It’s baby season on Facebook these days. I love seeing my friends post their exciting news, especially knowing that I have my own special news that I am quietly enjoying right now.
I wonder about the friends that stay quiet. Those that I know love and want kids, but have not posted an announcement for themselves. I wonder if they are feeling that sting that comes with being happy for their friends, but wondering if it will ever be their turn, or knowing that they will never have that turn, or worse yet, knowing they had a turn and it was cut short.
This summer, my husband and I lost a baby. My midwife thought I was farther along than I did, but it didn’t matter. It still hurt. I shared the news gradually with a very small group of people, mostly because I didn’t know how to feel.
I felt bruised. I was sad. I wasn’t devastated, but I still hurt. I had no idea how I would answer the question, “How many kids do you have?” I wanted to say, “Three.” – but people wouldn’t understand. I would cry at the oddest times over the oddest things – things that I had no idea would be a trigger. My husband held me while I cried.
I was pretty numb. I actually stayed at work while it happened because the rest of the leadership team was out that day and I knew someone needed to be there. Only one person in the office knew. I plastered a smile on my face, hunched over my computer, prayed that the cramping would go away quickly, and took the next triage call.
When I lost the baby, my midwife told me that other women would hear about it and tell me their own stories. She told me her story, and it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone. But, I quickly found out that miscarriages are taboo topics. People, especially those who have never experienced a miscarriage, can be very uncomfortable talking about them. Most of us don’t even announce pregnancies until we are past that golden “13 week” mark. It’s almost as if losing a baby doesn’t count until then. Like if we lose the baby in the first trimester, we can deal with it better by ourselves because “it was early.”
I beg to differ.
We need to break this code of silence about the loss of a baby. We need to support each other through good news and bad. We need to be sensitive about the questions we ask, but neither should we be silent. A hug goes a long way. Don’t be afraid of tears. They are healing.
Dads need support too. My husband acknowledged that he did not yet feel as attached as I did, but he still hurt. The baby was half him, after all. And he had to watch me go through the emotional roller-coaster afterwords. I don’t know how he did it.
I still think of the baby often. It’s not every day any more, but I will never forget. If anything, it has given me a greater appreciation for my son and daughter. I don’t take the uneventful pregnancies I had with them for granted any more. Every “normal” milestone I achieve in this pregnancy gives me a sense of gratefulness that I didn’t have before.
I know that my husband will be there for me no matter what, always willing to hold me and let me cry.
And every time I see a friend post that they are expecting, or that their baby has arrived, I am glad. I am grateful that they, and their baby, are healthy. I also say a little prayer for those experiencing the pain of a loss, because I’ve been there- and it’s hard to face someone else’s joy over something you want so much when you’ve had it and lost it.
This pregnancy, I did what I always do – shared the news with close friends and family as soon as we found out. However, this time I plan to announce our news to the world before the 13 week mark. Once we have that first ultrasound I will share our joy, but I will share it with a prayerful heart for those who are hurting because of a loss.
I want to start conversations. Let’s take the taboo out of talking about miscarriage.
Saturday, October 25, 10:00 a.m. SAT Prep. Take advantage of the SAT Math Prep course at the Savage Branch. It is designed to help students excel on the math portion of the test. Students will take an official practice exam to simulate the experience, learn test-taking strategies, and solve problems related to algebra, geometry, and probability. Grades 9-12 only. Graphing calculators are recommended. 3 Day class October 11, 18, and 25. When you register, you will automatically be registered for all 3 days. HiTech is funded in part by a National Leadership Grant for Libraries from IMLS. Visit hclibrary.org/hitech_events for more HiTech classes. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.
Monday, October 27, 10:15 a.m. Just for Me. A class at the Savage Branch for children who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Also offered at 2 p.m. at the Miller Branch, 10/28 ay 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the East Columbia Branch, and 10/29 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch.
Monday, October 27 – Thursday, October 30, 3:00 p.m. Homework Club. Join us after school at the East Columbia Branch for a snack while working on your homework in a relaxed setting. Ages 11-17. Mondays – Thursdays; 3 – 4 pm (school days only). No registration required.
Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, 7 to 9 p.m. Free. Prenatal Class for Your Early Pregnancy is for parents-to-be and parents in the first trimester. Learn about the early stages of pregnancy including your body’s physical changes, your baby’s growth and easy ways to promote a healthier pregnancy in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center.
