Posted in Editorials

Postpartum- How I Turned The Blues Into Joys

It’s been over a month since I brought my beautiful daughter into the world and words can’t express how amazing this journey has been beginning from the time I found out I was pregnant all the way to present, post pregnancy. Creating life is a true test to one’s spirit, mind and soul and I’ve found inspiration is hidden in all corners of the world and its up to each individual to find it, embrace it and live it. Believe it or not, I’m not experiencing any “postpartum blues,” but yet, I’m overcome with postpartum joy! Well, I can’t say I haven’t gotten bored in the house at times, but that’s where hobbies like writing this article comes in.

During my pregnancy, like so many first time moms, I was constantly adapting to my new skin and evolving changes and sought advice from reliable articles, blogs and books. During my reading sessions, I have to say I was not looking forward to what many were referring to as the “postpartum blues or state of depression.” To be honest, it was a little unnerving to think that’s what I had to look forward to after 9 months of waddling, bruised ribs, food aversions and hourly pee breaks.  Though the valuable insight is a sure way to prepare women for what may happen after birth, I think many of these articles forget to mention how delightful the whole experience really is. I’m so happy that I’m so focused on my postppartum joys that the blues don’t even exist!

Caring, cuddling and cooing have all become a divine pastime for me. Some days I lay beside this little life I created and gaze into her big bright eyes thinking about all the incredible memories we are going to make together and all the places her father and I will take her. What a masterpiece she is delicately formed and carved to be a rare gem that has created a perfect balance in my life.

Vishanna Kira Maharajh was born on February 8th, 2012 at 5:37 PM at Long Island Jewish Hospital. On February 10th, I brought her to her new home where she was about to begin a life filled with endless love and joy. I placed her in her new crib where she would spend her many nights peacefully sleeping, dreaming and smiling. The first few nights I couldn’t sleep because I just wanted to stare at her. I would immediately get up to her every sound and movement, respond to every squeal or cry and cradle her in my arms until she fell into a deep sleep again. I was soaking up every inch of this perfect little girl and learning all I could about her the same way she was learning all about her new environment and family. I knew my job was to make her comfortable and make sure she felt loved and secure. But above all, I knew I wanted to make sure she knew that I was here for her and wouldn’t let anything happen to her. Thats what I decided to focus on, and so far its been smooth sailing.

So many describe the postpartum blues as a few different things beginning with lack of sleep. Yes, there is now way of getting around this. My little one needs to eat every 2-3 hours and it’s my job to make sure she’s fed whether it’s 3am or midnight. It’s also my job to respond to her if she’s crying, fussing or just uneasy, and if that means being ripped from my sleep to do so, then so be it. But there are a few ways to battle cranky sleepless nights. Having a support system is a necessity, whether it be your husband, partner, mother, sister or even friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and have a loved one take over for a bit while you catch a snooze. For me, my husband is my savior and when he takes over, I get to catch up on my dreams! Also, when she is sleeping I do take advantage of this time and try to take a nap along with her. I’ve also found eating healthy snacks in between naps helps to wake me up and keep going along with a an occasion splash of water! But, the best thing about my little one sleeping is watching her., I can’t help but stare at her often and watch her smile or sometimes let out a playful laugh as the angels entertain her.  For me, watching her sleep is a blessing and I can’t get enough of it. One of my favorite things is rocking her to sleep in my arms and listening to her deep breathing, so angelic and perfected. I may be worn out to the max at times, tired, cranky and begging for a cup of coffee, but it all melts away once my little angel is safely and soundly sleeping.

We all are aware that pain after pregnancy is inevitable, but learning how to cope with it can help avoid yet another obstacle that is responsible for postpartum blues.  I have to say I was lucky enough to have a complicated free pregnancy and a delivery that I can now look back at and say, “that wasn’t no bad.” Now, I did have an all natural delivery without any drugs, by choice, and I have to say it was the best decision for me. Is that why my postpartum pains weren’t as bad as I read they may be? Maybe it was a factor. But I think the trick to getting over the pain is to think positive and try out different techniques and remedies that may work for you, such as a full body massage from your partner, long hot showers, yoga, a little time for yourself when you can, and maybe some light reading just to get your mind off of the pain. All of these things, especially the long hot showers worked to relieve my pain and spread a little comfort. But, what really helped me get better quickly was focusing on my baby and being a mom and having a family to provide for. Once I felt comfortable enough in my new role as “mom” and caregiver, I was able to block out everything else and just enjoy the new experience. Besides, things got so busy really quickly, that there was not time left to think about pain.

Choosing to nurse your loved one is a great decision with many benefits for both mom and baby. Many new moms, myself included, will find nursing to be a little frustrating, painful and just hard to figure out. In my experience, I decided to nurse and supplement with formula as I felt my baby wasn’t getting full just from my breast milk. Either way, nursing is a job by itself and the first 2 weeks my nipples were sore all the time, my breasts hurt and Vishanna constantly wanted to nurse. It’s like a 24 hour job without getting paid. But, I was being rewarded. The bond that develops between a mother and child during nursing is irreplaceable and no one could ever rekindle that. Its truly a wonderful feeling to stroke her head and gently run my hands down her back as she gently feeds.  When she stares up into my eyes and I interlock my hands in her little fingers, we become one and this a moment that overcomes the pain and frustration. Nursing is truly a joy and should be thought of as a great reward rather than a burden.

