Many topics have been swirling in my head this past week that I want to share but after seeing a very moving video, one took precedence. A mother in Australia gave birth to twins and was told that one, the baby boy, had died upon coming into the world. She told the doctors that she wanted to say good-bye and also wanted to try and “entice” him to possibly stay with her in the world by talking to him and telling him how much he was loved. She and her husband lay there, bare chested to give off their heat and scent, with the baby for two hours. Within 5 minutes, the baby started making movements but the doctors continued to tell the couple that the baby was dead and these were just “reflexes”. The mom continued to talk to the baby, hold him, and soon the baby opened his eyes. The doctor STILL didn’t believe that the baby was alive until he finally came back into the room and saw the proof in front of him. The couple has their baby back and it is being hailed as a medical miracle. http://tiny.cc/anu5fx.
My thoughts? It is a miracle, no doubt. But this miracle would never have happened if the mom in this case did not follow her instincts to interact with her baby in the way that felt right to her. Despite the doctors, despite the medical precedent, despite the pressure to move on. This mother knew what was best for her baby. I am so touched by this story because in my line of work I see this every day. Moms (and sometimes Dads) will call me crying on the phone saying they don’t know what to do to help their child. All they know is their child is sick and possibly dying from this illness called anorexia. The children have been often hospitalized multiple times and remain sick. The mother sees the child suffering, drowning in something much bigger than they are. They are losing the child they once knew. They are terrified and have been told at best that there is “nothing they can do to help” or at worst that “they are the cause of the child’s illness”. They are overwhelmed with guilt, confusion, helplessness and terror.
Traditionally, our field has done these mothers wrong. We have marginalized them, made them the “bad guys”, and kept them in the dark about their child’s anorexia. If their child was diagnosed with diabetes, the team would not think twice about empowering the parent with knowledge and strength to be a key team member to help with their child’s illness. We would give them the insulin syringes and teach them how to inject the medicine into their children. We would empower them by teaching them about how the illness has overtaken the child and what they can do to help manage its effects. We would never think to keep them out in the waiting room, in the dark, unaware of the treatment plan. But this happens every day with parents of children and adolescents with anorexia. Family based treatment turns this practice on its head. Not only are parents acknowledged, they are empowered. Not only are they not blamed for causing their child’s illness, they are taught that they are often the key to turning this illness around.
It is a beautiful thing to see these mothers and fathers with their children at the conclusion of treatment. Not only are the children now better and the parent says to me “my kid is back,” but the parent feels wonderfully empowered and victorious over this illness that wanted to claim their child as its own. Just like the mom holding her new born son who is now opening his eyes in response to her warmth and voice, these parents experience incredible joy in knowing that they were the key in bringing their once sick child back to life. It has been my honor to help these parents experience such triumph.