Sunday, December 31, 2006

Coping With A Special Needs Baby

Most of us anticipate that our babies will be born perfectly normal and healthy. We have no reason to suspect otherwise, and while all expectant moms and dads have thoughts of a baby with problems, we know deep in our hearts that it is not the case. What happens, then, when you find out that something is wrong with your baby? Beyond getting medical treatment, most of which is fairly clearly set out for you, how do you cope with the emotional stress of having a baby born with something wrong?

The first step is to allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you feel. There will be people who will tell you that you should not let it get you down, that you will prevail, that everything happens for a reason, and all of the other trite sayings we have to deal with pain. Either listen politely or tell them you would rather not hear it if that is how you feel because the reality is that when you have just found out something is wrong with your child, you probably do not want trite comfort. Be angry, sad, or scared if you want. Just do not allow yourself to wallow in it. Get through the first day or so and then start moving forward.

Education is beneficial for most of us. Now, it can become an obsession to learn everything about a condition or disease, and you may deal with that later. For now, though, you should allow yourself to learn about the condition. Your doctors probably will give you some pamphlets. They are a starting point. When someone asks if you need anything, ask them to head to the library or bookstore for you to pick up books about the condition. Or ask someone you trust to look for reputable information online. Educate yourself about how the condition works and what you look to face for the rest of your life.

Find a trusted friend. While you and your partner will discuss the condition, you need someone else in whom to confide. Choose someone you know will allow you a shoulder to cry on but tell you to face up to the reality of the situation when needed. This person may or may not know anything about medical conditions, but he or she should be someone you know will not share with others how you are feeling.

Be honest and open with your spouse. Once you get through any medical emergencies with the child, you should begin to look realistically at how your lives will be different. Try to focus on the sameness as much as possible. A child with a condition that does not restrict the diet, for example, is something for which to be grateful, even if that child will be in a wheelchair for life. You should look at how your lives will be altered and remain the same because of this condition.

Then you should begin to look at what you will do to make the changes. Sometimes children have needs that will require a great deal of care. That may mean that you have to look seriously at cutting back your hours at work or at finding a place in the budget for nursing care or domestic help. Begin to plot out these changes now. While others may be telling you that money is not an issue, you probably are considering how much this will cost you, not because you are crass but because you want to be able to determine how you will pay for everything.

Finally allow yourself to be happy about your baby no matter what. Pick up a stuffed animal. Get little outfits to dress your baby in. Do all of the things that every other parent of a newborn would do so that you will feel happy about your baby. You may find that you are angry at the baby even, and that really is okay as long as you can get beyond it. You will help yourself feel better about the baby and the whole situation if you allow yourself to bond with the child. Despite the movies, bonding with a newborn is not always automatic, so give yourself the time you need.

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