Thursday 23 September 2010

Goin on up to the Spirit in the Sky

When I first found out I was going to be the mother to a premature baby, the first thing I did was go to the chapel at the hospital. Our chapel is very simple, but a quiet refuge in a busy hospital. It is also extremely thoughtfully placed right near special care!

I became well known, padding down at all hours, to write in the prayer book, or leave a little note for the chaplains. Funnily enough I didn't call for a chaplain to come to see me the night I was so frightened awaiting my c-section, because, this wasn't an emergency! Not in my head, I was just having a small early baby and to would be fine! Fine!

Anyway, having lurked around the chaplaincy service for 3 months, I have now been asked to do a talk at their conference. "Spirituality and the Patient Experience" is the topic, and its such a hard thing to speak about. The age old questions of "what is spirit" and what differentiates spirituality from religiousness float around in my head.

To me, the song that means the most to me in terms of my spiritual journey is "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2, which U2 have always maintained is a gospel song. 

But I guess what we are really getting at is what do people in crisis need in terms of spiritual support. To me spirituality is wholeness, its supporting that part of the person that doctors, midwives and nurses can't reach. To me spirituality and hopefullness were tied in together. It's also the power to deal with the great unknown. To leap with faith, knowing that there is a cushion to fall on.

And that's what I found within the walls of our tiny hospital chapel, and most importantly, the people within it.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Ill-prepared - Life with a Toddler

Etymology: ME, toteren, to walk unsteadily
a child between 12 and 36 months of age. During this period of development the child acquires a sense of autonomy and independence through the mastery of various specialized tasks such as control of body functions, refinement of motor and language skills, and acquisition of socially acceptable behavior, especially toleration of delayed gratification and acceptance of separation from the mother or parents. The period is characterized by exploration of the environment and rapid cognitive development as the child strives for self-assertion and personal interaction with others while struggling with parental discipline and sibling rivalry. Of primary importance for the nurse is an understanding of the dynamics of the growth and development of the toddler to help parents deal effectively with appropriate nutrition, toilet training, temper tantrums, prevention of accidental injury (primarily from falls, poisoning, and burns), and childhood fears, especially anxiety as a result of separation from the parents.
I am a reader, a researcher, I like to know my subject. When I was pregnant I devoured pregnancy books, magazines and articles. I started to read baby books. I was so excited about being mother to a baby. Now I am not sure whether this is a premmie mum thing, or just a general thing, or specific to me, but I am so not prepared for life with a small.......person.

Like most parents of premature babies, we found Joseph's beginning scary. We were given the worst case scenario, home on oxygen, PEG fed through a tube in the stomach - probably for life, and our first years in and out of hospital with chest infections. I spent the whole of last year with my heart in my mouth waiting for the hammer to fall. I felt so confused when this baby, who I expected to be weak and poorly, was just small. We've only darkened the door of the hospital for routine visits and a minor operation on a hernia.

Now my major concerns are things like coping with teething, dealing with separation anxiety, helping Joseph to explore his environment without a) serious injury b) giving me a heart attack.

Joseph is headstrong, charming, funny, frustrating, infuriating, gorgeous, lovable and kind. He is a person, with a strong personality. I don't know what I expected.....I was not prepared. I feel like I wasted all those delightful baby days being in a state of high anxiety, and now, I have a toddler!