Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A New World

Marla called me early yesterday morning. Marla is a nurse in the NICU at one of our local hospitals, and she and I met while our sons played little league T-ball many years ago. She also stopped by to visit when Ashley was in ICU about 10 years ago. Actually, I hadn’t heard from her since that time.

Seems a new mom was having a tough time. She had delivered twins last weekend – one of them didn’t survive the birth, and the other was significantly disabled. The doctors feared that the baby was deaf and blind. They knew she had trouble breathing and very frequent seizures. Her survival wasn’t ensured, and after witnessing the mother’s breakdowns every time someone mentioned her child, Marla asked me to stop by to see if the mother would like to talk to me.

I agreed but I was scared to death.

The only qualification I have for helping someone like that is the fact that I have been through some tough times myself. But, I didn’t give birth to Ashley, and I feared that added another dimension I was definitely unqualified to address. But I couldn’t refuse.

I will meet this new mom tomorrow, and between now and then I need to think about what I will say and do. Hopefully some of you can help me with that.

I can say I understand her fears but my understanding only came after the fact with Ashley. I wasn’t there at Ashley’s birth. I didn’t wonder if my baby would survive those first weeks, and I never had the dark secret thought that it might be best if she didn’t.

I didn’t question what my life would be like when my baby was sent home with me. I didn’t wonder if I would be capable of caring for her, keeping her alive, and loving her. Most of the hard times came long before I brought Ashley home at age 2. How can I sit next to this new mother, hold her hand, and tell her I understand?

This mother had no choices really. I did. I chose to bring Ashley into my life. I chose knowing that my life and my son’s life would be turned upside down. I accepted the fact that I was entering an entirely new way of living and parenting, and even more than acceptance, I wanted it. This mother wanted two babies, babies considered ‘normal’, babies that would need care and love but not tube feedings and seizure meds.

What do I say? Or, do I say nothing and just let her know that I am there if and when she wants to talk? Do I tell her the baby is ‘special’ and that she, the mother, will find the strength to love and care for her daughter? How can I really say that when I don’t know if it is true?

Do I ask how her husband feels, if indeed she has a husband? Again, this will be a point around which we will not truly relate. I made the decision to adopt Ashley as a single parent. I know many marriages don’t survive the birth of a child with severe disabilities. Do I say that? Do I suggest she see a counselor as soon as possible?

I sincerely hope this is a parent, or parents, who can find the strength to love and care for their baby. But if they can’t, I hope they also have the strength to let someone else do it for them….and I don’t mean an institution.

I want to help, but first I need your help.


Just the Tip said...

I do not envy that conversation. You are right the adoption vs birth dynamic of all of this is much different. That being said, like i've said before if we ever do adopt, it will be a child with SN.

I know you will think of the right thing to say, or that just your presence will comfort her.

Tabitha Packer said...

It is great you are doing this, I had noone and would have welcomed someone talking with me about the joys we would have will outweigh what would happen on our journey! Prayers for the right words for you, and for this mother as she makes some decisions!

KittyDobson said...

I would start and end with love and support. And then, I would bring lots of picture of Ashely, and move into all the cans, and then gently mention some limitations, but only a few right now. You will know what to say at the time. God put you here for this right now, and your love and comfort and 'been there done that' will help. You have a beautiful functioning daughter who laughs and loves. You will know what to say.

jwg said...

I think you need to tell her about Ashley but also remind her that nobody knows exactly what her baby will be like. it's too early to tell. Most importantly, you need to listen. She may have feeling and concerns she hasn't been willing to share because,frankly, hospitals are staffed by some pretty intimidating people. Ask he how she is feeling and what her fears and questions are.

Rena said...

First of all, just listen. She needs to see she's not the only mom. Show her that your own daughter is doing well and there is hope. you have so much to offer because you're further down the road than she. Don't worry about not being the birth mom: you are MOM and have so much to offer someone just beginning this journey. You'll be great.