Kat's Story: "The Talk"
A little over six months ago, I was coming out of one of the longest fogs I’ve ever been through. It was the thick kind, where you can only see two feet in front of you, and you’re holding on tight for what lies ahead. Lots of traffic cones, no where to pull over, and no exits. My son had just been through the ringer with ear infection after ear infection, and after a long hard fight (and a really difficult holiday season last year), he got tubes put in and everything was starting to settle down. I was finally starting to relish in the joys of a healthy kid, and watching him come into his own was a real treat (plus, sleep is GOOD). But then, as life does, it threw us another curve-ball.
One of the most eye opening experiences I have had thus far as a mother is the day I was told my child needed help. I remember that day so clearly. It was my son’s 18 month check up. Now, up until that point, his check ups would be coupled with a follow up appointment for his ears, or bowels. But not this time! We got to finally stride into the Pediatrician’s office just like everyone else. “Just another routine visit to check off the list!”, I thought. When we checked in, I was handed what I can only describe as a manuscript filled with questions about how my child was "measuring up." I remember being aggravated at the amount of paperwork, not to mention the amount of questions, but the outcome of it never crossed my mind. As I started filling it out, and checking a lot of “no” boxes in the developmental section, I started to realize “the talk” was coming.
I will go ahead and tell you, I didn’t take the news all that well. I was in total denial. The part that he was particularly struggling with was his speech. Let me rephrase this...an 18 month old baby was having issues with his speech. If you just read that sentence and thought, “How?” then you & I are in the same boat. I couldn't understand what they needed him to say. I live with him and my expectations haven't been that high. So, they basically set me up with Early Intervention, and a promise to reassess at two years old. I walked away from that appointment feeling two things: shock over the ludicrous suggestion that my 18 month old wasn't talking enough, and failure. That second one is a real doozy.
When the Early Intervention Program called me, I pretty much padded the conversation in a polite manner, and turned down their services. I wasn’t ready to admit that my precious boy needed what they were offering. I decided to wait it out, in hopes that he was just what they call a “late talker”. But time came and went, and that denial slowly turned into acceptance. We were fast approaching his second birthday, and there weren’t very many more words being added to his vocabulary. I was gearing up to face this, but still hoping that he was going to wake up one day and start spewing sentences.
Well, I still do.
So here we are. After more ENT appointments, and a hearing test, Early Intervention has come to assess my kid, and they’ll be coming back with a team of people to decide if he's 25% delayed. When I heard that percentage, my mouth fell. And when I heard they needed to come back a second time with more people, including therapists to decide his eligibility, my mouth fell even wider. Mostly, because, I know what that means for him. And let me just add, watching strangers play with my kid when I know their motives is off putting in a way. But I know it’s their job, and at the end of the day, they are trying to do what’s best.
This is where that “F” word comes in for me. Failure. I understand that my son needing speech therapy isn’t the end of the world, or even close to it. There are parents all over the globe dealing with far worse issues, and my heart breaks for them. But this is my struggle. When I look around at all the other children close to his age, some even younger, and they are spitting words back at you as fast as you can say them, I can’t help but wonder what I’ve done wrong. What does everyone else do that I don’t? Do they play with their kids more? Do they read better books? Do they refuse screen time? Or is it simply, he’s just not the same as other kids in this department. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both.
My hope with sharing this story is that some of you other mom’s out there are sitting on the other side of this looking for a hand to hold, or just somebody that can stand next to you and say, “Me too!”. Because I know I really could have used that. We’re still dealing with it, and who knows what our next struggle will be, but it’ll come.
And we’ll meet it when it does.