Friday, 12 June 2015

Hope for the Premmy Babe by Lee Koetser

((A day in someone's shoes)
What has society done? Made us insular, made us bitter, made us desensitised and self-absorbed.
Look at the great late Robin Williams. A world-renowned comedian who fought a lifetime of depression. He always smiled and made others laugh but his eyes hid a heart consumed by sadness. 
No matter how “awesome” someone's life appears we do not know what hides behind the mask, like:
* The rich girl whose parents gave her an unlimited allowance which she spent it on her drug overdose when all she wanted was her parents' presence not their presents.
* The girl who the boys called fat and she is now in rehabilitation fighting anorexia.
* The housewife who cares for her three kids alone because her husband is never home as he is having an affair.
* The woman who gave birth to twins and is overwhelmed, but was told to “suck it up” and is sitting with postnatal depression, and
* The sex addict and alcoholic who is shunned by his family and place of worship for his behaviour, caused by the abuse he suffered and the abuse he witnessed as a child.
Life is full of choices, however there are some things that are beyond our control. After my gran/mom died I have always been able to lean on my husband, dad and best friend for comfort and advice when the going gets tough. But what when you don't have that support? 
There will always be people in society who feel they have the “right” to give their advice, but never want to know the reason behind the issue. They may mean well, but  just don't know the correct way to project their feelings onto others.
My husband and I, for example, are guilty of being overprotective parents. This can be extremely damaging for children and a huge disservice, but it is a daily struggle to not let the past mold how we behave as parents today. 
Parenting is the most difficult job in the world and yet you cannot study for it. Every “case study” is different yet the rules remain the same. It is the most sought after job in the world and yet you do not get remuneration for it. It is also the most common job, yet we all fail at it repeatedly.
This is my story:
After being married for four years my husband and I felt it was time to start a family. We both had an in-born need to be parents and recreate a childhood we both longed for.  How difficult can it be? 
The only thing I can undoubtedly tell you is that assumptions are dangerous.
I was 30 weeks pregnant, had severe swelling, pain and was so tired. I felt as though my baby was starting to climb out. I was on my way to join my family for a lovely lunch when I just thought I’d better go to Vincent Pallotti hospital en route. How ironic that after fearing preterm labour my entire pregnancy and doing everything to prevent it, I had in fact started experiencing it.
I was given steroidal injections to strengthen baby's lungs and medication to prolong labour until the baby's lungs were strong enough. Eighteen hours later Joshua Alexander popped out. His intense nature began as early as 30 weeks. 
I was told that Josh would spend 4-6 weeks in the neonatal ICU. Again, never assume.
Josh experienced cases of apnea (stopping to breathe). The sounds of those SATS monitors still haunt me today. His red blood count was extremely low and he had to have two blood transfusions. Finally after 6 weeks our baby boy was discharged.
He was home for a week when he again had an apnea episode. The sight of his grey face turned my stomach inside out and my world upside down. I had learned CPR in hospital, a prerequisite for the parent of a neonate. I had to apply this to my very own flesh and blood by placing my mouth over my little angel's nose and mouth en route to the Blaauwberg Netcare hospital. There his oxygen levels were measured and doctors placed him on me in the ambulance en route to Vincent Pallotti, where the “nightmare” first began.
Josh was readmitted and this time they were going to be super cautious before letting us leave. On September 16 we arrived to see our boy being resuscitated and asked the doctor if he was going to be okay. His words were: “If your baby stops breathing, he will die. We will need to ventilate him.” 
My husband, a Methodist, and me, a Jew, both sought refuge in the Catholic chapel every day on our knees, crying out to God for his help. Josh was given test after test and eventually with the guidance of Dr Brown and the other paediatricians (Dr Wicht, Dr Jedaiken and Dr Sinclair) we were advised to do the reflux (Nissen fundoplication) operation.
He was finally discharged on November 4 – at exactly 40 weeks, on his  initial due date and almost 3 months after he was born.
The operation saved his life and we have never looked back, but we cannot lie and say that it didn't change us as parents or humans. 

As parents:
* We have become paranoid 
* We have also become more protective
* More appreciative, and 
* Definitely guilty of overcompensating.

Next time you judge yourself as a parent or as a human being – STOP! We are human. Human can after all be an acronym for humble, understanding, (yet sometimes) manic, apathetic Neanderthals. 
Everything in our lives happen for a reason and our story has definitely made my husband and I more compassionate towards other human beings.

Moral of the story 
Whatever battle you are fighting:
* Make the choice to break the habit
* Choose happiness over resentment or unhappiness
* Choose survival mentality over victimisation
* Be there for others without controlling their decisions
* Offer your help, but don't enforce it
* Be a suggester, not a dictator 
* Be a listener, not a talker
* Give and expect nothing in return 
* Empathise by showing compassion without doting, and  
* Accept them unconditionally
Next column: Empowering our community through reading

((BLOB)) Lee Koetser is a qualified remedial therapist with more than 10 years’ experience. She specialises in identifying problem areas and then puts programmes together to build learning bridges