My husband called me at work to tell me that my son had uttered his first word. Instead of filling with excitement and joy, I was overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and guilt. I was thrilled for my son but it was also a painful reminder that I might never hear his sister, who is six years older than him, ever speak in her own voice.
Gideon is only eight and half months old and he has more sounds than his older sister. And now he is pairing those sounds with meaning to form words. He had been babbling “dada” for several weeks but today he said “dada” with meaning.
When my husband walked in to pick him up from daycare, my son stared right at my husband and said “dada.”
An hour before my husband called to tell me that Gideon had spoken his first word, I had just read an email from Caroline’s speech therapist. The email was filled with joy and excitement that Caroline was making great progress with vowel/consonant combinations, similar to those in “dada”.
I know. I know. I am not supposed to compare my children; they are all different, unique and special. And I am not comparing them and I am not taking away from my son’s moment. But I am feeling sad that my daughter has not – and may never have – a moment when we celebrate her first word.
Yes, Caroline has spoken a few words but than we never hear them again. She struggles to imitate sounds and has a very hard time pairing multiple sounds together. Her voice is iPad generated and powered by an app. I am so thankful that she is able to communicate using her iPad because it has allowed me to get to know my daughter. But like any mother I want nothing more than to hear my daughter share her thoughts with her own voice not that of a computer.
Gideon is babbling constantly in a way that Caroline never did. I am so thankful that he is verbalizing because it is a sign that his development is typical. He has so many sounds in his babbling that I know other words will be coming soon. The joy it brings me when I hear his little voice is overwhelming. I am happy, as any mother would be, that my son is talking. I am relieved that it is another sign that he developing typically. But I am yearning, now more than ever; to hear my daughter speak using her vocal chords not her fingers.
I am filled with so much guilt for thinking about my daughter’s challenges as my son met this huge milestone. Just as I am guilt-ridden because I am still not able to fully accept that my daughter might never speak. It is a balancing act between never giving up hope and accepting my child for who she is.
Today, is a bittersweet day filled with joy, happiness, guilt and sadness. Being the parent to a child with special needs and two typically developing children has taught me to take nothing for granted. But it has also filled me with guilt for yearning for what might never be and for not being able to fully accept things as they are.