The Heavy Stuff

You may remember that almost three weeks ago I published this post, which was completely normal and ordinary {and maybe a little boring, as is often the case with Instagram dumps} except that I mentioned that we were going through "some heavy stuff" and I wasn't ready to talk about it yet. I thought I would be ready to talk about it later in the week, and I wasn't, and I apologize for not mentioning it again until now. But I'm ready to talk about it now.

In this post I talked about how Max might need speech therapy. After a couple months and a few evaluations, we've decided that yes, we are pursuing that option for him. While he seems more interested {much more!} in communicating now that he did then, his speech and comprehension are still very limited.

Part of the process involved with getting him qualified for speech therapy was doing a hearing test, to make sure that his slow speech development wasn't connected to any kind of hearing loss. And at first I didn't pay much attention to the possibility. But then in the days leading up to Max's hearing test, I started to feel a terrible sense of dread in my heart. It's like nothing I've ever felt before, this ongoing heaviness that weighed on me and stressed me out {and caused me to be extremely grumpy with everyone around me, as I'm sure Christian will attest}. I became suspicious, and then almost positive that his hearing wasn't perfect. The way he was often so focused on whatever he was playing with, the way he had trouble pronouncing the few words he knew {saying "gah!" for "car"}, and the way he sometimes just mouthed sounds instead of vocalizing them added to my conviction. I was worried about what hearing loss would mean for him, in his life.

When we did have his hearing tested, the results weren't surprising. He isn't deaf {of course; that's something we would have noticed before now}, but he did exhibit minor to moderate hearing loss. The audiologist explained that she also couldn't detect his eardrum vibrating at all. She suspected a problem with the middle ear, and not permanent hearing loss. While he can hear loud sounds, most vocal sounds are indistinct, so it sounds like he's underwater. While that was all good news, I left the audiologist that morning feeling frustrated. I had braced myself for a difficult diagnosis, and instead had been told that the results were inconclusive, that we should have his ears checked {she kept saying that she wasn't a doctor, so she couldn't say for sure, but that he probably had fluid in his ears from his most recent cold, three weeks earlier, and recommended scheduling a visit with our pediatrician, who might then pass us along to an ENT}, and that we could have his hearing tested again in four weeks.

I wanted this hearing problem of Max's to be fixed as soon as possible. I wanted to communicate with my son, and I wanted to do it yesterday. Instead it just felt like I was stuck in a web of red tape.

I ranted about the audiologist a little to my friends and family, and then made an appointment with an ENT for as soon as possible. I didn't want to go to the pediatrician and have someone tell me AGAIN that they weren't sure for sure what was going on. We were able to get in to see the ENT sooner than I had anticipated, for which I was grateful. When we went, the waiting room had a big tank of fish, which felt like a sign that we were in a place that could help us {for no other reason than Max loves fish, and I was feeling very emotional}.

The doctor came in quickly, examined Max quickly, and quickly explained that Max had fluid behind his eardrum, and we could either give him antibiotics and hope it went away, or put tubes in his ears. Since Max had been on antibiotics recently, I said yes, please, let's put tubes in his ears. The doctor agreed with me that the fluid has almost certainly been there for longer than three weeks, and has probably been there long enough to inhibit his speech development {a year or more}. He was confident that tubes would drain the fluid and restore Max's hearing completely.

And that's where we are now. Max is scheduled for surgery to put tubes in his ears on Tuesday. The main emotion I'm feeling is excitement for him; I can't wait for my boy to be able to hear perfectly. {Although part of me is just remembering the two times Maggie has had surgery, and how hard it was to hand her over to the doctor.}

I had a dream last night that took place a couple months from now. Max was sitting on the couch just a few feet away from me. When I spoke softly to him, he heard me. When I asked him "where's Max?" he patted his chest and repeated, "Max." It was everything I'm hoping for us in the coming months; that Max will hear, that his speech and comprehension will skyrocket with the help of therapy, that the world of sound will bring him incredible joy and understanding.


  1. Good luck Mary!!! Putting tubes in the ear will help him 1. hear so much better and 2. not GET as many ear infections. (it won't stop them but help).

