Adam and I have three children – Caroline, Ann Parker and Harrison, who is two and a half. Harrison had always been late on gross motor skills like sitting up and crawling and walking. I would always talk to our pediatrician who would say that if he wasn’t doing it by the next month we would go forward with further evaluation. Every single time, the day or two before his follow up appointment, he would start sitting up or crawling or whatever goal it was. I was always able to put my mind at ease that he was just a typical, stubborn third child. The one thing, however, that he wasn’t able to pull off was gaining weight. In a six month period he only gained one ounce and fell completely off the growth charts. Our pediatrician decided to run labs to rule out any illnesses.
When she called with the results, she explained that he had an enzyme that was 25 times higher than the highest normal value. She asked that we go to Children’s for additional testing. When I asked when we should go she said, “can you get in your car now?”
The next three months were a blur of blood work and doctor visits. We were eventually referred to genetic and metabolic testing but were told that until that time we could go home and breathe. So we did…for about a day.
I had been so consumed with all the testing that I didn’t realize my baby was not talking, making any noises, making eye contact or would not respond to simple requests like “point to your nose” or “look at mama.” We were sent for a speech evaluation and then from there were also referred to the state early intervention program.
Play dates and story time were replaced with speech and lab work. Even when I found we were free to join our friends, I did not want to go. It was too hard for me to be around other kids saying adorable toddler things while my child sat in silence. It was a lonely and isolating time. I spent most of the year feeling really sad that Harrison had to constantly be poked with needles; mad that this was our life – certainly not the one I wanted or imagined; and guilty that I was constantly dragging our girls to appointments asking them to sit quietly, sometimes for hours.
Fall rolled around and I took Harrison to his new Sunday School class. I believe that God sometimes puts people in your path right when you need them. His Sunday School teacher that week happened to be Jane Lamb, one of The Bell Center speech pathologists. I explained that he was not talking and I wasn’t sure he needed to be in that class. She asked, “have you ever thought about The Bell Center?” I honestly had not. I did not think he needed it.
About a week later Harrisons SLP mentioned getting an OT evaluation. All I could think of were Jane’s words, “Have you ever thought about The Bell Center?” I emailed them that day.
He had an evaluation and they recommended the All About Me and Munch Bunch classes. I had prayed for so long to know the next step. I felt like The Bell Center was the next step for us and so the night before his first class was the first night in almost a year that I slept through the night instead of being up worrying. The anxiety was replaced with a sort of peace.
After a month at TBC we heard some words – ball, baby, go. In mid December, we were sitting at home and Harrison looked at me straight in the eye, waved his hand and said “bye bye.” That was the first time that he spoke to me, not just named an object. I may be biased but I think those were the sweetest words I have ever heard. We saw so much progress and I started to realize that he did need The Bell Center. What I didn’t expect was to realize that I needed it too. I had a hard time seeing past the things he couldn’t do. The staff celebrated every little thing – every sound, every jump, every bite of food. They helped me let go of the picture in my head of “how things should be” and helped me be okay with “how things are.”
I still don’t know what we face in the future and we still don’t have all the answers as to why he has the delays. We know there are still hard days ahead of us, but we feel so hopeful about his future. I know The Bell Center has given us this hope as they have for so many other families.
Written by Emily, mother of current Bell Center child Harrison