On December 4th, 2014, I had my posterior tongue tie released by laser. I am not ready to get into the whole nitty-gritty story right now -- I am hoping for some better results in the future. I did want to address something amazing I am happy about, though: my tongue finally found its home.
All my life I struggled to know how my tongue was supposed to fit in my mouth. It felt big, unelegant, cumbersome. I never knew where to put it to make things feel together. I sucked my thumb until I was 8 years old. I started seeing a speech therapist before I quit sucking my thumb to address issues with "thertain thounds." Dr. Peachy (and I can't remember if that is how his name was spelled -- that's how we said it; I checked with my mom and she can't remember his proper name either) tried many strategies to get me to stop this thumb-sucking. We put that tape you use on hair (do they even make that anymore?) around my thumb, stained yellow with food coloring; if I sucked my thumb, my mouth would be yellow when I woke in the morning. Once he helped me scrape the dirt out from under my fingernails and we put in on a cracker -- he then invited me to eat! I cannot remember if I put the saltine in my mouth or not -- it obviously didn't make me stop putting my thumb in my mouth.
Dr. Peachy also made a big deal about where my tongue was supposed to rest, and how I should swallow. I had tongue thrust, and the natural resting position that felt good was between my teeth. I had an open bite (although future braces closed that) from the tongue thrust, and he was helping me learn my way out of bad habits. He had this stuff that seemed like a thin spot of gelatin; he affixed it to the roof of my mouth and told me this is where my tongue should go. At rest, at play, before and after swallows -- this was "my spot."
At some point I learned to speak more clearly and stopped speech therapy. I even grew out of thumb-sucking, and as I said before, I am pretty certain it had nothing to do with any of Dr. Peachy's interventions -- I think I just was finished.
All my life I have had this feeling my tongue wasn't right for my mouth -- somehow, I was given a tongue a few sizes too big. I had anxiety about where "my spot" was. I was always trying to remember to put my tongue on "my spot." What this meant was, taking my tongue from its position between my teeth, and putting the tip to "my spot."
Fast-forward many years, and learning the oldest and youngest of my four children have Tethered Oral Tissue-issues -- somewhere along the way, an amazing IBCLC and mentor, Norma Ritter, suggests I look in my mouth, and she bets I have restrictions of my own. I was doubtful. "No," I told her, "I know I am fine." Months later, I decide to look and see, and what do I find? What looks like a posterior tongue tie! I have this confirmed casually by a few other professional acquaintances and friends, and I start to put together symptoms I deal with, like debilitating tension headaches, clenching and grinding of my teeth, tapping of my teeth, and mandibular tori, to name a few, or four.
I make an appointment for treatment with an area dentist. Five days after this release, I was lying on my bed, nursing my toddler. No one was home, it was quiet, and again, I was trying to find "my spot." Through the years I have developed different ways to do this. Sometimes I lift my tongue to the roof of my mouth and start to "click," but instead I leave my tongue there and close my mouth; another trick is to say "ehnnnn," like the letter "n." I tried to map my palate so I could just know by the ridges where "my spot" was, but the topography still was not enough, in 30-ish years of knowing this, to help me out...so it always requires thought and action.
Again, I was trying to locate "my spot," and while I was figuring this out, the back of my tongue lifted to my palate and I found the tip of my tongue was not pressed against my palate, but resting right at "my spot." This may sound unremarkable, but for me, it was nothing short of inventive! I had just made a discovery, and all the lightbulbs in my brain flashed at the same time and gave me the realization, "This is it!!! This is what Dr. Peachy was talking about! This is 'my spot'! MY SPOT!!!" And I sat there, marveling at how all my life I was misunderstanding what my tongue was supposed to do once it got to "my spot." Miscommunication perhaps -- heck, maybe Dr. Peachy didn't realize I was curling my tongue up to my palate -- but I was struck by something else...by a feeling.
If you ever sucked your thumb, maybe you remember what was so awesome about it, or maybe you don't. But we have sensors in our bodies called mechanoreceptors -- I learned this in my Lamaze training. Pressure to these mechanoreceptors can bring feelings of comfort or calm -- I would even say joy (and I'm not a scientist, and I don't feel like researching this -- so call it anecdata if you will...because I will). Some places we have these are in our hands, in our lips, and in our mouths. Think about that -- we hold hands, we kiss, we eat food, and all these activities bring us little rushes of endorphins. When a baby sucks his thumb, he is directly providing the stimulation feeding would or should bring; in my case, with a vaulted palate, feeding may not have given me these warm-fuzzies (and in fact, my mother tried to nurse me and it didn't work out), so I got creative and figured out, on my own, how to get my endorphin-fill. Another mentor and friend, Michale Fetzik of The Myofunctional Center, shared that thumb-suckers are smart, because they figure out how to make up for this loss.
So, back to me and this new feeling -- I suddenly was a small child again, filled with the comforting sensations of sucking my thumb...and this all came because my tongue finally found its home in my mouth, resting along my palate.
I am not a science journal writer, and I don't want to be a science journal writer -- currently my 22 month old clings to my left leg, and thank goodness for automatic saving, because I inadvertently closed this page and had to retype this sentence (but everything else was still here!). I am just a mom who is noticing things and trying to help others who may be noticing things as well. But now I have to nurse my baby to sleep. And while I'm at it, I'm going to practice hitting the spot.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)