All mothers feel their children are the best gift bestowed upon them. I’m no exception. Therefore, I want to dedicate my August blog, to tell you the story of my hero, my daughter.
On August 17, 2002, after 34 hours of labor, I gave birth to an angel. She was swollen because of the extraordinarily long period it took to finally deliver. My daughter’s eyes were surprisingly big and wide open taking in the world before her.
I remember holding my newborn daughter in my arms and telling her,
“I’m your Mommy. I’ve been waiting for you, my whole life”.
The connection and love were immediate. My every dream became connected to this little person I had carried inside of me for nine months.
But wait, I don’t want to get myself ahead of the story.
What do you get when you have a crazy anal-retentive type-A personality couple planning a baby?
My ex-husband and I were obsessed with producing a ‘super baby.’ My ex-husband, a health freak, began to plan the vitamins and the type of foods we would both take to ensure the best results.
We began to look into the science behind ensuring we had a super developed and highly evolved child. We planned to have an improved version – a new blueprint of humanity.
I look back now and see how crazy this all sounds. Back at that time, that was us!
Not being the type to leave anything to chance, a doctor specializing in high-risk pregnancies was brought on board. Although I was not a high risk, I thought it was best to have someone who could handle any situation.
I played Mozart and Bach non-stop each night. I placed a headphone over my stomach to ensure my unborn baby could hear this magical music.
I read every conceivable book on how to make the perfect specimen.
I believe that a fetus can learn early into their development. I began to teach my unborn daughter words in the womb. I spent hours with a cone made of paper talking to my belly.
Most people who saw me must have thought I was crazy. By the time I was eight months pregnant, my baby would kick on demand each time I would say “kick.” This may sound implausible to you, but it did happen.
The choosing of the perfect name was another crazy ordeal. I believe that the name carries a prophecy to the life a child will have. As soon as I heard the name Victoria I knew this was it. The root of Victoria is ‘victory.’ In every sense of the word, my baby signified my victory.
Victoria was going to be the most worth while victory of my life. So the name was fitting for the queen she would be. I put in my head that she was going to be victorious in all her endeavors.
Don’t laugh when I tell you that I thought Victoria would come out talking. At least I had thought she was going to be fluid in full sentences sooner than most kids.
But as the saying goes, if you want to have God laugh, tell him your plans!
Early into Victoria’s development, I noticed that she was not an ordinary child. Victoria was observant but detached. She showed no affection towards us even though we showered her with love.
Unlike my initial thoughts, Victoria did not develop language as expected. In fact, Victoria was not talking AT ALL!
A speech pathologist recommended that Victoria stops learning Spanish at home. The pathologist felt it was better for Victoria to focus on one language
Speaking to Victoria involved using a pattern of repetition in my sentences that the doctor taught me. This pattern of repetition was supposed to help Victoria learn to speak. Slowly and forcefully, Victoria began to say a few words. Clearly, not the norm.
Victoria began preschool in 2005 and was talking very little.
At a parent-teacher-interview, I was shocked when the teacher asked if Victoria was talkative at home.
“Yes, she is,” I said. “Victoria recites all the songs she hears at school in the tub. Why do you ask?”
I was stunned to learn that the teacher had NEVER heard Victoria’s voice.
From the teacher’s perspective, Victoria was a MUTE!
After taking Victoria to a doctor who specializes in children who don’t speak, I learned that Victoria had something called ‘Selective Mutism.’
Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder.
Children suffering from this condition have an inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school.
Children with Selective Mutism do not talk with people or relatives they do not see often. Yet, these children are capable of speaking and communicating in settings where they feel comfortable, secure, and relaxed such as their home.
This explains why I had never noticed Victoria did not talk to anyone else. I thought that Victoria was speech delayed and nothing more.
My dreams had crashed. I cried at the thought that my super-genius baby would not be able to function in a regular setting.
How would Victoria manage in school, high school and university? My anguish made my thoughts fast track to the end of her life. All I fixated on was, how this mutism was going to take Victoria off track.
I NOW KNOW THAT THE UNIVERSE HAD A DIFFERENT PLAN!
As a mother, I can only tell you the countless tears I shed when kids on the playground would tell her,
“Why don’t you talk? Are you stupid?”
I wanted to run into the playground and pull those kids by the hair. I wanted to scream at those mean kids and tell them that my daughter was anything but stupid.
I was in so much pain for Victoria. Each night I prayed to God to heal my daughter. In my heart of hearts, I would trade places with Victoria if this would help her. I asked God, whatever pain she needed to face, I would take it instead of my baby girl.
I was ready to die for her.
I often had vivid dreams of Victoria speaking. I took this as a sign from God to have faith that Victoria would conquer this disorder.
Victoria saw many specialists here in Toronto with no results. I would ask Victoria why she could not talk to other people, her response was,
“I am scared,” but of what she could not say.
