Unfounded Guilt: What If They Stutter?

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It’s going to be one of the hardest conversations I will ever have. I already feel responsible for it without even knowing if it will come to fruition, but the likelihood is high. 

I have met many other people who stutter that have said, “oh, my uncle stutters” in response to the question as to whether they have someone in their family who stutters. 

Recently, my brother got engaged and will get married in the fall. They have already said a baby will follow soon thereafter. I’ve only thought about one question since: 

What if they stutter, too?

It never really hit me until now. No one else in our family stutters, though I’m not convinced that I’m the only one. It is hard to imagine the feelings that will shudder through me if my niece or nephew stutters. The guilt is different than if my son does because I’m confident I’ll be there to help him at every step of the way, and know that he will be okay. 

My brother and his wife do not know what they would be up against. Perhaps ignorance is a better approach because they won’t have the accumulating iceberg to sink their ship right as it sets sail. I don’t believe that, though, either. 

Living through stuttering relatively alone, and then imagining such a young child facing its wrath alongside terrified parents takes my breath away. I don’t want that for them, or anyone else for that matter. 

But here I am and here I write—swimming in the guilt to prove to myself that it is unfounded if they do stutter. I do know wholeheartedly that it won’t be my fault.

It won’t be my fault. 

And they won’t blame me. 

So, what will I do with this unfounded guilt?

I will bring it out of my swirling thoughts and be clear about what needs to happen if their child does stutter. This is what’s in my control—use my experience of stuttering to act as their guide. 

But, what if they do stutter and it turns chronic?

I will bring it into the light to ensure that they know it’s okay to stutter. Resources and the stuttering community aside, my brother and his wife will have the right support they will need to make stuttering just another part of who their wonderful child becomes. 


I will stand ready to help when they want it. The second generation of stuttering in our family will not bring with it struggle, trauma, or stigma. This is easier written than done, but I am more than prepared to step up. 

Facing stuttering from the parent perspective is much different than coming of age with it. I haven’t quite worked out all of my thoughts on it yet but being the uncle that stutters to genetically link to my niece or nephew is a burden I’m trying hard not to let it bury me. 

It’s an interesting feeling because it wants to numb my excitement for my brother since I know what could afflict his child. As I wrote three nights ago, stuttering can become an unexpected superpower if you survive the journey. 

All I can do it wait and see, and have the hard conversations. 

Look, your child may-could-possibly-probably stutter. I hope you know the pain it will cause me but, regardless, I’m here to help. Always…” 

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