Gull

Chapter Six continued...
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In view of the numbers of baby girls in China that are apparently adopted informally (see chapter 2), there must be a certain number who appear healthy at the time of adoption but turn out later to have impairments such as a mental handicap or deafness. We might well wonder if these children are more likely to be abandoned after their disability is discovered if they are not related by blood to their parents. The account above also illustrates popular lack of knowledge about the mechanism of genetic inheritance of deafness: this couple believed that the deaf couple's third child was unlikely to be deaf if the first two children were hearing.

The diagnosis of deafness forces parents to revise their picture of their child's future. Some educated parents who had special aspirations for their only child found it particularly painful to face reality. One couple had dreamed of bringing up their child to be bilingual in Chinese and English, since they themselves knew English well. When the mother realized that her son might never master even one language, she became very depressed and could not continue her job as an English teacher. She began working instead in a bank, where she could make more money to spend on her son's medical treatments. Another mother had hoped that her son would achieve her own unfulfilled ambition of going to college: the knowledge that her deaf son was unlikely to realize this goal seemed to revive feelings of failure and disappointment about her own life. Given the national family planning regulations limiting families to one child except under special circumstances, parents must find the shattering of their aspirations for their only children particularly hard to bear. Back to the Book.


Alison Callaway, a medical doctor with a family practice in Oxford, completed her doctorate at the Centre for Deaf Studies, University of Bristol, England.

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