This morning I drove west to my annual OB/GYN appointment and blew my news blackout to listen to Morning Edition on NPR. They did a segment on stress and the effects of stress, how most stress reported has to do with chronic health issues -- people reporting that they themselves are ill or someone in their family is ill or needs help because of disability. I don't feel like looking up the link, but I'm sure you can google it on the interwebs and listen yourself, if you're so inclined. I nodded my head at all of it, of course, but was most struck by a statement about Americans' unique hesitancy to ask for help. Our culture is, of course, one of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency which is courageous and optimistic at best and selfish, unrealistic and downright sociopathic at worst.
As I crept westward on the 10, I mulled over this and was reminded of the video I made with Erika and Phil several years ago about extreme parenting. New readers here might not have seen this video, but in a nutshell, I asked people who care for children with disabilities or those who have lost children to disease to take a photo of themselves with a poster stating what they wish they could say to their younger selves on the day of their child's diagnosis. While I wish there had been more diversity represented in the finished video (I used what I got!), the responses were rich and varied. By far, though, the most common advice parents had for their younger selves was "Ask for help," and "Accept help." I think there's a little of that cultural thing going on here, for sure, and I also think there's some control stuff -- when your world is turned upside down, and you realize that we actually have very little control over our children's lives, you tend to control what you can, and at least for me, I might have thought (unconsciously) that what I could control, I'd do myself. Initially, doing it myself made me feel empowered, in control, in charge and confident. After a while, though, at least for me, I was exhausted, burnt out and incredulous that this caregiving was going to be forever. I won't even talk about what the effects on friendships, on relationships with family and even marriage have been because -- well -- that's no blog post. Despite the insanity, I rarely did ask for help or even accept it when offered. I'm being utterly honest here when I say that this might be one of my only few real regrets of my early years with Sophie (pushing more forcefully for full inclusion in school being the other one).
Just some thoughts as I ambled down the highway toward the paper gown that ties in the front and the speculum.
That being said, I thought I'd post the video here again so that you can watch it and perhaps share it, particularly with those who might be just now entering this strange, lonely, often hellish and overall wondrous world of extreme parenting.