Victoria was obsessed with picking up specks of dirt from floors. One day, I was visiting a friend’s home with Victoria. The marble floor had speckles on it. Victoria would not move from the floor trying to clean the speckles.
Victoria had a fixation with closing doors. She couldn’t have peace if a door stayed open. Victoria had to close every door in sight. And it didn’t stop at doors. Everything in Victoria’s sight of vision needed to be neat. Victoria preferred things to be in a sequence or row. Victoria was precise and over the top in her ability to reason like an adult.
Victoria was afraid of loud noises and was terrified of candles. At birthday parties when kids began to sing loud and light candles, I had to run out of the room with Victoria.
I had nightmares that when Victoria was at school, she would need to go to the bathroom and suffer from not being able to express herself. I created small cards for Victoria so she could show her teachers what she was feeling. One of the cards said: “I need to go to the bathroom.”
I constantly asked myself what I had done to deserve this cruelty. Why was my child mute? How was Victoria going to make it in the real world? How can I help and protect her? I wanted to be her voice, but I could not always be there.
I cried endless nights. I felt guilty; I thought that I had brought this on somehow. Was I being punished for trying to manufacture Victoria’s intelligence?
All I ever dreamed of was my daughter being a happy and accomplished little girl. Yet, here was Victoria, fighting a demon inside her, in a dark world reigned by silence. A world I could not penetrate, yet felt a strong pulled to.
I wanted so much to protect my daughter. I felt alone in my pain and did not know how to save my little girl.
I began to read all I could on autism. I felt petrified. By chance, one of my new friends had a daughter with a similar condition to Victoria.
Through them, I learned about a miracle worker for children with Selective Mutism in the US in Baltimore. The miracle worker was a man by the name of Dr. Greenspan.
Dr. Greenspan had written many of the books on Autism that I had read. For me, this was not a coincidence.
I immediately called Dr. Greenspan’s office and asked for a consultation.
“The waiting list to see Dr. Greenspan is 12 months,” the secretary answered.
I asked the secretary to put Victoria on the waiting list. I called the secretary every other day asking about cancellations.
Eight months later the phone rang.
I heard the words I had been praying for:
“Dr. Greenspan has a cancellation for tomorrow, Thursday, at 10:30 am, Can you make it? “
“Yes,” I responded without even thinking or knowing if I could get a flight. In a matter of hours, a flight was booked to Baltimore.
The next morning Victoria was waiting in Dr. Greenspan’s living room. Dr. Greenspan asked a few questions.
Victoria was asked to play on the floor for 30 minutes. While this was happening Dr. Greenspan watched closely. For the next hour, Dr. Greenspan explained what needed to happen if Victoria was going to start talking.
I was asked to integrate Dr. Greenspan system of floor-play- therapy into Victoria’s life. The main goal was to learn to interact and connect with Victoria 3 times a day for 40 minutes.
This task was challenging. I needed to entice Victoria’s interest and draw her to connect with me. I had to figure out how to provoke Victoria’s creativity and curiosity and create non-structured games. I was also expected to invite three classmates a week and integrate them into Victoria’s floor time games.
I transformed our basement into an amusement area. I made castles. I would dress-up as every Disney princess with Victoria and we played villains. And who could forget the pirate adventures I had with her. We delighted in making magic potions and capturing dragons.
I was asked to record all the sessions and send them to Dr. Greenspan for feedback. Through months of floor-play-therapy, Victoria moved forward intellectually and emotionally.
Victoria began to talk to the kids who would come to the house. Those kids, in turn, would go back to school to tell the class that Victoria could in fact speak.
At school, Victoria began to whisper to a close girlfriend and her teacher Ros Sandler. But for the most part, Victoria continued to be silent.
Victoria worked very hard each day at overcoming her anxiety. One-day Victoria expressed her fear of a big monster inside of her. The monster inside did not let her speak with people outside of her immediate family.
My father-in-law, Phil, was battling cancer at the time and already in the hospital. One day, with the little energy that Phil had, he asked Victoria to talk to him. I could tell Victoria was struggling to talk, but couldn’t. All my sweet Victoria could do was to give her favorite stuffed animal to her Grandfather.
Sadly, Phil passed away without ever hearing Victoria’s sweet voice.
Lisa Seward is a therapist in Toronto who is familiar with Dr. Greenspan’s method. Victoria and Lisa worked together three times per week.
I had a chart on the wall, and each time Victoria would speak a word to someone other than us, she received a sticker. After ten stickers Victoria selected a gift. Other rewards were often a trip to the ice cream store or Victoria’s favorite toy store.
Every day Victoria worked at visualizing making that scary and hairy monster smaller and smaller. During bedtime, we imagined the monster becoming very tiny until he had no power left. I used to tell Victoria that soon she would be able to crush him for good. Victoria would laugh and agree.
