Most parents want their children to be happy, healthy, and safe. So, how are parents supposed to cope when their baby is born with a birth defect? The emotions a parent can feel in this situation range from guilt to anger, and the anxiety caused by all the unknown elements of a birth defect can take its toll.

The challenges these parents face are immense, but not insurmountable. There are different ways that parents of children with birth defects can cope. The following are just a few of those coping strategies.

Connect with Other Parents

With 1 in 33 babies being born with birth defects, there is a surprising number of families learning to cope. Understanding that, while each situation is unique, there are shared experiences can make coping with these difficult emotions a little bit more bearable.

Even if the birth defect your child has is rare, there is a good chance that you will find support, whether it is from a group that meets in person or online. Many social media sites have groups dedicated to supporting parents who have children with specific birth defects. Sharing your experience can help both you and these other parents as you all gain insight into the condition and its devastating effects.

Engage in Selected Social Events

Many parents of babies with birth defects end up spending most of their time trying to care for them. They forego social lives and give up many of the things they used to enjoy. While it is admirable that these parents dedicate themselves so fully to their children, getting that essential ‘me’ time can help parents cope with their emotions.

Ask for help from a trusted babysitter and take some time to socialize outside of the home. Reconnect with a supportive friend or try getting to know new people. Getting out for a little while and letting someone else take over does not make you a bad parent, and there’s no shame in asking for help.

Rely on a Healthcare Team

Your child’s healthcare team isn’t just there for them; they’re also there for you. Some parents find solace in acquiring deeper knowledge about their child’s birth defect from the medical world. Understanding the condition, after all, is half the battle.

Overwhelmed parents can reach out to their child’s doctors for support, whether it’s the pediatrician or the pediatric plastic surgeon. Also, since these emotions can have a significant impact on your health, you might wish to reach out to your own care team. Finding a mental health counselor to add to your team can benefit the entire family.

Make Preparations

Having a baby with a birth defect means that many aspects of your life will change. Being prepared is important, so once you’ve armed yourself with some knowledge about your child’s condition, you can prepare to meet their physical, emotional, and financial needs.

Speak with your child’s care team about what you can expect in terms of medical expenses and the physical alterations you’ll need to make to your home. Also, come up with solutions for including your other children if you have any since they will be dealing with difficult emotions of their own.

Bear in mind that what works for some won’t work for all. Each parent faces unique challenges and emotions, so finding the right strategy (or combination of strategies) will be different for everyone.

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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