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How becoming a mother has helped me become a better Child Life Specialist

March 21, 2016

No one can fully prepare you for how much becoming a mother changes you. The worries, fears, and joy all seem to multiply when a bouncing baby enters your life. As a Child Life Specialist, I thought I was prepared to combine motherhood and professional practice. As it turns out, I learned a lot, and I still have plenty more to go!  Motherhood has changed the way I view parents and families who have to experience the hospitalization of their babies- and I include kids of ALL ages! I know that no matter how old they are, they are always our babies- whether they like it or not!

I can empathize with parents in a way I didn’t fully understand before.

I get it! And I mean ALL of it- the panic, fears, and worry, the constant questioning as to whether or not you should call your pediatrician for the third time that day and ultimately decide not to because you think they’re probably tired of hearing from you. And if you do have to bring your little love to the hospital, then no matter how much medical knowledge you have, it seems to all go out the window. Bringing your child here is like handing your heart over to a medical professional and trusting someone you just met with your most precious cargo. As a Child Life Specialist, that takes on a whole new meaning to me. Parents often trust me with delicate conversations simply because they are unsure of what to say or what to do. What an awesome responsibility that leaves me with! But, I also understand how terrified they are now. I wonder how I would feel if I had to ask a virtual stranger to tell my daughter she had cancer. What would I want that person to do or how would I want them to treat her?  It has to be the most helpless feeling in the world, and my newfound understanding of parenthood helps me be more sensitive to the family’s needs and increases the desire I have to help them even more.

I have a new appreciation for my fellow caregivers and parents.

As a medical professional, the hats switch when I put on my badge and walk through these doors; I am on the other side of the bed. But as I watch my colleagues work every day, I recognize that these people I rub shoulders with are the same people who may take care of my own daughter someday. My respect for my colleagues and the knowledge and expertise they bring with them has deepened. I understand why parents look at them wide-eyed and full of hope, even in the most dire situations. We are perceived as the experts. However, I often say to parents when I ask them about their child: “YOU are the expert.” My experience in parenting has confirmed this belief. I can safely say that no one knows my daughter better than me. I work with amazing colleagues who have medical knowledge that far surpasses my own, and I am grateful that they allow me to stand alongside them in hope, love, care, and advocacy for their patients. It is just as important, though, to recognize that you as a parent are the expert on every aspect of your whole child, and your participation with us as a team is what makes us who we are.

I’ve realized that we are all in this together.

We are family! It’s okay to sing it (because I did when I typed it), and I believe it’s true. When our patients walk through the doors, we care for the family as a whole. When a child is in the hospital, it affects every single person in the family. Lives, schedules, and routines are completely disrupted, and the effects are like ripples in a pond- they can stretch out a great distance. It meant the world to me when I had my daughter to know that my entire family was being checked on. Staff members stopped by to see my daughter and me, but they also addressed my family members, extended their congratulations, and asked if they needed anything. That meant a lot. I appreciated it because my family is my support system , and I can’t imagine going through that experience without them. My experience giving birth helped me re-engage with the importance of caring for the whole family once I returned to work.  I remember now that while the child I’m speaking to may be my focus, there are a lot of people nearby who are invested in this child, and they want their opinions, ideas and thoughts heard, too. Family-centered care is very important to us as a healthcare system, and I can say first-hand that I experienced this and am more than happy to pay it forward because I recognize its importance.

I am so grateful that I’ve been blessed with the wonderful gift of motherhood. I have been a Child Life Specialist for a lot longer than I’ve been a mother, and I have met many beautiful and wonderful children that I love dearly. But I have only given birth to one, and she has affected my life profoundly for the better. I can’t imagine any aspect of my life without her influence, and I’m thankful that her life has also made me capable of caring for my patients even better than I did before.