Nobody warned me it would be this hard—having a toddler with a speech delay.

There are many days I wonder Am I doing enough? How could I be doing more? 

There are many days I feel like a total failure at this whole parenting thing after an all-day marathon of never-ending tantrums.

But the worst part is when all these feelings catch up to me at once, leaving me wondering if this could have been preventable? 

I guess we’ll never know.

They told me we needed help, but they didn’t say it would be nearly this hard.

It was my son’s 18-month checkup when we filled out the appointment survey that asked if he could say at least 10 words. 

That’s when it clicked. He could barely say two, maybe three.

RELATED: I Waited So Long To Hear Him Say “Mama”

After a long discussion with the pediatrician, they told us our son had a speech delay and he’d be referred out to get speech therapy. He also assured us things would be great in no time.

What everyone failed to tell us, is that the frustration lingering deep within a toddler that is behind in his communication skills is like a fire that’s been trapped in a volcano just waiting to erupt.

What everyone failed to tell us is that it may not get better in no time.

What everyone failed to tell us is because he had a speech delay, this could translate into other delays or behavioral issues too.

Boy, there was so much they just didn’t tell us.

Add in a pandemic, and you’ve just been upgraded to the hardest level of the game. 

It’s been a huge gray cloud throughout this entire process. It’s insanely hard to find resources when everything is shut down and insanely hard to find anyone to play with to encourage his social-language development. It’s just hard.

I don’t know what’s been harder—pandemic, postpartum, or parenting a toddler with a speech delay.

I look at my little 2-year-old and see the infant in the NICU incubator hours after he was just born, his pure innocence locked eyes onto me, so gentle and loving.

But within a snap, he is a different boy. A boy with so much emotion, anger, and frustration. A boy who breaks my heart when he has these outbursts because, in reality, I’m still learning how to navigate them too. 

Imagine trying desperately to tell someone your name and you just can’t get the words out. Imagine wanting to ask for help, but your brain and mouth couldn’t figure out how to say it.

It’s heartbreaking for me to sit there trying to play a game of Where’s Waldo? as we point and guess at what my son is trying to ask for.

It’s heartbreaking to see his language barrier be the reason it’s taken him so long to warm up and show any kind of love to his baby brother. As a parent, it feels like a losing battle, even when you start to rack up the wins because one small setback can erase the scoreboard.

RELATED: Life With Nonverbal Autism is Often a Guessing Game

Despite these days feeling harder than most, I know I have to be strong for my babies. 

Before, I’d try so hard to keep my feelings to myself, but I’m slowly learning to embrace them—together. 

Together we’ve cried and hugged it out.

Together we’ve struggled and got through what felt like never-ending challenges.

I’m learning to navigate the balancing act of weekly speech therapies, occupational therapies, my 8-month-old’s sleep and nursing schedule, my toddler’s big feelings, my husband’s work schedule, and my own balance to try and be the glue that holds it together—all during a pandemic. 

I’m learning to use this time to be more present and really understand his struggles in a new light.

I’m learning to drop the scorecard and focus on taking things day by day.

I’m learning to let go of the warnings we never received and embrace the fact my son needs me now, possibly more than ever.

One day I’ll blink and these hardships will be gone. 

For now, I think I’ll hang onto them a bit longer because, at the end of the day, I’m not ready to let them go yet either.

Karissa Whitman

Karissa is a mom to two young boys and a motherhood blogger in San Diego, CA. Karissa started her blog Mom After Baby in 2019 to bring supportive, informative, and educational content to moms in the trenches of their motherhood journey.