    We encountered this exact problem with Jared starting at 15 months. Speech delays, fluid in the ears, ear infections, then tubes, then more fluid from colds, ear infections, speech therapy, more tubes and more speech therapy.

    Now he doesn't scream to get his way. He is finally using slurred phrases at 4 years old. At almost 4 he still was only saying one word at a time or pointing. It was a long road (2 years) but so worth it. I am so glad you caught this b/c it really effects there speech. Hang in there. :)

  2. I'm so glad it's an identifiable and fixable problem. Almost this exact thing happened with my friend's little boy. His was caused by ear infections. They got his ears all fixed, set him up with speach therapy, and things are much better. He's beautiful and loving and wonderful and everyone is happy.

  3. Way to get to the heart of the matter quickly, Mary. I know how you feel and how nerve wracking it can be. My son had tubes put in about a year ago because of chronic ear infections. And even though it helped a ton (almost like having a different kid!), the fluid did have a huge residual impact on his speech. My son is now 2 years old and has speech therapy once a week for about 3 months now. He's progressing normally and he'll get there but I completely understand and empathize with you. Our boys did the same thing. For a while I even thought he was just a quiet kid. But ultimately you just want to hear his little voice or when he has a tantrum you just want to say "what? what do you want? Just tell me!!" But of course, you stop yourself. Now my son is really coming around rapidly. And so will yours with the tubes and maybe some speech help (which you can work on a lot on your own even). He'll get there, just have patience. I'm so happy for you that this issue was something that can easily be fixed with some tubes and some at home work. I've even been told by his speech therapist "just you wait, a couple more months and you're going to beg him to stop talking for just two seconds." I can't wait. All the best to you.

  4. My family experienced the same issue with my much younger brother He had balance issues which hindered walking and speech delays. After the tubes were put in the change was instant. He started walking hours after the surgery and his speech started to improve not too long after. There was a minor setback with communication at first because everything sounded completely different to him but he improved quickly. I hope everything goes the same for your little one. It was the best decision my parents could have made for him. I dare say this is all much harder on the parents than the little ones. Good luck to your family, I know having your children go through surgery is very hard.

  5. We took Preslee in for a check up at an ophthalmologist because of a disorder that runs in the family that I have. We waited in the large waiting room with all the old folks and they took us back into the children's waiting room and I looked at Preslee and had immediate guilt wash over me as I thought to myself "I made her imperfect." I started to worry that she would have to get glasses and go through extensive treatment. We luckily found out that there a 95% chance she doesn't have it. Being a parent can be so nerve wracking! What a wonderful dream to have. I have to admit I may have teared up reading the ending of your post :)

  6. Ted's son Nathan had the same kind of speech thing. He got the same diagnosis, had the tubes put in without any problems, and his words became clear and understandable. You will be very happy with the results. My prayers will be with Max and the medical team on Tuesday. Oh, and you too of course.

  7. Oh Mary! I know a bit of what you're going through-- we've been going through a little doctoring with Ralph too. Nothing serious, but even still, having anything to worry about when it comes to a baby's health can weigh so, so heavily on a mama's heart. I was glad to read that you ended up with a doctor who seems to make smart and quick decisions. Isn't it funny how quickly your outlook can change after speaking to a doctor you know you can trust?

    Prayers for you and little Max. Oh, and I also wanted to tell you that my sister went through a lot of this stuff when she was little, and is slightly hearing impaired-- and she has a very beautiful life!

  8. I now feel so badly I didn't comment before! I was in a hurry when i read this post and forgot to comment. So sorry. Anyway, I was really touched by your openness and have been thinking about you since.

    My neice had to have tubes put in her ears. Her speech was very delayed; her Mom was worried. Much like you. After the tubes her vocabulary blossomed and she was so much happier and less frustrated. I'm sure all will work out wonderfully!

  9. Hope the surgery goes well and that dream comes true soon!

  10. good luck with surgery tomorrow! Here's hoping Max hears perfectly after and you can finally get a break from the all that stress!

  11. Found you through Motley Mama. Thanks for sharing this story. Love the blog!

  12. That is some heavy stuff! I'm so glad that you were able to get into the doctor. I really hope putting the tubes in his ears helps a lot. Hold onto that dream during the recovery when it's hard.