Birth injuries are tragic and unexpected by definition. They turn a joyful time of giving thanks for new life into a bittersweet frenzy of doctors, diagnoses, and predictions of what’s in store in the future. Some birth injuries may lead to some damaged bones or joints but won’t cause any serious long-term issues. Some accidents or negligent actions during the delivery, however, will change your child’s life forever.
You may already expect a new child to change your family forever, but you may get far more than you were prepared for if your newborn comes home with a serious injury or long-term handicap. Your child needs your care and support, and it will be a strain on your family as you do your best to meet those needs. If you and your family are going to get through this together, you need to stay strong, stay determined, and continue to love and lean on one another.
“One slip or bad decision in the delivery room can result in a permanent physical or mental disability,” says Robert Goldwater, founding attorney of the Birth Injury Lawyers Group. “Your child may require special equipment, extensive training, and continuing medical treatment to stay healthy and develop in a regular way.”
A child with a birth injury may struggle with physical, mental or social challenges that other kids often won’t. The special resources and professional intervention that will make a difference for your child may be expensive and incredibly time-consuming. Your family will need to be aware of these needs and give your child the support they need, encouraging them to persevere and being patient with them as they develop at their own pace.
Your child will have to learn to accept what makes them different but not let it hold them back. Some things they won’t be able to do because of their limitations, but there are many other things they will be capable of if they set their mind to it and work hard. You and the rest of your family will also have to get used to the consequences of the birth injury over time and learn what your child is capable of and what they need from you.
No child of yours is facing a birth injury alone. You will always be there with them when they need you, and you’re not alone either. The long-lasting effects of a birth injury can be painful and stressful for the whole family, so your whole family needs to be united. You will need to be able to fully rely on each other as you go through these challenges together.
Share the burden with your partner or spouse and talk openly about your fears and frustrations. Don’t hesitate to expand your network and ask for help at times from friends, neighbors and extended family members. Openness and trust are key for keeping those relationships healthy and sustainable.
Don’t forget that a birth injury affects every single member of a family. If you have multiple children, each one of them needs and deserves your love and support. A healthy older and younger sibling may or may not be able to understand that you spend more time with the other sibling because of their condition. Even if they see that their brother or sister needs the attention more, they still need your attention as well.
Make time for both you and your partner or spouse to have one-on-one time with each child. Plan quality time once in a while so that you can focus your attention on the single child and their needs while someone else is taking care of your injured child. Give all of your children space when alone with you to talk about your injured child’s condition and needs. Help them understand the situation and let them share with you their own fears and challenges.
With one child suffering from a birth injury, you may find yourself overwhelmed by stress and different obligations. With more children, it can be even worse. No matter how many things you have to deal with, however, you can’t neglect your own health and well-being. Your children need the best of you, and you have to take care of yourself to be able to give them that.
Ask for help and do whatever is necessary to give yourself the time every once in a while to step back and breathe. Find a friend or relative to babysit while you go out for a walk or a coffee at the library. Seek out opportunities to put a little time into your relationship with your partner or spouse. Let yourself relax with your spouse or a friend for just a few hours without worrying about everything else. Breathe and remind yourself that everything’s going to be all right.