What if Your Baby isn’t Healthy? Getting to Acceptance and Hope

When you find out you’re having a baby, you are usually scared and excited all at once! Whether the baby is expected or not, it’s scary but exciting to become a new mom/dad. Many parents start to think about what that child will be like as a baby, growing up, and even what their future might be like when they are an adult. Sometimes you really want a girl or a boy but often people say “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, I just want it to be healthy!” Sometimes they are lying- they secretly want a boy. Or a girl. But usually they really do mean they want the baby to be healthy. No one wants an unhealthy child. But what if the child is “unhealthy”? What if the child is not “normal”? Then what?
Often parents don’t find out their child has special needs until months or year after he or she is born. Sometimes parents find out while pregnant, however, such as if the baby’s condition shows up on a test or ultrasound. Sometime parents find out when the baby is born with some defect right away. Whenever you find out about a “difference” about your child you were probably not expecting it. Whether you find out there is something “different” about your child sooner rather than later, it’s still usually surprising, and often devastating. New parents aren’t expecting any problems usually, and when they find out their precious new baby is going to not be healthy or normal, they are usually very disappointed. Which makes sense, considering it’s not the ideal and it’s usually quite unexpected.

Surprised to go through the Stages of Grief
Many people might not expect to go through all the stages of grief and loss like you would if you lost a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth, or infant due to SIDS, etc, however often the reactions and feelings are quite similar to someone’s who lost a child. Parents might be shocked and confused why they are feeling such loss when their baby didn’t pass away, and they might feel bad knowing other people have lost their children but they at least have one even if the child has special needs. You might feel guilty because you know you love your child, yet by being upset about their condition you feel like you are denying him/her to an extent. Parents go through grief because the loss is not of a child, but of an expectation. They feel their child may never live up to the parent’s expectation of their potential that they had hoped for, and that is why they must grieve. Grieving is important, so we can get to Acceptance and Hope.
The Kubler-Ross stages of grief and loss, so often noted for bereavement, can be applied to this situation as well. The stages include Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. Often parents don’t believe the child’s condition- whether it be mental health, cognitive, developmental delays, medical fragility, sickness, deformity, genetic conditions, etc to be real at first. They might want to see several doctors, they might try to get all the information they can online or from specialists to try to explain it away or find a way to change the situation. Parents often isolate themselves, feeling no one understands my child or what I’m going through, or it’s too hard to explain why my child looks or acts different. They might feel shame that their baby is not “beautiful” in the expected ways of the world or that their child is not “normal”. Parents might feel jealous and upset seeing everyone else’s “perfect” children and so keep themselves isolated so as not to feel that way by seeing other babies. Often parents will be angry- perhaps at God- why did you do this to me?, to my baby? Or at the doctors- why didn’t they tell me? Or why didn’t they do anything? Or even at themselves- I should’ve taken more prenatal vitamins, I shouldn’t’ve rode that roller coaster while pregnant, etc. 

The Bargaining stage might look like parents going after every kind of intervention and help their child can get such as taking the child to every doctor, specialist, early interventionist, treatment clinic, etc to try to make whatever is “abnormal” about the child go away.
Parents are often grieving which can cause some depression, and postpartum depression can play into this as well, and when they feel they should NOT be grieving, or that they are “bad parents” in some way, or blame themselves for situation, it just causes depression to worsen.
What we want is to get to Acceptance. And Hope. Whether child lives or dies, is healthy or unhealthy, is not up to the parents for most part. Parents can, and should, get as much help as possible for themselves such as mental health therapy, support groups, reaching out to family and friends. Parents should get help for their child as well such as Doctors, Early intervention, etc. too, however it’s important to not worry so much about getting that child to “normal” in comparison to peers, but rather to get that child to be as healthy or as functional as possible for him or her. Develop a “New Normal” or Adapted Expectations. What that will be for your baby will vary greatly from child to child. Everyone is different and everyone develops in their own pace. Some people develop faster and further than others. Children, especially babies, have so many milestones to reach, but instead of focusing on what they “should” be doing or what their peers are doing, if you have a special needs baby, just focus on being happy that you have that child, that you were blessed with someone who needs some extra love and help from you, and embrace the special needs parents identity and community that comes along with it. You will find that you will feel less grief and depression, but rather much hope and acceptance, and even get to the point where you will celebrate difference perhaps. Your child will be happier for it, and you will too.

