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Thursday, May 4, 2017
The Motherhood of Worries and Fear ~ It's Part of the Deal
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Even though I worked in the Child Development field for many years prior to becoming a mother, the amount of emotional and physical stress that accompanies this role was still way more than anything I had ever experienced. I knew it wouldn't be a stroll on the beach at sunset. Years of managing large groups of Infants and Toddlers prepared me for the crying, never ending feedings, diaper changes, illnesses, teething, and clothing changes after diaper blow outs. I embraced the joy of witnessing milestones for each child. I loved learning about the personalities, quirks, and adventures during each precious developmental stage. It was my calling, and I appreciated being able to offer encouragement and support to families.
My experiences expanded when I became a member of an amazing team of therapists. We worked with children who had developmental challenges and medical conditions that required specialized interventions. It was eye opening and provided a well rounded education for me as I witnessed the beauty of each developmental gain. I saw the struggles and strengths of each family and felt humbled by how little I actually knew prior to my employment. Even with my years of experience in early childhood programs, nothing adequately prepared me for some of the heart breaking moments we encountered as a team. I grew, I learned, and I became increasingly frightened by the daunting tasks associated with parenthood.
Time passed quickly, and at the age of thirty I still hadn't found anyone with whom I felt the kind of connection I desired to become a partner and parent. I was afraid of what could happen during pregnancy and child birth. I had seen the trauma. I watched families struggle in the aftermath of what might happen when a child is born with a disability or severe medical condition. I held a still born infant after becoming connected to a family whose first child was in our program. We grew to know that baby even before he was born, knew his name, understood his family's love for him, and looked forward to his birth with the family. The morning of his birth, I arrived at the office to check in and was greeted by our office manager. She told me the baby had been born. Before I had a chance to express excitement and joy for the family, I was told that the baby didn't make it. I stood in front of her desk in shock. How could this have happened? Everything seemed to be going so well for the family. I immediately went to my desk and made a few calls to find out where she was.
I wanted to be there for the family. It was important. I rescheduled my other visits for the day and called the hospital until I figured out where she was located. The family was no longer in the maternity ward. They were in a separate part of the hospital and already assigned a social worker who was also their grief counselor. She met me at the entrance to that section of the hospital and informed me about what happened and what to expect. The baby was in the room being held and loved by family. Pictures were taken. It was the first time I had witnessed this type of grief up close and so very personal. The family wanted me to hold their beautiful baby. It was a moment I will never forget, equally precious and heart breaking. I remained with the family throughout the day until they were released to return home.
When these unexpected tragedies occur, it can become difficult to see beyond the event. I saw challenges every day as the result of my work. I experienced traumatic moments with families who were trying their best to be parents. Day after day more referrals came in and we had long meetings with families to discuss resources, options for assistance, and home visits. It seemed like everyone had a developmental delay, medical condition, or severe disability. Some children graduated from the program, some transitioned to the school system, and others had shortened life spans. I once commented to an Occupational Therapist that I was scared to get pregnant and have my own children after hearing some of the birth histories. She calmly reassured me, "That's because it's what we do. It's all we see. We don't get to always hear about the births that are successful or the children that are doing well." I appreciate how understanding and comforting those words were at the time.
I realized that as much as I loved children, it was possible I could face whatever happened when it came to parenthood. My work did allow me to face a few things. When I did meet my future husband and the father of my three children, we discussed my experiences in child development. I wanted him to be aware of risks, complications, and what we would do if our children had special needs.
Here are some of the points we discussed:
1. The only birth plan I wanted was one where the baby was born with minimal to no complications. Just get the baby out safely.
2. I did not want any invasive testing that might compromise the baby's or my health.
3. I would want to know if the baby had any medical or developmental concerns.
4. Even if there were complications, conditions, or diagnoses that were concerning, I would want us to face them together and love the baby as long as we were given.
5. I wanted us to know the gender of the baby and give the baby a name. I couldn't get it out of my mind that the still born baby I held had a name, was known by his family, had a personality, and was loved even before his untimely passing. I wanted to make sure our children had a name and identity in the event something happened prior to or at the birth.
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Everyone deals with parenting worries and fears in their own way. Some of the things that might impact your coping strategies:
1. Your experiences in child development and taking care of children
2. Your birth order in family of origin
3. Knowledge of anatomy and physiology during pregnancy
4. Exposure to children with special needs and how to manage resources
5. Support systems in place
No matter how prepared you want to be, there will always (and I mean ALWAYS) be things that are new and unexpected. It's normal to be scared. It's normal to worry. It's normal to have fears. The best we can do is make sure to reach out for help when needed. Find the resources and supports that work for you and your family. Talk to other parents and share stories. It's incredibly powerful to realize you are not alone in your journey. The adventures and memories are worth the time and energy. You will be exhausted both physically, emotionally, and mentally. But those moments will pass. There are also plenty of fun, happy, and crazy awesome memories to share with your children. So hang onto that hope. You're not alone!
How to Find Early Childhood Intervention Services in your area:
(State Part C Coordinators)
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- I have over 20 years of experience in Early Childhood Development Birth-Age 5 including work in classrooms and as an Infant/Toddler Program Manager. I have several writing projects in progress including a resource book for parents of infants and infant room teachers in a full day child development (school) program. The book will provide families with information about what to expect and how to monitor their child's progress in an Infant room. My second book project involves how to cope with family challenges, lessons in forgiveness, dealing with a spouse's addiction, and reinventing yourself along the way. I am excited about all of these projects and am currently accepting comments regarding experiences my readers have had placing their child into a full day child care program. I would also like to hear from Infant room teachers.