As a mother, I’ve had to face a couple insecurities- the main one being my voice. I was born with a TE fistula and tracheal atresia; in simple words my food pipe wasn’t properly connected and my airway was completely blocked! I had a tube called a tracheostomy inserted into my neck to allow me to breathe at 7 minutes old. I had the trach for twelve and a half years as it took many different procedures and operations to finally open my airway… it was stubborn just like me! In the first 6 months of life, I lived at the hospital, has some challenges eating and breathing, they were little bumps in my road ahead. Despite me being on a ventilator for the first 3 weeks of life, my mom initiated breastfeeding at 3 weeks of age and fed me once a day for 5 months. Now as a Mom I see how precious that time was for her and I.
The block in my airway was below my vocal cords with left me with no voice. At a very young age I learned to get attention using clicks of my tongue, stomping, or clapping. I eventually communicated using what is known as esophageal speech, sometimes called, “Burp Speech” from the age of 3, till probably about 13 years of age. At age 12, I had to learn how to speak using my damaged vocal cords, which was extremely challenging as my vocal cords had some paralysis. I was allowed to chew gum in class! (Its the little things that make me smile!) Because of my multiple surgeries to attempt to fix the blockage, my vocal cords experienced a lot of trauma as the blockage was below them. Sometimes people try to pity me over this, but I feel so grateful I am able to breathe and express myself!
My voice over the years has gotten stronger with the help of my speech therapist. I’ve had to go back to her a few times, as an adult, to help with clear pronouncing and volume. I sound like I have chronic laryngitis, and as winter approaches I often get asked if I have a horrible cold.
But how does this impact my parenting?
- Will my child hear me?
- Will I embarrass my child?
- What will other kids say to her/him?
Yes, I make heads turn sometimes, nothing like when I burped-talked, and children are very inquisitive and honest. I am a pediatric RN and I love what some kids say (to the mortification of their parents!) and only very rarely is something said hurtful and rude.
When I first was out with my daughter at parks, I was sometimes less vocal, but learned to not care what others think most days. Yes, I have to yell at my children, and yes they don’t always hear me. I’ve had to remind them to have their ears open to mom’s voice, as it doesn’t travel very far.
I have spoken to my daughter about my voice being different, and I asked her soon after starting preschool if kids have asked why her mommy talks weird or funny? She told me “not really, I just say that’s how she talks.” She knows Mommy’s voice is different then other moms. The funny thing is that I haven’t had this conversation with my son, who is my second child. I realized through conversations with my daughter that they’ll ask me if they need to. I have told my daughter to say my voice box is broken. Simple and Short.
One thing that cracks me up is when my daughter asks me to tell another kid, or adult, her name because they didn’t understand her. In my head I’m thinking, “I might not be better!” I am her mom and I am who I am. I love my kids, I sing to my kids (waiting for that to end), read stories, laugh, make silly voices, give and receive hugs and kisses! A child’s love is truly amazing they’re aware of people’s differences but they often over look them. If anything they’re curious and want to know why, which can appear rude to us adults. I often wonder if they hear my voice as I hear it in my head.
Many comment on how patient I am with strangers, or questions about if I’m sick. I do have my days where I’m blunt and annoyed but I am resilient. Yes, I’d like to speak with a strong and clear voice, and I do keep tabs on research. I’d love to not hesitate before I speak in a room full of strangers.
My voice has never really slowed me down. I’ve become a RN; I’ve dated, got married, had children, and now am part of The Mama Coach. I participate in multiple volunteer boards; I speak to random strangers at the park or elsewhere. This is how I speak and it is only a small part of my identity.
I hope to show my kids to not let barriers stop them from going forward in life and put a positive spin on what some may view as a problem, weakness, or unfortunate. Yes I talk different, yes I sound sick, but I’m NOT. I can communicate and participate in everyday activities because of some pretty AMAZING Doctors and Nurses…. And of course my mom!
In our family, differences are strengths. I am teaching my children to see that and it is reflected in my practice as a Mama Coach and Registered Nurse. Questions? I am always here to help!