When I became a mother 15 years ago, I expected some perks with the job. The way a newborn will hold on to your finger when you are feeding her, or the way your two-year-old’s face lights up when you walk into a room. Being the one who gets to hear your son ask God to bless the baby in mommy’s tummy or hear your daughter say I love you for the first time.
These perks make up for the sleepless nights, days full of worry, spit covered shirts, and prematurely gray hair.
But there’s one gift motherhood gave me that I never, ever expected–I gained my voice.
Words have always come easy for me. Legend has it that I was speaking full sentences at the age of 18 months. I corrected my grandmother’s pronunciation of Santa Claus when I was two.
I can start up a conversation with almost anybody, anywhere.
Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this was nine years ago when I had my third child. I went into labor at 3:00 in the morning, a full 24 hours before my scheduled C-section. The doctor we had scheduled to deliver my son wasn’t on call. Instead I was going to have the head of the practice deliver my last baby.
I knew I was in good hands, but I wasn’t particularly close to this doctor. He didn’t have the same warm bedside manner as Dr. B. In my nervous attempt to develop a bit of a connection with the man who was cutting me open, I began asking him questions about his kids.
For some reason I’m not sure of I remembered that he had once mentioned that all three of his sons were into theatre. I asked how it was going for them.
I doubt he expected to be discussing his sons with the woman he was performing a C-section on, but maybe his paternal pride kicked in because he mentioned that two of his boys happened to be starring in their high school production of Sweeney Todd.
As chance would have it, my aunt was directing the production.
Hours later he was congratulating my aunt on a wonderful performance and her new great nephew. He told her he had never had a conversation like that while he was delivering a baby.
My chattering kept me calmer and made the birth of my beautiful son that much more memorable. It also fits the image most people have of me of being outgoing and not afraid to speak up for myself.
But the truth is, I may have been born with the ability to use words at an early age. But opening my mouth and speaking up for myself was something that I didn’t fully accomplish until I became a mother.
I was a shy, insecure young woman. My dyslexia made me very cautious, and I was always afraid people would consider me stupid.
I would rather die than let someone know what I thought or felt.
As I made my way through my twenties and early thirties, I became more comfortable in my skin. But speaking up for myself was still something I had to work on. I was still very concerned with being liked and playing the part of the “good girl.”
Then I had my first miscarriage, followed by a second, a third, and a fourth. All of a sudden being thought of as a nice girl or the perfect patient wasn’t as important as having a healthy baby.
By the time I finally held my newborn son two years after my first loss, I no longer cared about my image. If I felt something was wrong, I would call my doctor. My fear of looking stupid was overshadowed by something greater, the needs of my unborn child.
I read up on anything I could on pregnancy loss. If a specialist was recommended, I would get on the phone and call the hospital the doctor was affiliated with and ask 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 to me 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.
What surprised me even more was that people 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 need. 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 come in the way of my ability to get my children the care they needed.
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 very vocal advocate for them and have seen all three of my children accomplish things that some said were impossible.
I was born with the gift of words, but it took motherhood for me to find my voice.
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