Traumatic birth delivers unexpected news to parents, grandparents: what now?

If this baby survives, he is going to teach your son and his partner, and perhaps you too, a lesson in love such as you have never learned before. | Getty Images

Q: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

These are, for our family, clearly the worst of times and what makes the whole thing even more difficult is that they were supposed to be the best of times.

Our son and his wife gave birth to a new grandchild for us just weeks ago. That should have been the best of times. But something went wrong during the delivery and instead of coming up with a healthy baby, our newest grandchild is physically disabled. That is making this the worst of times.

I am not blaming the baby, nor am I being critical of the medical system. I am simply looking at my son and his partner through their stresses and I am wondering how much disappointment they can carry. At this point in time, the child is still in the hospital. We do not even know if he will survive. What we do know is that if he does survive he will likely be diagnosed with cerebral palsy and that he and the family can expect to spend a considerable amount of time in various rehab programs to help him grow as naturally as he can. This will be taxing on all of our parts. We want to do what is best for our son and his family but we are not sure how much we should be over there and how much we should just leave them alone to figure this thing out for themselves. What do you recommend?

A: These are clearly difficult times for all of you and I hope that you know that all of us in the helping professions will do what we can to support you, your son and his family as you make your way through these moments of trauma.

To best help your son and his family, you and your husband might start by searching your souls and doing what you can to come to terms with the disappointing news coming out of the nursery.

Disabled persons are first of all persons. Only later are they disabled. Like everyone else they have dreams and hopes and aspirations and the prayer for a good life. They are no different.

Like everyone else they get hurt, they cry, they worry, they suffer through disappointments. They are no different.

Like everyone else they dream of friends and families and lovers and they want to be a part of that human condition. They are no different.

The more that you can understand and appreciate that while being disabled might make life’s journeys a little more difficult, it does not make disabled people different.

When you understand that, you will be able to help your son and his partner, and also their little boy when you have those precious moments to share with all of them.

I am not sure how you can best help your son and his family make the adjustments they will have to make.

The person who can best help you with that is your son. Listen to him and his partner as best you can and most likely you will hear what you need to know to best support everyone in their house.

If this baby survives, he is going to teach your son and his partner, and perhaps you too, a lesson in love such as you have never learned before.

It is the love of giving and caring for another person with few expectations of something coming back from him in return.

It is a sense of wonder. Come to think of it, isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact:

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