These are the ways I’ve learned to turn the postpartum blues into joys and I’m enjoying every minute I spend with my baby rather than trying to overcome unsettling mood swings, unexplainable depression or irritability. While it’s a proven fact that women do develop postpartum depression and it can be very serious, I believe it’s up to the individual to choose whether they want to focus on the negative or positive of caring for a newborn and all the after effects of giving birth.

Posted in Health

Caribbean Nations Addressing Emerging Population of Special Needs Children

1 out of every 5 children in the U.S.is born with a special healthcare need. In New YorkState alone that equates to over 800,000 children.

Children with special needs, complex medical conditions or developmental disabilities, are challenged with a wide array of conditions stemming from premature birth, chronic illnesses, or severe injuries. These conditions often require a continuum of medical, educational, and rehabilitative long-term care and specialized services.

Children who are born with special needs are not limited to a particular demographic, race or culture- all unborn children are at risk for complications. Research in the Caribbean dating back to the 80’s and 90’s suggest that children in the Caribbean are at risk for or already have a special need.

In a 2007 interview with Angelita Arnold, Director of the Mico College Child Assessment and Research in Education Center in Jamaica, she was quoted as saying in JIS News “the number is significant. There is not a classroom you can go to inJamaicawhere there is not one child without some kind of special need.”

At the Caribbean Symposium on Inclusive Education in St. Lucia, it was found that there were 253 children with special needs who are presently attending Special education schools inSt. Lucia. Although this represents only 0.64% of the total school population, the number continues to grow and these children still deserve to be appropriately educated and cared for.

In 1996 a survey conduced inTrinidad and Tobagoreported there were over 50,000 children in the twin island republic with special needs or some type of developmental disability. In 2006 a survey conducted by Families in Action (FIA) at a Port-of-Spain primary school led by a project team of Medical Psychological, Social Work and educational partners showed that 70% of the children 7-13 years of age were characterized as academically impaired.  Of these children, 15% had medical problems that could affect learning.  Most recently, a 2009 article in Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday reported that 32% of students are intellectually challenged due to a number of learning disabilities that educators did not recognize as a special need, rather identified the child’s learning disability with their incapability to grasp concepts.

Learning disabilities (LD) refers to a group of disorders that affect a broad range of academic and functional skills including the ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason, organize information, and do math. The disorders are neurological in origin and reflect information processing problems in the brain. LD’s may co-exist with various conditions including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral disorders, sensory impairments, or other medical or neurological conditions like autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourette Syndrome.

LD often leads to long-lasting psychological harm unless they are caught early. Babies born prematurely, meaning slightly early or two weeks late have a raised risk of learning difficulties.

I in every 8 babies are born prematurely every year. Premature birth is a major cause of serious health problems with pre-term infants at greater risk of medical complications and long-term disabilities, such as chronic lung and heart disease, developmental delays, and feeding issues, which may require specialized care and support for months, and often years, after they are born

The most recent wave of a developmental disability to hit the seas is Autism; a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. In Trinidad and Tobago, as of October 2007, there were over 300 families registered with the Autistic Society of Trinidad andTobago, but local awareness remains relatively low and funds are needed to advance the cause of the Society.

Many Caribbean countries are beginning to recognize the need for educational and social programs that address the growing needs of the special needs population who are faced with complex medical and or life-limiting conditions.

Guyana has recently been taken up appropriate tactics to combat the severely growing number of Guyanese children with autism. Ministry of Health’s Rehabilitation Services program and the Ministry of Education’s Special Needs Unit at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) recently held a special workshop which addressed the lack of capacity and basic knowledge of strategies inGuyana’s special needs schools to address autism.

At the end of June, therapists from the Strategic Learning and Special Education Institute, a private institution in Trinidad which works with special needs children, will host a professional workshop in Maryland for parents, therapists and teachers, hold individual consultations with parents and their special needs children, conduct teacher training and child assessments.  This is a wonderful opportunity to raise national awareness of how children with special needs can learn to become independent and live fulfilling lives – with the right teaching methods and resources.

Just last year the education ministry in Jamaica became aware that hundreds of students with special needs are waiting to gain access to schools. This has been a problem for years and the ministry is now trying to address it. After being diagnosed, most of the children with special education needs are forced to return to the mainstream classroom where their educational, medical, and social needs are not being met.

Grenada announced the implementation of a training program for educators involved in teaching children with special needs. The six week training for 20 teachers, including three from Carriacou, is expected to enhance the trainees’ knowledge, skills and understanding of inclusive and special education best practices.

The Ministry of Education in St. Lucia has increasingly attempted to broaden the scope of delivery of Special Education services by establishing the Student Support Services Unit, which includes the Special Education Unit, catering for children in Special Schools, as well as supporting children with learning disabilities at Infant and Primary schools.

Although these countries may not be far in combating the issue, they have each taken measures to promote and encourage education and awareness which is the first and most crucial step.