Parental Resilience - the parent’s ability to rebound or spring back from the challenges that emerge in every family which can determine the strength of that family.
As parents we face many challenges, sometimes they come back to back with little time to recover. How well do you deal with them? How do you keep yourself and your family strong during those challenging times?
Last year I had one of the biggest challenges of my life. My daughter was diagnosed with Tethered Cord Syndrome. Tethered cord syndrome is a stretch-induced functional disorder associated with the fixation (tethering) effect of inelastic tissue on the caudal spinal cord, limiting its movement. This abnormal attachment is associated with progressive stretching and increased tension of the spinal cord as a child ages, potentially resulting in a variety of neurological problems and other symptoms.
Basically she needed spinal surgery. The thought of my then 5 year old needing surgery was a lot to handle, and it became more complicated when I inquired about other options. If we agreed to surgery the negative repercussions included, she could be paralyzed, end up with weakness on one side of her body forever, and of course the biggest fear, death. If I don’t agree to the surgery the symptoms that helped us identify the problem could / would get worse (bladder too small for her age, leg pain which would get worse), and finally she could develop Spina Bifida. I had to make a decision that would / could affect my child for the rest of her life. What if I made the wrong decision?
Emotionally I was spent. Needless to say I had many sleepless nights, but when my kids got up in the morning I was "ON" (put on the happy face and keep it moving). When I drop them off at school I would let down my guard a bit, but not much, I had to work. It was very hard for me to focus because all I could think about was my child and what would be the best decision for her. She’s always been a little fighter, but didn’t she deserve a pass? I mean she was born at 1 pound and 12 ounces and fought to stay alive so much so that the doctors and nurses nicknamed her 'Super Starr'... “she will always be my little Starr”!
I kept myself and my family strong by getting the help I needed, and took some much needed free time to regroup so that I could provide for my family. I have some incredible friends who would go to dinner with me and just watch me cry and talk through all that was going on. When it came time for the surgery I needed to take a month unpaid leave from work. This would put a serious financial strain on my family as I am a single parent. Many of my friends pulled together to help out by giving me money, providing food for us that month, and making sure my other child was dropped off and picked up from school every day. My family was also vital in helping me get through that time, they kept my children so I could have time for myself to think, watch a movie, or whatever I wanted. They kept my older daughter while I was at the hospital with the baby. My daughter also got a lot of support and people made her feel special, sending her gifts. Her teachers actually came to the hospital to see her, presenting her with cards and a gift from her classmates. Anyone who knows my child knows she's shy and doesn’t freely talk to people and give out hugs. She’s in first grade now, and just about every day she goes to her former teacher's class to talk to her, and often will walk up to her and give her a hug (I have family members she still will not hug).
Sometimes as parents we feel bad taking time for ourselves thinking we are somehow taking away from our children / family. I’ve learned that if you don’t take care of yourself there is no taking care of the family, let’s not kid ourselves.
How do you cope during your challenging times?