When a Doctor Told Me I Wasn’t a Terrible Mother

So, here’s a thing that happened the other day.

I took my son Ivan to the dermatologist to have a look at his moles. We have a history of melanoma in the family and it seemed like the responsible thing to do.

Are moles Ivan’s biggest challenge or at the top of our medical list? Heck no! Ivan is totally blind, nonverbal, in a wheelchair and he has uncontrolled epilepsy resulting in multiple seizures a day. We see about a dozen different specialists and dermatology is definitely at the very bottom of that list.

But I made the time early one morning for us to go in for a mole check before school and while we were there I thought I’d ask another related question. Ivan is 12 years old and like many boys his age he’s experiencing a bit of acne. Does the doctor have any recommendations for what we could do to help clear up his acne?

Do you want to know what she told me?

“You don’t need to worry about that,” she said. “Ivan isn’t a …um …normal kid. You have a lot of other things to deal with and if you ignore his acne that doesn’t make you a terrible mother. It’s ok to let this slide.”

She explained to me that since Ivan is blind and multiply disabled he probably doesn’t care about his complexion or how he looks. And since being his mother is so difficult, I should just let this go. Having to deal with one more thing would be too much for me and it’s OK to drop it. She gave me permission to forget about the acne.

I was really uncomfortable with the conversation, but I don’t want to make it out like it was horrifying or the worst thing in the world that has ever happened to our family (trust me, we’ve been through worse). I just politely explained to her that really it’s no big deal and if she could just put in a prescription for a cream or something Ivan and I would really appreciate it.

I didn’t yell at her. I didn’t freak out. But the conversation has really stuck with me and I’ve been trying to sort through how I feel about it. And here’s the thing.

I think she might be right.

I don’t think she said it very well. At all. I mean my goodness! And also I don’t think it was her place to make the comment. She has no idea what a normal or not normal kid finds important and she has no idea how difficult my life is as a mother. It’s certainly not appropriate for a doctor (or anyone for that matter) to assume that just the simple act of being a child’s mother makes a face cream too overwhelming!

But she does have a point and that is what has been creeping into my mind in the days since that appointment. I do feel responsible for Ivan in every way: his comfort, his care, his well being. Everything. I want to make sure he is happy, fed, clean. I want him to look good and feel good. I fight for him to receive all the services and medical treatments I think he needs. I want him to grow up to be the best Ivan he can possibly be.

But I also have to learn to prioritize. For both of our sakes. I have a long list of things I need to do for Ivan or for the family. The things at the bottom of that list don’t always get done. Oh, who am I kidding? The things at the bottom of the list are collecting cobwebs. What’s difficult isn’t keeping up with the list.

The hard part is learning to be OK with not completing it.

This dermatologist, no matter how out of bounds she was, did put things in perspective for me and I think it’s a lesson all special needs parents can learn.

You are doing your best and you can’t expect more than the best from yourself. If the laundry isn’t folded or the dishes aren’t done or your child’s hair is messy…. it’s OK. Just keep doing what you are doing because the parent you are is the best parent you can be. And it’s enough.

You are enough.

Written by, Amber Bobnar

Amber Bobnar is mom to Ivan, a handsome 12-year-old boy who was born blind and multiply disabled. Amber is founder and website administrator of WonderBaby.org, a website dedicated to supporting parents and caregivers of children who are blind or visually impaired.

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter. Interested in writing for Finding Cooper’s Voice. LEARN MORE.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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