to make life better.

“We all love this sheikh.”

Ms Al Jaber’s main worry during the early years of her children’s lives was that their education and development would suffer because of her impairment.

“I was worried that I would have a hard time raising them and helping them study, but, thank God, I was able to do it.

“Thank God I was able to teach them and communicate with them in sign language.”

Ms Al Jaber would like to see further provisions in the community for those who are deaf or hard of hearing

“There should be more sign interpreters and I would like to see an association for the hard of hearing in Dubai.”

jbell@thenational.ae