Patience Domowski, is a doula with Main Line Doulas. She is also a licensed clinical social worker and does behavioral therapy and private behavior consultation for children and parents with special needs such as autism, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. She also works with babies 0-3 with developmental delays in Early Intervention.

10 Places to Go When You are Past Your Due Date in Philadelphia

Philadelphia area doulas list 10 places to go when you are 40 weeks or more pregnant.

Are you going crazy waiting for baby to make his/her big arrival? Sick and tired of hearing, "When's your due date?" "Are you having twins?" "Are you gonna have your baby right here?"  Here are some suggestions from your doulas of 10 things to do while you are waiting! 

1. Indulge at Village Treats in Narberth

 After growing and carrying your baby for OVER 40 weeks, you most certainly deserve to indulge a little. 
Come enjoy this neighborhood hub of deliciousness before your little one arrives. Or even better, plan it for tomorrow. It'll give you something to look forward to in case you don't go into labor tonight.
My favorites: 
Their homemade donuts are made from scratch....every day! Made with pure ingredients including 100% canola oil, real butter, farm fresh eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla extract and Hershey's cocoa. And you can pick your own donut toppings!
Hot Belgian waffles.... a la mode. Village Treats serves up Philly's own Basset Ice Cream(they have like a thousand flavors but I tend to stick with Rocky Road most days)

Brownie Ice Cream Sundae.... with hot fudge and whipped cream. Heaven.

If you want to visit their website, click here: http://www.villagetreatsnarberth.com/
They can be found in Narberth down the main strip, right by Mapes and Swan Dance:
take a walk through king of prussia mall236 Haverford Avenue, Narberth, PA 19072

2. Take a walk through King of Prussia Mall

This one's a two-fer. You'll work on walking that baby out AND you could use an excuse to buy just a few more cute onsies. So what are my favorite stops on this walk? 

If you are having a girl, you've got to stop at Layla's Boutique. My gosh are their items precious. I haven't been there in a while so I just called and spoke with the manager. She reminded me that they also carry communion/baby dedication wear. Wanna grab that perfect newborn girls photo prop? This is the place. Take a sneak peak at their layette items before you visit on their website: http://www.laylasboutique.com/ And to find them in the mall, walk the upper level of the court by Neiman Marcus and you'll find it eventually!

A couple other favorites for baby clothes at the mall:

3. Hike Historic Valley Forge National Park

You'll notice this one's almost the same as the one above it.... for good reason. Walking is great for you! But this time the focus is on the less materialistic and more on the beauty surrounding you. I find that Valley Forge Park does a great job at centering me. A walking meditation is not only good for the body, but it's good for the soul. And the more relaxed you can feel before your baby's birth, the better.  So go enjoy some of those beautiful views before your baby's arrival.

To plan your hike, click here: http://www.valleyforge.org/ or just show up, it's pretty self-explanatory.

To learn more about walking meditation, click here:Walking Meditation

4. Visit Marlene Burk Acupuncture of Haverford 

Go get stuck... with a needle that is.  Acupuncture has been proven to help the body prepare for labor and believe it or not, many women find it to be very relaxing. Marlene's bed side manner is super professional, giving you peace of mind that you are in good hands. And she has these really cool pads on her table that allow you to be well supported so you can really rest your big belly, mind and body to get the most out of the appointment.  From Marlene, "Preparing the body for labor is another benefit of acupuncture.  These particular services are scheduled very specifically around the projected time of delivery."
To read more, go to Marlene's website, http://www.marleneburk.com/services

Marlene's office is located inside Main Line Counseling and Wellness Center on Haverford Ave in Haverford. 