I use to tell Victoria,
“God gave you a powerful voice, and you needed to fight for that gift. You need to be strong and conquer your fear. You needed to use your voice as a weapon for good”
To this day I still tell Victoria that:
“One day, your voice will change the world.”
“How mommy” she always asks,
“The ‘how’ will be revealed to us in time.”
As time went by, something changed in me. In the beginning, I feared that this condition would hold back Victoria from her destiny. After some time, I began to feel in the depths of my soul that this Mutism was here for a reason and would, in fact, propel Victoria closer to her destiny.
Halfway into Senior Kindergarten, Victoria began to speak to a few kids. Thankfully, by grade one, Victoria was fully speaking at school.
The therapy worked!
God had answered our prayers.
Victoria struggled for a few years. She had to learn to assert herself in a world that had before been silent to her. Victoria pushed herself out of her comfort zone to go up to strangers in stores and ask for things she needed.
I was no longer her voice. Victoria began to develop a VOICE OF HER OWN and exhibited a quiet strength that amazes me to this day.
For you and I this may sound simple. But for someone emerging out of Selective Mutism, facing the fear of speaking is a daunting task. It would be like skydiving from an airplane for most people. Yes, that fear can be that intense. Yet, Victoria faces it every day with grace and courage.
They say God never takes something without giving you something in return.
I noticed Victoria had acute hearing and memory retention.
After all the ups and downs, Victoria did turn out to be the little genius after all. Victoria began to excel in every subject, particularly in languages and music.
Music is astonishingly easy for Victoria. Playing instruments and learning notes comes quickly for her. At age 7 Victoria started to play the piano and advanced rapidly. As Victoria developed her skills, she began to learn songs on her own and later would show her teacher what she had done.
I was not as crazy after all!
Perhaps playing Mozart and Bach non-stop each night someone-how influenced Victoria´s ability for music. What do you think?
The shy little girl who before had a fear of speaking began to take singing lessons. Victoria performed in the Kiwanis festivals as a solo contestant and often placed in the top three.
To my amazement, Victoria joined the school play. It was great to see how she pushed herself to audition given her fears. In the beginning, Victoria’s roles were minor. But over the years, Victoria’s roles became more prominent.
Victoria began to assert herself as a true leader. She ran for leadership positions at the school. My daughter, the once selective mutism child now participated in speech competitions. Victoria won 1st, 2nd and 1st in three consecutive years.
Victoria later took her public speaking ability to compete in Kiwanis Festivals. She did amazingly well, winning 1st and 2nd places. In fact, one year Victoria was denied first place because the adjudicator felt Victoria was too professional.
I always cry each time Victoria goes on stage. Victoria truly shines and commands the space. There is power in Victoria’s voice. She is gracious and inspirational.
I respect Victoria so much for her efforts. Every time Victoria needed to express herself in public was a miracle for us.
Here was my Victoria, a girl who was silent for many years and was now winning speech competitions. More important than the winning was witnessing the miracle. It was seeing Victoria face her fear of speaking and doing it anyway!
Victoria has an amazing hearing for languages. She excels in French so much that her teachers asked us to put Victoria in a French immersion program.
Victoria is also fluent in Spanish and could easily transfer to any school in Latin America.
Hebrew, although Victoria does not use it on a daily basis, she was able to learn enough to do her bat mitzvah. She did it with such grace and elegance. Something we had thought at one point was not going to be possible.
When Victoria entered Grade 4 she shared with me that she wanted to become the class valedictorian in grade 6. Valedictorian is an honor bestowed to the best student in the grade. It is a student that does not only shines academically but who exhibits exemplary qualities as well as involvement in school leadership and social causes. Victoria shared her goal with her teacher, Mrs. Harbor, and together they began to plan a path for her to achieve this.
Victoria is extremely goal oriented like her father and brilliant in every way. She amazes me each day. Victoria sets a goal for herself and goes after it. I admire her resilience and her courage to work hard to manifest all her dreams.
Victoria applied herself and joined the track and field team, the school choir, and was elected a House Head. Victoria didn’t stop as she became a member of the Eco team, involved herself in social causes, and raised funds for endangered animals.
There are no words that can describe how proud I was of Victoria when I learned she was chosen as the Grade 6 Valedictorian.
I am proud to say that Victoria is an example of what it takes to achieve one’s dreams. As the saying goes, ‘nothing has come from nothing,’ Victoria earned every achievement through hard and tireless work. Victoria is an example that you can achieve all your dreams if you are willing to pay the price to get them.
Victoria has a knack for learning things rapidly. One day Victoria asked for a Ukulele. I asked Victoria if she needed me to find her a teacher and I was told that she wanted to learn it on her own.
Not knowing what to expect, I bought Victoria a Ukulele.