Friday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation. Do you make notes in a book’s margins? Imagine having a conversation with the author about your thoughts. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte indulge in the opportunity to discuss their most recent works and ask the pressing questions they’ve penned in the margins of each other’s books. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, is the author of the 2014 New York Times bestseller, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. An award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, Brigid Schulte wrote the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.
“Wherever I go – in stores, on the street, in restaurants, in people’s homes – I see repetitious scenes of whining, and tantrums, and – even more unsettling – an increased number of kids who look sullen, unrelated, and unhappy.” – Robert Shaw, M.D.
At a recent gala store opening the freebies were flowing — at least till mid-morning when one nine-year-old’s favorite treat ran out.
Several of us customers watched as the sales rep offered the young customer a substitute.
She took the rep to task — loudly.
“That’s not fair!” she stamped her foot. “Everyone else got the one I want! I deserve to get one too!”
The embarrassed parent intervened with an appeasement bordering on pleading: If the child would just be quiet, she’d take her somewhere else and buy her the unavailable item.
The late child psychiatrist, Robert Shaw, would have called this gift – this opportunity – “a teachable moment” – one in which an active parent might seize the day and demonstrate “an ethical response” to such unacceptable petulance.
But that didn’t happen.
In The Epidemic, Shaw dogmatically reasons why:
Today’s indulgent parents are either absurdly permissive or “checked-out” to their children’s emotional needs. They provide all the bells and whistles of excessive living, but scrimp on the moral input.
Case in point: today’s mutation of self-esteem. Where it was once a normal, healthy by-product of emotional development, according to Shaw, it isn’t any longer. Parents in large part, can thank themselves: “Lavishing excessive praise” on their kids, lobbying teachers “for sugar-coated assessments, even lowering expectations,” have all helped foster the current crop of little “self-worshippers.”
And who are the parents Shaw targets? Certainly not “The Have Nots.” “Primarily,” he stresses, “[it’s] a problem in middle- and upper-class families … comfortable families, where there’s plenty of money but simply not enough parental time…” Shaw also gets on that all-powerful electronic babysitter – television. American preschoolers (he says) spend up to fifty-four hours a week in front of one, absorbing TV’s endless communication of both the simplistic and insidious. Messages like “It’s okay to use weapons to deal with conflict. It’s okay to swear, bully, have sex, drink alcohol, and disrespect the adults in your life” have all contributed to the dearth of empathy and compassion in our children.
Indeed, he goes on: “Kids today demonstrate such a startling lack of character traits that many schools resort to a regularly scheduled moral curriculum.”
Disquieting when you think about the lifeline teachers already provide to both student and parent. Disquieting when you think about the “dissatisfaction of American teachers today. For the record, more than 200,000 will choose to leave their profession this year.
The Epidemic is a stinging, grim, and discomfiting diatribe. Parents will resent and buck everything Shaw criticizes. But in the end, we all have to take it on the chin.
Every critical moment of your child’s life deserves you in it.
1(Would Greater Independence for Teachers Result in Higher Student Performance? PBS Newshour, August 18, 2014)
Monday, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.
Monday, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m. Superfoods at Miller. Some foods promote health and longevity better than others. Licensed nutritionist Karen Basinger names these powerhouses and how to best use them. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 9 to 11:30 a.m. Diabetes Screening & BMI. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Meet with an RN for a glucose blood test, BMI measurement and weight management information. Immediate results. Fasting eight hours prior recommended.
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Choose Your Pediatrician and Promote Your Newborn’s Health. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn factors to consider and questions to ask when choosing your pediatrician and ways you can promote your newborn’s health. Presented by Dana Wollney, M.D.
Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 to 9 p.m. Get Moving Again: Total Joint Replacement. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Free. Learn about total hip and knee surgery from health care professionals, past patients of our Joint Academy and Richard Kinnard, M.D.
Monday, Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Cost is $55. This course will teach the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Last month, I discussed some vexing behavior exhibited by parents during children’s sporting events. Among my key points were my belief that competitive environments can be very good for children, that there are some people who need to learn to deal with disappointment and frustration in graceful ways, and, mainly, that some adults might need to consider teaching and modeling methods of civil communication/behavior to their children. I also looked at some causes for some parents’ own lack of self-control, namely “ego-involvement.”
