by John Ahlbach

I have watched my wife Peggy give birth to our three children, but as one midwife we talked to described the experience for the husband – each time it was like going to a dance and not being able to hear the music. As much as I wanted to know what she was feeling in order to share the experience, it is just not possible. The best I could do was think back to the night I gave birth …no kidding….to my freedom from stuttering. There was no hospital involved, but it was a real birth experience nonetheless.

I was attending a Catholic college seminary at the time and very much in denial of my stuttering. That is, until a priest/professor there, decided I needed somebody to advertise my stuttering for me. He appointed himself to that position and proceeded to bring my stuttering up all the time. When he preached at Mass, for example, he usually a found away to bring up Moses and then added “Moses, as you know, stuttered just like John Ahlbach does.”,
I found it all very uncomfortable, but I also knew, he was being my best friend at the time. Due to his prompting, I sought out Leo Sack, the speech pathologist at the school, whom I talked about here in the Aug./Sept. issue. He got me started confronting my stuttering, but my “birth” did not take place until one December night at a psychology  class.

We had to give an oral report and Leo and I did not have to think very long about what my topic should be. When the night came, everything in me knew that something significant was about to take place. Talking to Leo was one thing; “coming out” in this class was something else. I knew there was something final about it. I was letting go of a lot of lifelong feelings, telling the hidden chapters of my personal story, and giving birth to, ..well, I really did not know the answer to that, all I knew was my body was definitely in that mode because the pains in my stomach were intense. Something was about to begin, but there was an ordeal to be gone through first. I remember having to go up to my room and lie down before the class it hurt so much.

What I remember most from the report itself is after the first few moments my anxiety completely drained away, and I felt the most profound sense of relief I have ever known. I have since nurtured the freedom I gave birth to that night and watched it grow, but the night I first experienced it will always ‘be very special. I never talked as freely as I did that night.

I am telling this story especially for my young friends out there because I do not want you to wait until you’re 21, as I did, to experience this freedom. We now have on our Web site a Class Presentation Guide. If you’re ready, and only you can decide when you are, use it and get up and tell your story, our story.

It will be a good story because stuttering is a fascinating disorder that people will be interested in. Learn all you can about it. Tell them what it feels like. And, hey, you’ll be talking about the thing you know the most about, right? You’ve had to meet the profound challenge of stuttering, you might as well give yourself the opportunity to tell folks about it. You’ve earned that chance, and you will also earn the respect of everyone who hears you.

If you are looking for more reasons, just read Peter’s or Mitch’s articles in here. Come on, if you had a friend who stuttered wouldn’t you encourage him or her to talk about the experience?

Trust me, just as a Woman never looks more beautiful than after giving birth, you’ll feel more beautiful after your presentation, than you ever will again in your stuttering life.

This article is from Reaching Out, December, 1998

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