By 4 pm the same day Victoria called me into her room and played the song Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.
Perplexed is the best way to describe my surprise.
Since then, Victoria has mastered the Ukulele and is now teaching herself to play the guitar.
Victoria participates in the Conference of Independent Schools Music Festival (CISMF). Each year a select group of students is chosen based on their excellence to play at the Roy Tomson Hall.
In her new school, Victoria continues to make her imprint. The Head’s List is an award bestowed to students who achieved an academic average of 90 and above. I am proud to say, that Victoria has earned this award every year. It is my hope that Victoria will continue to shine her light in all she does.
Victoria is an animal whisper. Animals gravitated to her. When Victoria was little, I visited many farms with her. As soon as she stepped into the field, she would be surrounded by horses who headed straight to her as if they had a magic pull towards her. It was astonishing.
It takes some of us a life time to find our passion. It took me 46 years to finally know my true devotion.
Victoria discovered her calling early in life. For Victoria, horses are her passion.
Victoria has deep friendships with horses. It is admirable the love and dedication she has for these creatures. Horses hold Victoria’s deepest secrets, and she connects to them in ways she doesn’t attach to anyone.
For Victoria, horses hold the key to her heart. I am brought to tears when I watch Victoria kiss her horse. The love that Victoria has for him is immense and pure.
I admire her love and dedication. More than a rider, VICTORIA IS A HORSE WHISPER!
Victoria is much my daughter as she is my friend. We share many deep sentiments together. We talk like mother-daughter, but more importantly, we talk like friends. Two women that come together and connect about life.
Victoria has seen my journey and all my wins and mistakes. Although Victoria finds it difficult to express herself, I know she loves me and is very protective of her mother. I look at Victoria, and her love has always given me the force to face anything.
I am deeply in awe of my daughter. Victoria is still a teenager, but she has already inspired and changed my life in more ways that I can express. Victoria has an inner strength and a force that is truly blissful.
Victoria is the type of child anyone can count on. Victoria is authentic, vulnerable, conscientious, caring, a self-starter and resilient. Victoria is responsible, sensitive, reserved, deep and observant. She is analytical, beautiful, a true giver, reliable and brilliant.
I do not have an end for the adjectives that describe this young girl otherwise known as my daughter.
Spiritual Master Omraam Michael Aivanhov says that when God created us, he planted a fragment, a spark of himself into each of us. He is right. When I look at Victoria, I see a perfect reflection of God.
I’m not sure what God looks like, but when I SEE MY DAUGHTER, I SEE GOD!
Victoria is strong. No matter what situation she faces, she has a powerful reserve of calmness. Victoria never panics. Whenever Victoria faces things, she does it head on and always comes out of situations a winner.
As much as Victoria wins in all her endeavors, she is never afraid to fail. Victoria understands that failures are necessary to grow and evolve. And as painful and as hard as failure and disappointments are, Victoria reacts to them with acceptance and dignity.
Although privileged in many ways, Victoria does not have a sense of entitlement. Victoria is humble. She understands the value of money and is conscientious of not wasting or over spending. I smile each time Victoria shares her views and opinions. Victoria stands against any injustice of all creatures. I always felt Victoria would grow up to be a human or animal-rights activist.
Victoria is beautiful inside and out. When I close my eyes, I see the little girl with her legs wrapped around my waist, and tiny arms around my neck. The little girl whose world used to be me.
I then see the beautiful, delicate, brave young woman she has become. Victoria has thick flowing hair, delightful long, strong, shapely legs, and rosy cheeks. Although I am no longer her world; I rejoice seeing Victoria evolve and achieve all her dreams.
Yes, there are things I would like for Victoria to achieve or at least consider. But let me be clear, I do not see my daughter as my canvas in which I can paint my unfilled dreams on.
I understand my mission as a mother. My purpose is to show my daughter all that is possible. My soul-contract with her is to give her wings. How high she wants to fly, it’s entirely up to her.
Victoria; know that you are deeply loved and admired by your mother. You are a miracle, MY MIRACLE. You are the radiant force of light in my life.
I am grateful for all that you are and all that will become.
On your birthday, my darling, my wish is that you could see yourself through my eyes and see all the beauty and miracle you are.
To borrow from one of my favorite quotes from the movie Meet Joe Black, know that my love for you has no beginning and no end. Victoria: take my love, multiply it by infinity and take it to the depths of forever and only then, my little girl, you will know how much your mother loves you.
You have given my life more meaning, and more happiness that I could have ever hoped and deserved. I look forward to seeing you grow, evolve and develop into the powerful gift you are to this world.
Victoria, you are true to your name. Victorious in every way!
I am grateful and honored to be your mother. Know there is nothing more I could wish for in a daughter. Victoria, you are every mother’s dream.
Happy birthday. YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING.