January 25, 2021 – Unexpected Parenting Challenges

I’ve been thinking a great deal about my children in recent days. How much my life has changed since I became a mother! I cannot imagine my life without them. Each one is so incredibly unique and has so much to offer. Of all the relationships I’ve had throughout my life, the ones with my kids have been (while incredibly rewarding) the most challenging. Nothing can adequately prepare you for parenthood. I don’t care how many books you read or how much advice you seek, once that ‘little person’ arrives, you can pretty much toss all of that knowledge you initially acquired or sought out the window. With the way humans grow and develop so quickly (especially babies), as soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, a new and more complex ‘issue’ presents itself. What is particularly fascinating to me is that this is an ongoing process. If you think things couldn’t get any more complicated than when you’re dealing with a toddler in their ‘terrible twos’, think again.

My children are 26, 30 and 32 years of age. Gosh, saying that out loud makes me feel really old!! I thought things would get easier once my children became adults. Haha! Who am I kidding? When they were younger, my greatest concerns were that in addition to their basic needs being met, that they were happy, healthy and well-rounded. You wouldn’t think that that would be such a difficult goal to reach or too great of an expectation, but life doesn’t always play by the rules. Sometimes, things happen that are unexpected. All three of my children had significant health scares, I nearly lost my oldest and youngest when they were infants. And my middle one, between his speech disorder and multiple concussions, it was hard to rest easy. Life is complicated enough with just one child, but when you have three, you get three times as many opportunities for things to go right, or wrong.

I know I had it easier than most because my husband was very supportive through it all and I was able to be a ‘stay at home mom’ for much of the time. I don’t know how single parents do it! My daughter was the ‘picture of health’ when she was born. Aside from becoming slightly jaundiced shortly after birth and having to stay a couple of extra days in the hospital, everything went along smoothly. But at around 7 months of age, things went sideways. One morning in late December (when we were stationed in Spain), I woke up before she did (which was a little unusual). I was accustomed to her waking me up, alerting me through her cries that she was hungry. When I went to check on her, she was sound asleep and appeared to be ok. I didn’t think much of it. “Maybe she’s just really tired and needs a little extra rest,” I thought to myself. But then morning became afternoon. That’s when I got alarmed.

The next time I checked on her, her breathing sounded irregular. She was still sound asleep but her breaths had become shallow and wheezy and her color was off. I knew right away that something was wrong. At the time, we were living in base housing which was nowhere near the actual base, and the one car we had, my husband had used to drive to work in the morning. Fortunately, the last shuttle to the base had not yet departed so I scooped her up out of the crib, grabbed the diaper bag with all of the essentials and flew out the door just in time to catch it. We arrived at the base an hour later and I took her to the hospital straightaway. After a thorough examination by the doctor, I was advised that she had advanced pneumonia and had I not brought her in that day, she would have died. “What on earth?” I wondered, “How did this even happen?” I felt like the worst parent in the world. Thankfully, due to the care and diligence of the medical team, she pulled through.

My middle child had a knack for banging his head on things. He has ‘bonked’ his head from falling out of bunk beds, running into walls, slipping on floors, and even from ‘smacking’ into solid concrete (when performing a trick on his skateboard). In addition to the concussions he suffered, he also permanently lost a tooth in the front, upper portion of his mouth. If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was being abused, but I can assure you, he wasn’t. On top of that, he was born with a speech sound disorder (phonological disorder) so it was often difficult to understand him, which resulted in a great deal of frustration on his part as well as the person trying to communicate with him. Because we spent so much time together, I was usually able to get a general idea of what he was trying to say but not always. When he couldn’t get his point across, it was the hardest thing to witness. He would become consumed with rage, his legs drawn up against his chest, his little hands curled into fists.

The anger would eventually subside and get replaced with complete and utter despair. If the mournful sobbing didn’t get your attention, the flood of tears streaming down his face would. It was heartbreaking. When he turned 4 and we went to the doctor’s office for his annual ‘wellness check’, the doctor noticed his delayed speech. I assumed it was because my son had a chatty older sister that always talked on his behalf, but the doctor was convinced it was more than that and recommended I get him tested. They had a program (BOCES) through the school district that was free so I took him as soon as they had an opening. I am so grateful we went because they immediately came up with a diagnosis as well as a treatment plan. The treatment took a couple of years and involved intensive speech therapy, but by the time he was six, you wouldn’t have known that there ever was a ‘problem’.

My youngest? Oh, Lord! He gave me a run for my money!! This kid was a ‘tank’ when he was born. He out measured both his siblings, in weight and length. And just like his siblings, he looked completely and utterly perfect when he decided to make my acquaintance. Three weeks along, that’s when life decided to throw a curveball. He started throwing up when he never had before. He had certainly ‘spit up’ as babies often do, but there was no mistaking the difference. After I would feed him, all of the milk that he just finished drinking would end up all down my front. His weight started dropping and his skin broke out in spots. He continued to ‘eat’ but each time he did, he would vomit it back up. And the milk no longer even resembled milk, it looked like cottage cheese. It got to a point that I knew we needed to get him seen by a physician. Clearly, something was very wrong.

The first physician we saw was at the military hospital. After examining my son, he was unable to determine what was wrong so he recommended we take him to the city hospital. You have no idea how glad I am that we did! Within a matter of hours, once the blood work was done and x-rays completed, there was a clear diagnosis (pyloric stenosis). “He needs surgery right away,” the doctor asserted, “However, because his electrolyte count is off, we’re going to keep him overnight, get it stabilized and perform surgery in the morning.” You know what else he said? If we had waited another 24 hours to bring our son in, he would have died! Again, how did I miss this? Needless to say, the surgery went off without a hitch. The recovery, on the other hand, was another matter. My son had a sizable incision across his abdomen that caused him a great deal of pain and to add insult to injury, even though he was starving, I was only allowed to give him tiny amounts of milk.

Again, thanks to the team of medical specialists, everything worked out in the end. My son’s health returned in a matter of weeks and if you look at him now, unless you saw his scar, you’d never know he nearly didn’t make it to his 1st birthday. The miracle of modern medicine! The fact that my kids even survived to adulthood is really quite amazing. Come to think of it, the fact that I’m still here is amazing, too! Anyway, where was I going with all of this? That’s right, I was talking about ‘unexpected parenting challenges’. What can I say? If you want to be a parent, just realize that before you take the plunge, that it’s no walk in the park. There are continual challenges along the way, expected and unexpected. If you want to test your resilience and resolve, try having three teenagers living under your roof at the same time! Just know this, if you decide you want to have children, it will not be an easy feat; however, the love and rewards that you get in return make it all worthwhile.

Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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