I’m happy to introduce my husband, Mac, as my guest blogger today. I asked him to write about what things were like for him when our boys were infants and share his advice. Here’s what he had to say:
My wife aka Thyroid Mom asked me to write about what I have learned as the Dad of 2 children with Congenital Hypothyroidism. I hope it can help other Dads out there, or at least let them know they are not alone.
First, let me start off by bragging because that’s what we Dads have to do. That picture you see is of me holding my oldest son when he was an infant in the “football hold” as we call it in the US. It was his favorite way to be held, and I could always rock him to sleep this way. Isn’t he a handsome baby? Okay, bragging done, now back to the task at hand:
1. This is real
If your child has to be born with a congenital disorder you could do a lot worse than Congenital Hypothyroidism (if you don’t believe me, wait until your first visit to a children’s hospital for an appointment), but this is still a very real and serious issue that your child will most likely deal with for the rest of his life. Pills will need to be crushed and administered, blood will be taken, you will begin to build a list of specialists pretty quickly, and you will wonder and worry about every little thing and if it is because of their thyroid. But do not despair, if you take this seriously and ensure that your child gets the care and treatment necessary, they won’t be much different than any other child (except for the fact they will be able to swallow pills a whole lot easier than most kids, and some adults).
2. Be emotionally supportive
Every parent wants their child to be born happy and healthy, but there’s a lot more to it than 10 fingers and 10 toes. When our oldest was born we didn’t even realize he had been tested for hypothyroidism, so when the call came in that there was concern and we needed to bring him in for more tests we were pretty concerned (read more on our experience at:http://www.thyroidmom.com/blog/the-phone-call.html).
My wife was emotional – she had just given birth and then found out there was something wrong with our infant. She was trying to heal from her c-section and multiple issues around that, plus learning how to nurse our son. She often questioned what she had done wrong during her pregnancy. That combined with the seemingly endless blood draws put her in a fragile state. I, on the other hand, immediately went into “fix it” mode. I felt like it was a problem I needed to fix. I didn’t want her to be upset, and I didn’t want there to be anything wrong. I know it may have not been the best approach at times, especially since it often clashed with my wife’s thoughts and feelings.
In the end, though, I realized that she needed to be strong for our child, so that meant that on top of my new role as a father, I really had to step up the support as her partner. That meant at times not always trying to fix, but sometimes just listening to her, comforting her, and reassuring her (oh, and I changed a lot of diapers too!). Learning to be more supportive (in the right way) made us work better as a team – something necessary to raising children, especially those with health issues.
3. Be there for the blood draws
Blood draws can be quite the event, and one of the more stressful parts of learning to live with Congenital Hypothyroidism (or any type of thyroid disorder). I have spent most of my career on the road, which led to my wife having to do many of them on her own, and sometimes with 2 kids. My wife being left to handle it all by herself made it much more difficult for everyone and highlighted the importance of added support during blood draws. We learned from that with my first son and by the time we had our second son, we both were well aware that she needed another person there to help. Life and work will inevitably get in the way, so do your best, and if you can’t be there try to find someone else to help.
One of the biggest keys to your child having a positive experience is the parents’ state of mind during the process. Do whatever you can to ease Mom’s mind and help her relax, as she is probably going to be the one doing most of the soothing before, during, and after the stick when your children are infants. The phlebotomist may very likely need extra help holding the child during the draw, and you need to be ready to step in and help. For the older kids, don’t forget to always be ready with a special treat once you are done too – a little bribery goes a long way. For more tips on blood draws see: http://www.thyroidmom.com/blog/surviving-blood-draws.html
4. Go to the Pediatric Endocrinology appointments
Just like the blood draws, it is really hard to make it to all of the appointments with pediatric endocrinologists and pediatricians when you have work and have other children to handle. I just say do your best to be there or help find someone else in your circle of family and friends to be there. There is a lot of information gathered and shared at these appointments that you need to understand, and it can be tough for Mom to recall it all after the fact, especially if she is dealing with a screaming child while she is attempting to have a conversation with the doctor. Take a pen and paper for notes while talking to the doctor as well as jotting down your child’s current measurements, just in case there are growth concerns to track. Take turns walking out of the room with the baby/child while the other parent talks with the doctor. For more tips on endocrinology appointments check out: http://www.thyroidmom.com/blog/the-first-appointment.html
5. Take on daily tasks
Try to take on whatever responsibility you can around the daily routine, especially in terms of medication. In those groggy newborn months, it takes everyone to remember to administer the pill, and to make sure it gets down. We couldn’t get our first child to take his medicine until we pieced together a contraption out of a bottle nipple, a short piece of IV tubing, a syringe, and a whole lot of trial and error. He always got it down somehow, but just like with everything else, it was a team effort. I have heard of many kids that have no problem getting it down, BUT if they do, this is where you can put your need to “fix” things into action. Your child will never understand how hard you worked at making sure he gets his medicine, but whatever you can do will make sure he grows up happy and healthy.
Overall, being a great Dad means being a great husband first. Be supportive and harness your need to “fix” any perceived “problems” into researching information, helping with daily routines, etc. Finally, as my wife always says, never be afraid to reach out for help, support or advice. We are not alone in this journey!
-Mac Winslow, aka Thyroid Mom’s Husband
So, that’s it – Congenital Hypothyroidism from my husband’s point of view. I have to say my favorite part was his realization that being supportive doesn’t always involve fixing things. He is right, though, about the team approach. Once we learned to work more as a team, focusing on and capitalizing on each others’ strengths (and for me that meant knowing when to ask for his help and then allowing him to step in), we became better parents!
By Blythe Clifford