Words have always come easy to me. My parents told me I was speaking full sentences by the time I was 18 months old. At two, I corrected my grandmother’s pronunciation of Santa Claus.
Words came easy. My voice was another matter. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I found it.
I was a shy, insecure young woman. The dyslexia that made school and life so hard made me an extremely cautious person. I was terrified that if I opened my mouth, people would discover just how stupid I was.
I would rather die than let someone know what I really thought or felt.
As I made my way through my twenties and early thirties, I became more comfortable with who I was. I learned I was a smart, capable woman. I had value and so did my voice. But speaking up for myself was something I continued to work on. I still had an investment in being liked and seen as the “good girl.”
Then I had my first miscarriage. Then a second, third, and fourth loss. All of a sudden being thought of as the perfect patient couldn’t hold a candle to having a healthy baby. By the time I finally held my newborn son two years after my first miscarriage, the carefully crafted good girl image that meant so much to me no longer mattered. If I felt something was wrong, I would call my doctor. My fear of looking stupid or bothering the office was overshadowed by something far greater, the needs of my unborn child.
I read everything I could on pregnancy loss. If a specialist was recommended, I would get on the phone and pepper the doctor or hospital with questions. People responded to me, and I found that my gift of words helped me connect to people and get the information I needed.
As my son got older, I found that this ability came in handy as it became apparent that his speech was late in developing. I was fearless when it came to getting the help he needed. I was no longer scared to question doctors and others in authority. I now did it without blinking.
What surprised me even more was that people actually listened to me. I found that the doctors, teachers, and therapists I was dealing with were very open to my questions and instincts.
They didn’t see a scared dyslexic girl. They saw an intelligent, well-read mother who would do anything she needed to get her kids the help they needed. And if I ever felt my concerns were not being taking seriously enough, I had no problem letting them know and finding another practice.
I was a mom now, and nothing as trivial as my fears of looking dumb would get in the way of my ability to get my children the proper care.
As it turned out, this skill came in handy because all three of our kids struggle with learning differences. My daughter has very significant special needs.
I have become a vocal advocate for them and have seen all three of my children accomplish things that some said were impossible.
I may have been born with the gift of words, but it took motherhood for me to find my voice.
*Wishing you all a very happy New Year! This piece was previously published on the Dishwasher, January 17, 2015, under the title, Motherhood Helped Me Find My Voice. It has been edited from the original.