Learning that your baby has a birth disorder may turn your world upside down — at least at first. But learning to accept your child's special needs and to focus on his strengths can give your family life a richness you never expected. Here's what you need to know about the 15 most common birth disorders.
Every parent hopes for a smooth pregnancy and delivery — and a healthy newborn at the end of those nine months. Hearing that your baby has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition can shatter those hopes as the joy you felt at birth is replaced by fear, anxiety, anger, disappointment, and sadness.
All these feelings are perfectly normal. After all, the life you’d imagined for your family may now be quite different — and much more challenging. You may even worry that you won’t be able to love your baby as much. But many moms (and dads) have stood in your shoes, and among them is a common refrain: The extra effort that’s involved in caring for a child with a birth disorder comes with extra rewards and a level of love you may never have dreamed possible. Yes, there will be really tough days. But there will also be many sweet moments celebrating a developmental break through no one thought possible or enjoying everyday pleasures that too many parents take for granted.
It’s common for parents to blame themselves for their child’s birth disorder, but for almost all birth disorders there's nothing you or your partner did that likely caused your baby’s condition. It’s also normal to be angry at other people — from the doctor who delivered your baby to the mother of the healthy newborn who lives three doors down. But while negative emotions like guilt and anger are virtually universal when parents learn that their child has a birth disorder, those feelings won’t help you care for your baby. Both of you will be much better off if you focus instead on the many things you can do.
Keep in mind that doctors and researchers are continually working to develop new treatments and improve the lives of children with birth disorders. In many instances, birth disorders can be managed so your child enjoys a healthy life. In other cases, surgery can correct the disability and give your little one a fresh start. And you can helpfuel these scientific advances and better your child’s life (and the lives of others) by becoming an advocate for children with special needs, participating in clinical research, and improving awareness of birth disorders.
It may be hard, but try to see your new baby as a gift beyond compare. Then learn as much as you can about your child's birth disorder — after all, knowledge is power. Here’s what you need to know about the 15 most common birth disorders.