Today I should have walked down the aisle to receive my Masters in Communication Disorders. Today I should be starting my journey as a Speech Language Pathologist. Today I should have achieved my ultimate goal.
In 2013, I graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with my bachelors in political science. But when I got out into the world and started working, I quickly realized that the field I had picked to pursue my career was definitely not for me! I decided to start working in different areas to really find what I wanted to do. Two years, my own home and a new husband later, I got a position working with special needs children and fell in love with my job. I especially loved the professionals that came in to work with them on their speech. I was mesmerized by their technique, passion and intellect. I knew right then and there, that one day I would be a speech language pathologist.
So I went home and started Google searching – “how to become a speech language pathologist”. I figured I already had a bachelors degree so how hard could it be right? I could not have been more wrong! The field of speech language pathology is one of the most competitive masters programs to get into! Not to mention, I had no background in the field or true experience. So, I made myself a master list and got to work. I got together my application, wrote my personal statement and submitted my lack luster GRE scores to the admission board at several different masters programs in Connecticut and neighboring states. Every letter came back as a rejection.
I didn’t give up. I applied and was accepted at the University of Connecticut as an undergraduate student, again – this time pursuing a bachelors degree in speech, language and hearing sciences. After just one class, I was validated. I knew this was my destiny. I graduated with my second bachelors degree from UCONN and I retook the GRE. I applied again. Another round of rejections.
I didn’t give up. I became a research assistant at the University of Connecticut, I took the GRE AGAIN – third times the charm (the GRE is by far, the worst standardized test in the entire world) and, thanks to my amazing mentor, I was able to enroll in one graduate level course in an attempt to show any admission board that I was capable of being successful in a graduate program! I applied again. This time, I knew I had put my entire heart and soul into this application. A few short weeks later, I received my waitlist letter in the mail to Southern Connecticut State University. I was in shock! My husband and I had sacraficed so much to get me into graduate school. He believed in me and I finally believed in myself. It was only a few weeks later that I got the final letter that I had been accepted in the class of 2019 Communication Disorders masters program!
I kid you not, it was one day later. The very next day, in the heat of a crazy winter storm that I took a pregnancy test. My jaw dropped. In a matter of a few short hours, I was told I was accepted into my dream program and that I was pregnant! But this news didn’t make me even skip a beat. I never questioned that I would finish my program. I knew that we would get it done. So, I spoke with my advisor that summer about how to proceed and was met with compassion and understanding. The school worked with me and went over and beyond. I took classes and read about apraxia and dysphasia and everything in between. I took 1,000 pee breaks and always had snacks at the ready. My classmates were wonderful and supportive. I gave birth to Olivia – you guessed it – the week before finals – she would have it no other way ;). My project groups waited for me to recover before presenting so that I wouldn’t be left out. We took Olivia home and I signed up for my next semester of classes – knowing that I have a wonderful support team at home – thanks moms 🙂 that would get me through the winter semester!
The day after the start of the spring semester was that faithful day. The day most of you have read about before – when the doctor diagnosed Olivia as legally blind in one eye, with a cataract and a rare condition known as Persistent Fetal Vasculature. After all of those years of studying, trying and failing, falling and climbing back up. It wasn’t until this diagnosis, that I finally broke. When we learned more about her condition and her therapy needs moving forward, I knew I would need to take a leave of absence from school. Her eye became priority number one. I did just that, with no issue at all. But then, as the Spring semester came to an end and the summer semester began another bomb shell was dropped on our family. It was last summer that Olivia was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies. It wasn’t until this diagnosis that I knew I had to take a step back and really look at what to do next. Olivia needed an entirely new kind of care now which meant big changes for our family.
It’s taken me this long to full accept the decision we made next. We knew the right thing to do was to keep me home with Olivia. This means that after everything we went through to get my masters degree, I lost my acceptance to SCSU. I have every intention of going back to school to finish what I started but until then, my new title is ‘Stay at Home Mom’. This decision is we one we did not take lightly – it took weeks to come to and many tears as it came to fruition but I can say with all the confidence in the world that we made the right decision.
When your child has something going on with them that could end their life, priorities and life plans change. Everyone told me that my life would change when you have a baby, and they were right. It’s changed in the best possible way.tx I would love to be Danielle Mikulak, SLP but instead I have the best title in the world: Danielle Mikulak, Momma.