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.