Aaron was born on Tuesday, April 17, 1984, just before 7:00 am after a 9-hour labor.
As can often be the case, a mother’s delivery of her first child can be a more difficult one. Because Aaron was the first baby, of my four children it was the most difficult delivery for me. It probably took far too long, and they should have considered using forceps, but for some reason unknown to us the doctor did not do that causing Aaron to be in the birth canal for an extended period. When Aaron finally made his appearance, he was blue and quiet. He didn’t start crying for several minutes. His Apgar score was only three. Although not extreme, Aaron was below normal weight – only 6 lbs. 7 oz. He was born 10 days before his due date, but the doctor said he had symptoms of an overdue baby like startling easy and peeling, dry skin.
No one raised any alarms about Aaron’s low Apgar score or the symptoms of being overdue, and while he was less than 6 pounds when he left the hospital, he gained weight quickly and appeared to be completely healthy. In fact, he was better than healthy from what I could see. He was NEVER sick, and he was SO gifted. So, I never gave the events of his birth a second thought, until many years later when he was 15 and he got sick. Though, he wasn’t physically sick.
When the psychiatrist is asking question after question about your child’s health history and social history (i.e. drug use, alcohol use, etc.), all sorts of memories get dislodged, and for me, that was the memory of Aaron’s birth. I started to wonder if the oxygen deprivation at his birth caused a fault in his tiny brain that was festering over the years and was now presenting itself as a mental illness. Why didn’t I see this sooner? Why didn’t our pediatrician see this coming on?
In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t buried the memories of Aaron’s birth so far back into the recesses of my mind. I wish I had discussed it with his pediatrician at his first doctor’s visit, and I wish I would have been more keenly focused on his mental health throughout his entire childhood. Maybe, I could have done something to thwart the mental illness that was now presenting itself.
I don’t know with any certainty that I could have taken action to prevent Aaron from developing a mental illness, but I also don’t know that I couldn’t have. Mental illness is such a difficult thing to treat, and anything parents, caregivers, and pediatricians can do proactively to ensure the health of a child’s mind should be done!
Almost twenty-one years after I gave birth to Aaron, I gave birth to my second son, Kyle. From the time Kyle was born, I have been very attentive to his mental health. I made sure he developed a habit of always wearing a bicycle helmet. I ensure he eats healthy meals and gets plenty of sleep, and I frequently ask him how he’s doing. I will not hesitate to take him to a psychologist or counselor if he says he’s feeling mildly depressed or excessively stressed.
Whatever actions we might take to ensure our children’s minds remain healthy, they need to be deliberate, thoughtful, and specific to each child. We should not be passive about the mental health of our children. We should be managing the complete health of our children, both physical and mental.