Stammering & parenthood — it's all about perspective

A man holding a baby, both looking at the camera
David with his new son

David Collier tells us how becoming a father for the first time has impacted his speech, and explores ways of dealing with the negative feelings this has brought up.

Last August, I was blessed by the arrival of a beautiful baby boy. While fatherhood has been an amazing experience, it does present certain challenges for a stammerer like me. In this article I first aim to identify some of the stressors that have impacted me and might impact other stammering parents, then suggest some new angles for how to evaporate the stress away — it's all about perspective.

The Stressors

Stressor 1: Sleep

Good quality sleep has always been crucial for helping me stay on an even keel, and to regulate my emotions around stammering. I'm reluctant to say that good sleep = fluency (because I'd be abdicating responsibility), but it certainly provides a solid foundation on which I can stammer with confidence.

One downside of parenting is the sleep deprivation. Long gone are the regular eight hours of unbroken nocturnal rest, replaced by the new norm of four-ish hours disjointed sleep, to account for baby feeds and nappy changes. Left unchecked, this fragmented sleep could play havoc with a stammerer's emotional response to their speech.

Stressor 2: Visitors

New parents will be attended by wave after wave of visitors. The outpouring of love is amazing but the presence of guests can give stammerers like myself extra pressure to 'speak fluently', which (for me, at least) can lead to disastrous consequences.

On top of that, my parents-in-law stayed for a couple of months after the birth. What incredible support they gave my nascent family, but because they exclusively speak Cantonese it added yet another layer of stress, as I had to try and speak their language clearly (NB: I even find speaking English to a non-native audience can sometimes be challenging too — see my article 'Stammering My Way Across the Globe' for additional context). 

Stressor 3: Guilt

I'm sure I'm not the only stammering parent who worries their baby will inherit their stammer or pick it up as a learned behaviour. I get especially nervous when speaking to my baby in public (eg on a busy bus) where I feel I can be overheard, in case a member of the public was to pass judgement on my parenting or speaking skills.

It's better to simply show kindness to yourself and be accepting of your stammer, to set a good example for yourself and your child.

Solutions for Stress — It's All About Perspective

So, how do we overcome some of the negative feelings that come with sleep deprivation, pressure to perform and guilt? As a wise person once told me: "accentuate the positive, alleviate the negative". There are some things that exist outside our control — eg duration of sleep with a newborn — but there are often more than enough things we can control to make up for it.

Solution 1: Sleep 

To be honest, when my baby cries in the middle of the night I don't mind getting up; it's a pleasure to be able to feed/clean and make him comfortable. So rather than dwell on how tired I am, I'm trying to count my blessings and be thankful for the extra (wee) hours of bonding time with my baby.

Solution 2: Visitors 

As a new parent, your weekends will be taken up with friends and relatives and you might sometimes feel like you can't be your true, stammering self. But honestly, what a privilege to be loved by so many people and to have them fly from the other side of the world to be by your side. It's worth putting up with a little discomfort to experience that warmth.

Solution 3: Guilt 

As STAMMA's What Is Stammering? page explains, stammering can be hereditary but it's not the case that if you stammer your child will definitely stammer too. And there's no evidence that children acquire a stammer through learned behaviours. This seems remote anyway when there are so many other non-stammering influences around. Besides, I have the power to set the right example by stammering openly and with confidence, so that if my child stammers (or if he doesn't) he will learn to go forth into the world with a fearless and empathetic understanding of what dysfluency means for himself and others.


In this article we've covered how parenthood may well be associated with: 1) Lack of sleep; 2) An over-abundance of visitors; and 3) Worry that your child will inherit/mimic your stammer. But please be comforted to know that '1' & '2' are counteracted by an equal measure of pleasure and gratitude. '3' is a case in point of not worrying about what you can't control; it's better to simply show kindness to yourself and be accepting of your stammer, to set a good example for yourself and your child.
Above all, I try to avoid thinking that 'when things get back to normal, I won't stammer anymore'. In my experience that is not the case, because it's so passive. I stammered before fatherhood, and no doubt I will still stammer once I'm back to a normal sleeping routine. Accepting responsibility for my own stammering emotions has been the biggest step-change on my stammering journey — and has allowed me to be fluently dysfluent in a way that I will be proud to show my son and the world.

If you are a parent and would like to write about your experiences, Submit Something For The Site or email for details.

Two women in running outfits holding flags and looking at the camera
Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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