Sometimes Life Throws You a Curve Ball….

I have been debating for a while about making this post. I really feel like it’s time to talk about my “curve ball”. The Lord has really been working on my heart and I hope it comes across with the same amount of love that I feel.

It’s because I’ve always been so blessed with great clients, that inevitably turn into friends, that I feel comfortable sharing a little bit of my heart. A piece of me that I haven’t shared with many… maybe because I feel vulnerable, or because I don’t care to hear solutions from people that have no idea what it’s like in the world we live in. The world of developmental & speech delay… special needs.

Our youngest little guy, Dawson, is such a giggly, happy, loving, fun-spirited boy!! His laugh is absolutely contagious!! He always developed a little later than the other kids his age. He crawled a little later, walked a little later. He wouldn’t walk without holding onto something until he was 18 months old. So when he was a little behind in his speech I was reassured by my pediatrician and other moms that he’s a boy and boys are different from girls. Afterall, Shae was always ahead of schedule for hitting her milestones. I shouldn’t expect Dawson to be just like Shae. They are 2 totally different kids, equally as awesome, but different. So, I kept putting off the feeling that something was “different”. After talking to my doctor I was reassured again, he’s a boy and he’s developing. I would get so hurt if others asked why he was “behind” or would try to give me suggestions about how to handle a tantrum for Dawson. I interpreted those curious friends and strangers as somehow saying I wasn’t being a good mother, wasn’t helping my son learn enough. And worst of all I so very much disliked the faces I would get from people, especially as a meltdown would start. The faces of annoyance, the faces that clearly conveyed astonishment… how dare I interrupt their dinner, or how dare I go shopping for groceries with a toddler that got upset. It is at that moment when really, I just needed understanding and grace.

Because I felt so helpless in so many situations with Dawson and because I was so unsure of how he would react, I started to become somewhat of a recluse. At home we can redirect a meltdown, or catch it right before it starts and divert his attention elsewhere. When we are out, it’s alot harder. For me, this became a bit debilitating… don’t get me wrong. Dawson is amazing and there were plenty of times we were out in public that there weren’t meltdowns, but it’s almost like a switch where he will go from totally fine to very upset and I don’t always know what he is upset about. That’s tough. A great example of this was at our photo session with Abby Libsack Photography. Dawson was getting fussy, probably because we were in a new place, and we were all trying to do what we could to help him kind of regulate himself so that he could just enjoy our afternoon and we could play and Abby could just take pictures of us as we play. I had no expectation of an Olan Mills style perfectly posed photo session. I just wanted some photos of our family with me in them. Well, after a few minutes I decide to take off D’s shoes and his collared shirt, and suddenly he was a new kid. A happy kid running around having fun playing. We diverted a potentially big meltdown by getting rid of his shirt & shoes. {This is the part where I brag about how stinking cute my family is by showing you some of the amazing photos Abby Libsack took}Photo by Abby Libsack Photography Photo by Abby Libsack Photography Photo by Abby Libsack Photography Photo by Abby Libsack Photography Photo by Abby Libsack Photography Photo by Abby Libsack Photography

At a little over 2 1/2 years old I finally had a moment of clarity. I thought to myself, “There is nothing ‘wrong’ with Dawson, maybe it’s our version of  ‘normal’. Maybe what we consider ‘normal’ is wrong.” I shared this with Scott and he was on board. We decided to change our “normal” to make sure Dawson has the best environment to learn and thrive. We reached out to the Babies Can’t Wait program that is run through our county. After being tested, Dawson showed signs of severe speech delay in one test, in a 2nd test, taken simultaneously, he showed a moderate speech delay as well as a slight cognitive and slight social delay in that same test. I was glad we were no longer in limbo, but hearing the test results were heart breaking. Of course the first thing I thought was “Where did we go wrong? What did I not do? What could I have done more of? Is it because I work from home? Do I not give him enough attention? Do we not love him enough?” In reality nothing we did caused these delays. We love him more than enough. But, unfortunately, I wasn’t given a manual on how to process my feelings.

We started speech therapy and I soaked up every bit of knowledge I could to help Dawson have the best learning environment possible. We did the “Babies Can’t Wait” program until Dawson turned 3. Once kids turn 3 they can no longer do “Babies Can’t Wait” and are put through the school system. We have a hearing test this month that is part of the testing needed to see if we qualify for a preK 3 year old program for highly functioning, delayed kids like Dawson. We are praying that we are approved for even 1 day a week. The more positive, social, learning environments the better!! As soon as Babies Can’t Wait was over we began private speech therapy & occupational therapy weekly. It’s expensive, but SOOOO worth it!!! He does soooo well and loves the praise and positive reinforcement he receives from his hard work. Dawson’s verbal communication has increased, he can make decisions now when given choices, and he makes eye contact, even with strangers, so much more now. It’s amazing to see his growth & progress over the past few months!!

The part that I really haven’t talked about, that no one really warned me about is the emotional side of this. Wanting others to see just how amazing and awesome you know your kid is, but realizing that some only see what they deem as “wrong” with him. The feeling of helplessness, and loneliness… because lets be real, most of my mom friends have no clue what it’s like.  Wanting so bad for your baby to communicate their feelings, or why they are upset. Not being able to understand why your toddler can name the objects around the room, knows his alphabet, numbers and colors, but can’t tell you he loves you in words. There is a little bit of a grief process that happens. One that I didn’t expect. On a beautiful note, it’s brought Shae and Dawson soooo close. Dawson adores Shae and Shae equally loves Dawson. If she sees the signs of frustration or an impending meltdown she begins to sing his favorite song or play with his favorite puppet to help him through the overwhelming feelings he has in that moment. She only sees all of the things that make him awesome. Shae has noticed when people say things or make faces and then asked me why others react. In her mind Dawson is just having a tough day, and everybody has tough days. God gave her such a big heart and I’m so grateful for it.

I want to be sooo clear when I say this… I don’t want to “fix” something in Dawson. Nothing is broken. God made him perfect. I want to help him be the best person he can be. And as he is learning communication I am learning the best ways to teach him so that he soaks in his new found knowledge. Is the road tough, absolutely. Is it going to be long, yes. Does he have autism, probably. But, I don’t really care what box some psychologist puts him in. If you ask me he’s in a unique Dawson-sized box and that’s just fine for us. Throughout this journey I have learned that we don’t have to do this alone. I once shared with a sweet friend that I had been distant because I was scared to share what we are going through. Like a sweet friend she said that we would be met with support if we shared what we are going through and anyone that brought anything less wasn’t a friend worth having. We can’t really remember life before D because he was the missing piece to our family puzzle. He is such a blessing and has taught us so much about patience, mercy & grace. Plus, he gives the best snuggle-hug!!

So, I am sharing this with you all in hopes that you understand that I may not be able to answer emails or phone calls immediately, not because I don’t want to, but because I have a toddler that needs me more right now. I LOVE being your photographer and look forward to being your photographer for many, many years. I have decided to make my schedule a bit more rigid to ensure that I focus on Dawson and his therapy. I won’t be turning my clients away, but will be working them into a day/time that works best for my family instead of just taking whatever works best for others.

I would love to hear any uplifting stories or books you have to share and will gladly accept your prayers. Some days are phenomenal and some days are not. But, I know through the grace of God I will make it through the tough days and will rejoice in the phenomenal days.

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