Today, I wanted to write about something that’s very difficult for me to write about—a topic fiercely close to my heart. Indeed, one and the same as my heart . . . my baby boy. My firstborn son, Isaiah. I know I’m his mama, but he is the sweetest, smartest, most tenderhearted and precious thing I’ve ever known on this planet! He is God’s promise fulfilled, a promise of living, breathing flesh.
Like any mama, my heart aches for my children when they stumble and fall or when they struggle. Any “boo boo” or hurt feeling sends me reeling, although I amgetting better at handling it (with these two, there are lots of boo boos in our future!). But what about the boo boos and hurts that can’t be easily remedied by a cutesy Muppets Band-Aid?
Over the summer, we have come to encounter one of those problems, in the form of a speech delay. I know this is such a specific problem and most (if not all!) of you will have no experience with it—however, my heart for this blog is to encourage others, to help others know they aren’t alone in their struggles with faith, fear, or whatever the case may be . . . so I want to share our journey (we are just getting started!) on the off-chance that one of you finds yourself in the same boat. Even if you can’t relate to the specifics, perhaps you will be encouraged as you face your own unique struggles and hurdles. I have a friend from law school who blogged awhile back about her son’s experience with a speech delay, and I found greatencouragement in her words. So today, I’d like to do the same!
As all my fellow moms know, you spend your baby’s first year hyper in-tuned to his or her development—BabyCenter became almost a daily site visit for me, and it is indeed a great resource rich with loads of information. As Isaiah grew, one by one I checked off his developmental milestones with a huge sigh of relief.
He’s smiling! Phew.
He’s responding to his name! Phew.
He’s crawling! Yay! (And, oh no! I have to baby proof now!)
In terms of speech development, I honestly didn’t give this area a huge part of my attention. He made lots of noises, coos, grunts, and cries, and nothing about his speech flagged my attention, especially as a first-time mom. But as he continued to grow (8 months, 9 months, 10 months, etc.) and I spent time with friends and their similarly aged babies, I had that first uncomfortable realization . . .
. . . Hmmm, he’s not babbling like that little girl. He’s not imitating me or repeating words like “ball” and “baby.” He’s never even come close to saying “mama.”
Even so, I wasn’t worried about him in light of the huge variation in when children speak, and the fact that boys tend to be less verbal or develop verbal skills later than girls. But as he passed the 18-month mark and neared the age of 2, one of those BabyCenter bulletins stopped me in my tracks. I quickly realized that he did not have the number of words he “should” have, nor was he using verbal cues to inform me of his wants and needs. As we joke around our house, Isaiah speaks “cave man,” and speaks it quite well!
Countless times, I was told “oh don’t worry about it, kids develop at different speeds,” and while this istrue, something simply didn’t seem right. Call it a mom’s intuition, but I felt something else might be going on. Whenever we read books or I talked with him and asked him to repeat words, I could see his mind thinking and his mouth trying to form the word . . . but he just couldn’t make the word come out of his mouth. One thing I’ve learned for sure is to listen to your mama’s intuition!
I brought this issue to his doctor’s attention back in the spring, and we were able to get set up with a fantastic speech therapist at UC Davis (how incredibly thankful I am for the care we receive here!). After a couple of sessions, our therapist thinks he may have a mild case of Apraxia, a motor speech disorder. I’m still learning what that means, but essentially, Isaiah is not fully able to say what he knows. The brain communicates with the mouth/tongue/lips to make certain sounds and words, but this motor pathway is disrupted in children with Apraxia.
Thankfully, he has no cognitive or developmental delays accompanying his speech disorder, so our therapist is positive about the progress he’s made thus far and will continue to make. But it will be a long road, and progress is often slow. I am realizing the importance of reminding myself of this and not falling into the comparison trap! I’m so proud of Isaiah and how hard he works during sessions . . . but oh, how it tugs on my heart when I see other children his age talking up a storm. I never realized just how much I long to hear his sweet voice. He is such a smart little guy, learning so much everyday and changing rapidly—it kills me that he isn’t able to tell me what he’s thinking or ask me a question. When he says simple phrases like “thank you” or “bye bye,” it literally thrills my heart!
So, that’s where we find ourselves now. Weekly speech therapy is a part of our life, and hopefully we will be adding in another session each week via the county (California has some fantastic programs—putting all those taxes to work, ha!). And let me tell you, nothing in my life has sent me to my knees before God faster than my children and what touches their lives. I finally understand what my own mom has told me all these years—that anything that happens to her is nothing compared to what happens to her babies!
As we begin the journey of tackling Isaiah’s speech disorder, I’m reminded of some important truths that we as believers must hold to in faith. It’s nothing new, but I know I need the reminder—and today, maybe you do too!
First, fear does NOT have to be our master. When we’re facing an uncertain future (will Isaiah learn to speak normally? Will he have lingering delays? Will he be able to thrive in school?), the instinct to fear is palpable and sometimes overwhelming. It’s no wonder then, that God addressed this topic in the Bible hundreds of times, with comforting admonitions notto fear and not to be afraid. I love the words of Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea . . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge (Psalm 46:1-2,7 NKJV emphasis added).
When the voice of fears taunts you—and yes, it will most certainly do so—remember that we have the God of the universe on our side. He is in control, even when our circumstances feel all kinds of crazy! I’m learning to dig deep into the next level of faith and trust Him with Isaiah’s future, which brings me to the next point:
Second, our children ultimately belong to the Lord. My inner control freak swallows hard at this one . . . my children are not mineto own. They are blessings bestowed by our Creator God and entrusted to Aaron and me to love, teach, and train. A recent Proverbs31 article provided a great reminder that we must entrust our children to the Lord, knowing that their future is in His hands, not ours.
Long before Isaiah was a thought in my mind, His name was on my Father’s tongue. I am learning the difficult task of leaving my hands open, palms up before God and resting in His plans for Isaiah and Hemingway’s lives. I cling to the words of Isaiah 40:11, which read:
He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment (HCSB).
Isn’t that imagery beautiful? I am asking and believing God to carry my babies in His arms, which never tire like mine do. While it’s challenging to let go of my illusion of control, I know in my spirit there is no better place for them to be!
And finally, God is still good, no matter what. Guys, this is a tough one, is it not? God is good . . . even when the cancer is incurable? Even when the diagnosis has no treatment? Even when the answer to our deepest desire is no?
Yes, He is. And this is the space in which faith sinks deep into the dark earth, developing strong, hearty roots while grasping the soft, cool dirt in a place the sun doesn’t reach. I believe as Christians, we generally do not give God enough credit. We don’t believe Him when He says He can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine(Ephesians 3:20 NIV). But I believe He is faithful to fulfill that promise when we trust Him and step out in faith . . . it doesn’t mean our life will “look” exactly like we thought it would or should. There are certainly seasons in which we have to look a little deeper to find the good, but I believe with all my heart that it’s there. Are we willing to hold fast to this truth, even when our circumstances entice us to think otherwise?
So, on that note I’ll sign off, as I’ve already written far more than I intended to write (as always, ha!). I hope something in this post encourages you today, and thank you for reading as I share my most honest, raw heart with you.