New Moms

Parenting Lessons From ABC's "Private Practice"

| by Dr Gwenn

If you haven't seen ABC's Private Practice, I encourage you to do so. In addition to being entertaining, the show covers sensitive medical topics very well.

This week's episode addressed the birth of a baby with a condition called diaphragmatic hernia which requires surgery at birth. It's a congenital defect that produces a hole in the diaphragm that results in some of the abdominal organs migrating into the chest cavity. Needless to day, baby's can't not breath well when organs are taking up space in the area that should be occupied by the lungs. Baby's born with this condition are often very sick at birth and need surgery to move the intestinal organs back into the abdominal area, close the hole in the diaphragm, and allow the lungs to move properly again.

What made the scenario so moving is that this baby boy was to be adopted at birth by an infertile couple. When born, the young mom was too overwhelmed to make an initial decision about surgery for the baby, having mentally been prepared to give up her child to the adoptive parents she had picked out, and the adoptive parents freaked out - expecting a "healthy" baby. They bolted from the hospital and initially opted out of the adoption.

This story had a happy ending, the adoptive parents came around and embraced the baby complete with his problems and the birth mother was able to make the decision for surgery even though she was initially unprepared to be this baby's "mother" at the time of birth. But, the story raises the true issue of what it means to be a parent - that it isn't about having a perfect, "normal", "healthy" baby. Being a parent is about choosing to be a parent and being willing to love that child regardless of what is thrown at you from the moment that child is born.

During pregnancy, the long road of adoption, or the long process of infertility, we often don't consider the "what ifs" of our children's lives but it would not be realistic to think we won't hit some roadblocks or bumps along the way. All we can do is face what comes our way with love, grace, humility, courage and even humor. And, we have to recognize we won't always know what to do and faced with those tough choices may very well freak out - just like the adoptive couple did in the episode. Freaking out under stress is a very normal reaction as a parent and great clarity can often result in it's wake.

Art often imitates life and Private Practice has been depicting many parenting situations right on the mark lately. If you haven't seen the show, tune in sometime and check it out for yourself. There's always a tidbit of a life lesson to walk away with. For some of the topics covered, consider this. If the episodes are hard to watch at moments, just think what the real world moments must be like to experience?