600 Haverford Ave.
Suite 201
Haverford, PA 19041


5. Eat at El Limon Mexican Food in Ardmore or Conshohoken

You've heard the old wives tale a million times.... eat spicy food to go into labor! And what better way to grab some spicy food then the most authentic Mexican place in the area. El Limon, located in Conshohocken is now opening a second location in Ardmore. So whichever spot is more convenient to you, grab a friend and go get a great lunch. Just don't get jealous of the FREE margaritas being consumed by everyone else in the place.

My favorite:
Asada Tacos Supreme
Grilled Chicken Burrito topped with mole sauce

You can find them on the main drag of Conshy at 103 Fayette St, Conshohocken, PA 19428(across from Light Parker Kids) or right next to the McDonalds on Ardmore Ave and Lancaster Ave in Ardmore in the former Subway location.

6. Plan a visit to Your Best Friend's House

Next week. Because you know that whenever you plan a nice relaxing event with your best friends, somehow the plans always get messed up. So, that would be a good thing in this case.... Am I being clear enough here that we need the BABY to come mess up your plans???

7. Take a Swim at The Haverford Area YMCA Pool

Give your back a break! Go for float in the Haverford YMCA therapy pool.... therapy pool meaning WARM, comfortable for mom and baby. Not a member? Just grab a friend who is a member and you get in FREE, totally free! Not once, not twice, but three times a year. And if you want to say Hi to your doulas, come on a day we are teaching a class!(such as on May 23rd when we are teaching a Big Sibling Prep Class)
For more info about their programs go to https://philaymca.org/locations/haverford/

And to get there, put 891 N. Eagle Road Havertown, PA 19083  into your GPS! If you're a long time resident of Haverford, you'll know that Y is located in the old bubble gum factory location.

8. Get Local Organics at The Bryn Mawr Farmers Market

Grab some local organic fruits and veggies at the Bryn Mawr Farmers Market. Not only will you find some amazing produce, but many of the vendors also carry great breads(including a gluten free one!), local honey's, milk, eggs, coffee and more. Pick up a pineapple while you are there, word has it they are supposed to help encourage labor to start. Why not grab a bag of coffee for post delivery??

For more info go to their website, http://brynmawrfarmersmarket.blogspot.com/ 

9. Go Out for Date Night at Frankie's Fellini Cafe for Eggplant Parmigiano 

 Date night's are always fun. But this one serves a greater purpose. Eggplant parmigiano.  Don't like it? Order it anyway. One restaurant in Cobb County Georgia, Scalinis Italian Restraunt, claims that over 300 babies have been born shortly after eating their eggplant parmigiano. In fact, their walls are lined with photos of all the little cuties. My own doula texted me on my due date and told me her Scallini eggplant story. She was living in Georgia at the time and went for dinner their on her due date. Just hours later, she went into labor. So, what did I do? I went to Fellini's(then at their Ardmore location) and had an early Due Date dinner. Just 6 hours later, sure enough I went into labor. So, is their anything scientific about this? Not really. But it's certainly a fun place to go when you are over 40 weeks pregnant in Philly. 
Fellini's is right across the street from the Berwyn stop on the R5 train at 678 Lancaster Ave, Berwyn, PA 19312

10. Get a hair cut at Hair's to You in Bala Cynwyd

Who knows the next time you'll be baby free so go get a trim before the big L-Day. You'll feel good about yourself and get it out of the way for at least another 6 weeks(ha, who am I kidding, I get there every 6 months and there's never judgement). The owner, Paige, is a mom of a young one herself, so she understands the struggles of getting out with a baby, and she gives you the royal treatment at every visit.

You can find them directly across the street from  Hymies Deli at 333 Montgomery Ave, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
For more info go to www.hairstoyousalon.com/
Give them a call at 610-949-0111 for an appointment. Sometimes they can even squeeze you in on the same day. 

I hope you have fun in the days/weeks before your baby comes. And don't fret, babies arrive exactly when they are supposed to. I know, I know, easier said then done!

In the comments below, let us know how you passed the time when you were "overdue".