From the moment my first child was born, I knew that there would be nothing I wouldn’t do for her. It never occurred to me that there might be situations that I couldn’t control, and no matter how much I loved her, there were some things that no amount of love could fix. As a new parent, one of my main concerns was that my daughter didn’t have any major health issues. Thankfully she was born completely healthy, despite a complicated pregnancy. I was so relieved to hold a healthy baby girl in my arms, and at that moment, I can assure you the thought of her having a speech delay never entered my mind…
My husband and I were extremely diligent (sometimes paranoid) about observing our daughter’s milestones during her first year of life. She hit all her major fine and gross motor skill milestones right on time or even early. Once her first birthday rolled around, we were excited for the upcoming year and hearing our daughter’s first words and having her transition into toddlerhood. However, those first words never came. Trying not to worry, we decided to wait it out. Sure enough, tiny words starting to come out but not nearly as quickly as kids her own age (I know everyone says don’t compare children, but come on – everyone does!).
By age 2, she only had a handful of words and was not stringing two words together. I brought up my concerns to our pediatrician, and he referred us to an early intervention program. We had her evaluated, and “yay” she didn’t qualify for services. They felt that at her current age, what she understood was more important than what she was communicating, and they felt she understood a lot. My husband was relieved. I was not. My husband and some family members told me, “Don’t worry, if the doctors are saying she’s fine, then she’s fine.” But, I’m her mother, I’m her FIRST doctor! I don’t care what medical degree you have, no one knows your child better than you, and I KNEW something was wrong.
We spent the next year in limbo. I couldn’t get the early intervention program back to re-evaluate her, and a private speech therapist wouldn’t take her until she turned 3. By the time she was 2.5 years old, not only did she not have a lot of words, she would not answer questions that were asked. She would just repeat the question back to you. This is a major sign of a speech delay – which of course, I was researching here. With each day, my anxiety grew. I knew that my daughter had an issue, and no one would help her, and I COULDN’T help her. I called early intervention again, and they said that since she was so close to 3, we were better off waiting until her 3rd birthday and taking her to speech therapy privately.
We were moving to a new home right after she turned 3, so I begged her pediatrician to help me get her evaluated by a private speech pathologist in NY before her birthday. He agreed, and we got her into a private speech therapy evaluation. It was a nightmare! She was strapped into a chair for almost 2 hours being asked questions until she finally melted down. Then this speech therapist just looks at us and says, “Yes, she’s SIGNIFICANTLY speech delayed.” I got home and lost it.
The mommy guilt came in a big way. What could I have done differently? What if I read to her more? What if I put her in daycare a few days a week, so she had more interaction with kids her own age? Why didn’t I push for re-evaluations harder? What if I sat on the floor with her every second that she was awake and playing with her and labeled everything she saw? Why did I try to get her to play by herself so I could cook dinner when I could’ve been teaching her things? Every horrible thought you can think about yourself as a mother raced through my mind day and night until I came to the realization that we now had identified the problem. I could finally help her.
We were moving to CT, and I was determined to find help for her in our new town. I researched and found a place that sounded promising. I spent 2.5 hours on the phone with them going over my daughter’s entire history. They set up an evaluation for her while we were still in NY, and I went back and forth multiple times to make sure she would be ready to receive services the minute we were residents of CT. Based on their evaluation, they gave their recommendation on the quantity and duration of therapy she should receive, and I agreed. My husband did not; he felt it was too much. This, again, is when, as a mother, you’re your child’s doctor. I KNEW this is what she needed. Reluctantly, my husband agreed.
Within a few months, she was speaking in sentences, responding to, not repeating questions, and was so much more social! It was a complete 180 in such a short amount of time. I’m greatly indebted to the staff where she received services and can never thank them enough. My son is now experiencing his own speech delay. Thankfully he qualified for birth to 3, so he’s already receiving help, but I’m calmer because I know where we will send him when he turns 3.
Some things are just beyond our control as moms, and no matter how much you love your children, sometimes they need help that you can’t provide. What you can do is make sure you find them the best help you can and that no matter how many people tell you that you’re paranoid or you should just relax and listen to the doctors, you know your child better than anyone. Most importantly, just as there are things that are out of your control, there are things that no matter what are – NOT YOUR FAULT!