As a mother it is your job to keep your child safe. From the moment they are conceived you keep them safe. You feel responsible for how their life turns out. You want what is best for them and for their life to be better and easier than yours ever was. But there are some things you can’t protect them from. Illness is one of those things. You suddenly find yourself coping with a sick child. How do you deal with it when your child is handed a serious diagnosis? Autism, heart disease, cancer. There are many things it could be, but no matter the exact illness, you can’t protect them form it. So how do you, as a parent, the person who’s supposed to keep them safe, cope with it?
My Son, Tobias
I took my son to the doctor for his 6 month well baby check thinking he was healthy, just not growing great. I knew he had fallen off the charts for weight but he was completely happy, making all his milestones, and clearly not starving. After less than 5 minutes with the doctor, we were sent to the Children’s hospital to have his heart checked. We were admitted so they could do more tests and told that he would need to have open heart surgery. Soon.
My son is unique. He has severe mitral stenosis. But some of the best pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiologists in the world have never seen a valve like his. Tobias will have open heart surgery to either repair or most likely replace his mitral valve on the left side of his heart. He struggles to breath because it is so enlarged. Tobias is so small because his heart is working too hard for him to gain weight from what he eats. I can’t keep him safe from this. It is something that I have no control over. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
What You Go Through When Coping With a Sick Child
When you are given that diagnosis it is shocking. We all assume that our child will be healthy. Until we are told they aren’t. Everyone goes through things a little differently and that is okay. But generally everyone feels some combination of these when they are coping with a sick child.
When you think your child is healthy everything is fine. Then suddenly, it isn’t. Despite hearing the doctors and seeing the test results and symptoms, it is hard to understand. Not in the way that you don’t get what is happening or don’t understand the diagnosis. But in the way that an hour ago your baby was healthy, and now he is not. It’s a lot to process and it takes a lot of time. You know that it is real but it sure doesn’t seem that way in the beginning.
Getting through the denial is what is important. Do what works for you so that you can move on and accept that this is happening to your baby. That way, when the time comes, you can hopefully move forward.
Once you have accepted that the situation is real, you may start to feel guilty unnecessarily. You were supposed to keep him safe and you didn’t. Even before he was born, you were supposed to help him grow and keep him safe and healthy. And you couldn’t even do that. You feel like you did something wrong.
All parents of sick kids will have some or all of these feelings. It is normal. I had them. But I also knew with 100% certainty that they were not true. That I did nothing wrong and could have done nothing differently in order to keep this from happening. Just keep reminding yourself that your child being sick is no one’s fault.
Do not ever blame yourself or your spouse. It is no one’s fault. Make that your mantra when you are coping with a sick child. It is the most important thing for you to understand.
Accepting the Diagnosis
The most important thing that you need to do and go through, is to accept what is happening with your little one. Some situations are worse than others. But you have to accept that your child is not going to have the life you wanted for them. There is a chance that something could go poorly.
I have chosen to accept this but to put my trust in my son’s surgeons. He has one of the best in the world and I have to believe that he will be okay. I think that state of mind will help a lot. The hardest thing that we have gone through so far is the waiting. Waiting with no answers is difficult. But I have accepted that coping with a sick child is just part of our lives for now. So I am doing what I can and making it work.
Having a Support System
Having a support system in place is going to be important too. Things can change quickly for the better or worse and having people there for you is very important. Call your family and friends. Talk to them over the phone or ask them to come stay with you. Do whatever you need to but have support.
And know that you can include me in your support system. I am one of a small group of parents who have been in this position. Not many infants have heart disease and even less have open heart surgery. So I get not having anyone who understands what you are going through. Know that I am thinking of your family always.
If you are coping with a sick child and need support please leave a comment. Know that I am here for you and understand what you are dealing with, in my own way.
PS. Check out Know Your Worth As A Mom to give you more inspiration when it all starts getting to you.