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Depressed About Child’s Health

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m a 30 year old mother of two. My depression started after I had my first child. I didnt feel any connection with my daughter, and I still don’t to this day. But the real problem began when I was informed during my second pregnancy, that my child could be born with Down Syndrome, and that he’s got a very severe heart deformity. I was five months pregnant at the time, and I chose to not abort the fetus after the amniocentesis test came back for Down Syndrome. The doctors told me the baby might need an operation after birth to fix what they expected to be a big hole in the wall between his ventricles. In my final trimester I was admitted to the hospital many times because of kidney problems, and when my C-Section was due, the baby was taken immediately to be examined, and what we thought was just a hole in his heart turned out to be something much more severe. He had what they called DILV. Double Inlet Left Ventricle. And they said he needed to have surgery immediately, and so they sent him to another city in a medical airplane when he was only 4 days old to have his first of many surgeries.

My son is 14 months old now, after 2 minor and 2 major heart surgeries, he’s still not even remotely over the bridge, for He will be needing more operations in the near future.

My post partum depression just didn’t seem to go away after his birth, because of his condition. If anything i think its getting worse. I feel exhausted. I feel neglectful of my daughter. I feel scared of what’s to come. I feel it’s my fault he’s suffering now, and that he will never have a normal life. And sometimes when I’m at the end of my tether from exhaustion I think, I wish I never had him. I know I love both of my kids, but the depression is so overwhelming sometimes i wish i had a different life. I don’t have time to scratch my head, let alone consider visiting a psychiatrist. If there is any advise u can give me I’ll appreciate it.

If you’ve ever taken a flight, you know that the flight attendants always give a speech before take-off, telling us what to do in the event of an emergency. They tell us that if the oxygen masks come down, parents should put their own mask on first, then take care of the children. They explain that to be helpful to a child, we first have to take care of ourselves or we won’t be any use at all.

You may not think you have time to see a psychiatrist or counselor but that’s exactly what you need to do. You are overwhelmed because the situation is overwhelming. Your son isn’t the only one with a “heart” problem. Your emotional heart is being greatly stressed. Having two young children is stressful for any mom. When one of those children is ill, it’s over the top. Just like parents who need to give themselves oxygen in a flight emergency before they can take care of the kids, you need to give yourself some time each week to get what you need so you can carry on.

One of the many things that concerns me about your letter is that you don’t mention the children’s father or other supportive people in your life. Ideally, more than one adult is involved in a family like yours. You need time to rest. You need someone else to celebrate successes and to be there when there are setbacks. It always helps to have another adult to talk to when big decisions are to be made or to hold hands with during visits to doctors and trips to hospitals. Another adult can also give your older child the support she needs when you are occupied with the baby.

I hope you have some family and friends who can help you. I hope you are not shy about asking for their help. It is only what you would offer if you had a friend in your kind of situation.

Please also ask your doctor if he or she knows of a parent support group for parents of kids with special needs. There is great comfort in talking to other parents who are facing similar challenges. Often other parents know of resources and tips that can help you help your children.

Please do what you need to do to take care of yourself. You deserve more support. Your children deserve a mom who can connect with them and take care of them.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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