Belle with her ladybug backpack
The Diagnosis

The start of our journey

Our 1½ year wellness checkup was our first heads up that we completely ignored. At that time Belle’s pediatrician told us that she should be saying more than she was, but we weren’t concerned. We knew other kids who were older than her that weren’t talking, or weren’t talking much.

We left the appointment that day with the confidence, and mindset that Belle would be talking any day now.

Fast forward six months

Our two-year wellness checkup was only the second (and last) appointment that my husband wasn’t able to make it to. Not much had changed, though. Looking back we now realize that Belle had actually regressed in her speech. I told him not to worry about coming to it, and that I had it under control—or so I thought.

We started with the basics—where she averages as far as height and weight go; what her diet is like; her sleeping pattern (see “Sleep Fighting“)—but the conversation quickly turned to the topic I’d been dreading. Belle’s doctor asked if her vocabulary had improved any. My protective, motherly instincts kicked in, and I tried to sugar coat it. “She says a few words, but she doesn’t really need to talk because we know what she wants.” We never thought anything of it. After all, she’s only two, right? She will do it on her own time. No big deal.

Well, that’s the day that I found out a speech delay can be a big deal—a very big deal.

Here it comes…

Your daughter is not developing normally.

This is the part of the movie where the sound gets muffled, and the main character has a ringing in their ears.

That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks, and I couldn’t concentrate on everything the doctor was saying. There was mention of autism, and she gave me some information about our local AEA to rule out difficulty hearing, and begin working one on one with them in our home. The next step would be to visit a clinic here in town that specializes in childhood development. She couldn’t diagnose Belle with anything herself, but it all seemed so official.

The car was parked just a few feet from the office door, but it felt like it was so much farther. I secured Belle into her carseat, looked at her beautiful little face, and then broke down. Inside I was screaming. I wanted her doctor to understand that there couldn’t possibly be any development issues. She didn’t know Belle like we did.

I kissed Belle, and told her that I loved her and that she was the best little girl a mama could ask for. I closed her door, and as I walked around the car I found one of the nurses standing there waiting to give me a hug, and to tell me that everything was going to be ok. She’ll never know how much I needed to hear that.

Sharing the news

Before I left the parking lot I called my husband. I told him everything the doctor had said, and his reaction was slightly different than mine–angry and defensive. After all, we’re talking about his precious, little girl here. I didn’t want to be alone, so I went to visit with my parents about what the doctor had said. They didn’t know what to say, either, except that they will be there if we need anything.

The rest of that night is difficult to describe because my head was spinning with questions and emotions, and there was a lot of crying (on my part), a lot of anger (on my husband’s part), and a lot of denial that we both had. So many questions–barely any answers. What does this mean exactly? Where do we go from here? Why is this happening to our sweet, little girl?

I suppose the story goes that everything happens for a reason.







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