I hit on a lot of what I wanted to in that post, but in light of Choose Civility Week, I felt like there might be even more to say on this topic (plus, some of what I discussed I felt bore repeating since soccer season is in full swing). Around the holidays last year, when I was battling (and blogging about) an attack of the “gimme’s” in my house, I mentioned the book Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. I remembered liking the book very much, so I decided to revisit it to see what it said with regard to parents’ “exuberance” toward their kids’ activities.
Levine does not discuss athletics in her book so much, but she does address parents’ over-involvement in their children’s sports, as well as other activities, to illustrate some of her points:
“We must shift our focus from the excesses of hyperparenting, our preoccupation with a narrow and shortsighted vision of success that has debilitated many of our children, and an unhealthy reliance on them to provide status and meaning in our own lives, and return to the essentials of parenting in order for children to grow into their most healthy and genuine selves.”
Levine covers in greater depth the ways parents can model and teach a greater sense of fair play, civility, ethics, and even independence to their children (and avoid the pitfalls of their own ego-involvement). I can’t even begin to go into the detail that she does in her book, but she provides key steps and examples to help during different age ranges. For example, in the chapter focused on 5-11 year-olds, she covers friendship, learning, sense of self, empathy, and play. In the chapter on the middle school years, puberty and health, independence, and peer groups are discussed. And for high school ages, Levin focuses on adult thinking, sexuality, identity, and autonomy.
She devotes the last two chapters of the book to “Teaching Our Kids to Find Solutions” and “Teaching Our kids to Take Action.” And, in the “Taking Action” chapter, one of the key components she discusses is self-control. Levine discusses how many children’s emotional difficulties may have at least some footing in problems with self-regulation. She asserts, “The importance of the internal ability to say no, to control impulsivity, to delay gratification cannot be overestimated as a protective factor in child and adolescent development.” But she also warns that parents can overreact to lack of self-control and “catastrophize the situation” to the point that teaching opportunities are missed.
Levine strongly suggests that some of the best ways to help a child develop better self-control include letting him/her experience and learn to manage moderate amounts of distress and challenges, positively acknowledging your child’s ability to “go against the crowd” and not succumb to peer pressure, and modeling good self-management strategies. Again, if you don’t want your kids to be bad sports, make sure that you are not exhibiting that behavior yourself.
I love picture books. I love to read them, share them with children, talk about them, and get lost in wonder at the ability of authors and illustrators to perfectly meld text and illustration. I especially treasure when I find books that capture the emotional truth of difficult subjects.
Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan is an Alzheimer’s story. Julia loves her grandmother and is afraid and worried when grandmother becomes forgetful, starts wandering, and finally becomes unable to care for herself. Van Laan deftly guides the reader through the stages of Alzheimers, always through the child’s perspective. When it becomes clear to Julia and her family that grandmother can no longer safely live alone they make together the decision to move her from her home to “a place that will give her the special care she needs.” Muted color washes of blue, green, and yellow contribute to the gentle, delicately perceptive tone of this book.
I lost my mother to dementia a year ago, I wish this book had been around then.
The Very Tiny Baby by Sylvie Kantorovitz is a rock star at addressing the serious issues surrounding a premature baby from a sibling’s point of view. Luckily, Jacob has his teddy bear to pour out all of his mixed-up feelings. Sibling rivalry, fear for his mommy, and resentment at the lack of attention are all poured into the understanding ears of Bear. The hand-lettered text and scrapbook style drawings engage the young reader and provide a safe outlet for children in Jacob’s situation.
A keen sense of a child’s perspective makes this a useful book to have in your Tender Topics arsenal.
My Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Erik Lunde. This beautiful, quiet, sad book is respectful of the grief of both father and son. Unable to sleep, the boy seeks comfort in his father’s arms. Bundled up, the boy and his father go out into the cold, starry Norwegian night. The boy asks his father “Is Mommy asleep?… She’ll never wake up again?” The father’s soft refrain to his son, “Everything will be alright” as he calms his fears and answers his questions, resonates the truth of the present sadness and the hope for the future. The paper collage and ink illustrations monochromatic tones convey the sorrow, while the flashes of red (like the warmth of the fire) allow the reader, like the young boy, to find comfort in the love of those still with us. The final spread of this Norwegian import is lovely and life affirming.