GERD Parenting Sins #3: Being Overprotective
I am sure that I have committed all of the GERD parenting sins and being overprotective is one that I really excel at. If you have been reading my blog in the past few weeks, you are familiar with the other parenting sins: spoiling the baby and creating a picky eater as I discuss dealing with advice and comments from others.
Part of the problem is our babies with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) look healthy on the outside so friends, family and even doctors may decide that our babies are fine. We might make a comment such as, “Oh you should have been here last night, he was up every hour!” or “She cried as soon as I brought out the bottle and it took an hour to get an ounce in.” Right on cue, she calmly coos and smiles for the duration of the visit with the doctor or when your friend comes to see you. It may appear as if something got lost in translation and we are in need of some parenting 101 advice so we won’t commit a parenting sin like spoiling the baby and really mess things up for ourselves and our babies.
When my baby started having one medical problem after another, I didn’t know that she would eventually be diagnosed with severe GERD and asthma. Eventually the constant illnesses and worrisome symptoms started to fit the pattern of a chronic condition. It really changed the way that I approached parenting. I became and expert on her medical problems and asked the doctor a million questions, brought research articles that I had found and tried to make sense of the fine print on the medication bottles. I am one hundred percent sure that my participation in her medical care led to a better outcome. Some may have seen my approach as “overprotective” but research has shown that when a patient or family member participates in medical care, there is a better outcome.
I did feel like the mother duck protecting her flock by swooping down and covering my ducklings with my wing. I could read every signal and sign from the way she breathed while she was sleeping to the sound of her cry. Even on two hours of sleep, I could make split second decisions and keep my wits about me. Part of my brain was always on alert so she barely cried or moved in her crib before I knew she was about to wake up or begin to cough and choke. This may seem overprotective to some but it is really what all mothers do. Some call it the “mother’s instinct”, we know that something is wrong before anyone else. Certainly when you have a baby with reflux, the instincts may be more highly developed but it doesn’t mean we are overprotective. It just means we are doing our job as a mother.
Having a baby with reflux may cause a mother to quit her job, delay her return to work, cause a decrease in personal care and even cause an increase in stress and anxiety. All of these changes may be perceived as getting overly involved in the baby and losing balance. Caring for my baby with reflux was a difficult season of parenting and I did lose my way at times. It was overwhelming and there were times that I was filled with worry and stress. There is no more important job in the world than caring for a sick baby and helping her to grow and thrive under your watchful and protective eye. My strong maternal instincts also guided me when it was time for my refluxer to gain some independence and learn to eat new foods and sleep through the night. And when the time was right, she was able to learn and grow as I watched from a distance.