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You’re pregnant, you’re excited and everyone is asking, “Do you want a boy or a girl?” Although some people have a preference, most respond by saying, “As long as our baby is healthy, that’s all that matters.” I’ll admit, I gave this canned response to a lot of my family and friends without hesitation. Our chances of not having a healthy baby based off our family history and other factors was extremely low and when Loghan was born, we thought we had just that, a healthy baby.
If you follow the ‘Loghan’s Story’ blog series, you know that she has and will have to overcome many obstacles in her life. Our world was turned upside down when we found out Loghan has a rare disease. We’ve had to watch her get put under anesthesia four times, undergo two surgeries and maybe another one yet this summer. So if you are wondering where I am going with this, I will tell you.
Add these two questions to the list of questions to talk about with your significant other when having the conversation of potentially starting a family:
- Are you prepared to be a parent to a child with health issues?
- Do you have a good support system?
Even though no one wants to think about the possibility of the first question listed above, I wish I would have put some thought into it before having a baby. The truth is, no one thinks it will happen to them until it does and nothing can prepare you for the unknown. Asking myself these questions now, it wouldn’t have changed my mind on wanting to start a family, made the situation any less painful or make me love my daughter any less, but at least I would have put some thought into the “what if”.
So, the next time someone asks if you want a boy or girl and you give the canned response, “As long as our baby is healthy…” stop and think, what if my baby isn’t? Have you really thought about what you would do if your baby wasn’t healthy? I imagine a lot of parents-to-be don’t give it much thought, but it is a conversation that I think is worth having before trying to get pregnant. However low the risk, the risk is there. Ask yourself if you are willing to be an advocate for your child no matter what. Ask yourself if you are willing to take on a family if that means having to quit working full-time or dedicating the rest of your life to taking care of your child because they will never be able to take care of themselves.
Ask yourselves if you have a good support system. This is a good question no matter the outcome because parenting is never easy, but having amazing friends and family to help you out makes a huge difference. I rave about our support system in many blog posts because they are amazing! Our support system takes on extra appointments and all the challenges that continue to be thrown our way. When one is tired or stretched too thin, we have others we can turn to. There is no shortage of love and support for our family and I can only hope you are lucky enough to have the same.
Is this too much to handle? I am willing to bet that some parents out there, including myself, have a child with health issues when they thought they would have a healthy baby and were surprised when that was not the case. There are children that might develop health issues a few years down the road and there are those that were told at some point during their pregnancy that there would be health issues. Although I’m sure it’s not any easier to hear no matter when you find out your child isn’t healthy, I like to think that if you find out before birth that you have some time to prepare and wrap your head around the situation. This might also mean, if found early enough, that you had to make a choice on whether to continue the pregnancy. These are all things that could happen and come with hard decisions, heartache, and using strength you never thought you had.
Sadly, some parents can’t or won’t rise to the occasion if something like this happens but I like to think and hope that most of them do. ¹According to the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents, 39% of adopted children have special health care needs and 26% have moderate to severe health difficulties, as compared to 19% and 10% in the general population. From what I read, there are a lot of factors that can play into this but it is an interesting stat to me that I wanted to share. Perspective.
Although having a child with health issues has it’s challenges, there are quite a few resources available to help support you and your family. In an earlier post, I talked a little bit about the Birth to Three program. I will continue to share other local resources we have used and rely on to help us navigate the unknown and help with Loghan’s development. There are also all sorts of groups on social media that can be very supportive. There are mom groups/blogs, specific disease groups, dad groups and more mom groups to name a few. There is support and you are not alone.
I want to make it clear that I am not trying to scare you from wanting a family. I’m just trying to prepare you for the unknown and believe that it is a good conversation to have before trying to get pregnant. Make sure you and your significant other are on the same page, not just for these questions but other things as well. Knowing what questions to ask and are important to each of you will only help make the transition into parenthood easier. Planned parenting and an understanding of each person’s priorities, expectations, strengths and weaknesses are the building blocks to having a loving and caring family. Let your journey be exciting, yet thoughtful.
¹Adoption USA: A Chartbook Based On The 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. US Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/09/NSAP/chartbook/doc/chartbook.pdf