Where have I been? I reached the milestone of writing in this space for 12 years and then dropped off the face of the blog. Wanna know what happened?
Good Bye Classroom
With many tears, I said goodbye to my school and my students in May. I put in notice that I wouldn’t return in the fall as their social studies teacher.
Seems I can’t disconnect completely. I’ve let my principal know I’m available as a substitute teacher on occasion. I hope she takes me up on it.
So what am I going to do instead?
Much of my time this past 6 weeks has been devoted to my new position as Communications Specialist at the nonprofit Family to Family Support Network. I’ve long been a fan of this organization, as it is both reforming adoption and bringing neutral compassionate care to the labor & delivery segment of healthcare, addressing other pressing issues, as well.
Such issues include people in socially complex families, people dealing with substance use disorder, domestic violence, sexual assault, incarcerated moms and refugees — any population that can best be served by turning off the auto-pilot and tuning in to the unique circumstance.
We call these Unique Families. Without training, nurses and other healthcare professionals report a low comfort level in how to best approach these patients. But with training, the comfort level zone grows to encompass families that — even more than the “typical” family — need an extra dose of compassion and understanding while bringing a new life into the world.
Bias vs Neutral Compassionate Care
Sometimes people have biases about unique families. We know that unacknowledged bias can get in the way of offering neutral compassionate care. In a hospital setting this can show up in comments like these:
- You’re so brave to put your baby up for adoption!
- Oh, boy. Room 318 is that crack mom, back here and pregnant again.
Why might it be wrong to tell a woman she’s brave to consider placing her baby? It’s a compliment!
Nurses start out incredulous that encouraging a patient can possibly be as inappropriate as discouraging a patient from the path she’s considering. We explain that in this case, such a statement shows a bias toward adoption, which can take the mom out of her own drivers seat. A nurse whom the patient has come to trust can also be someone she doesn’t want to disappoint. So when the nurse promotes any decision — placing or parenting — the Mom’s inner compass can too easily be influenced. Neutral care ensures her decision is not entwined with anyone’s approval.
Through the entire hospital time, the mom needs to remain free to follow her inner compass and do what she feels is best for her and her baby. And then she must be supported in her choice, always in a neutral manner. Such support may mean connecting her with community resources that can help with her plan.
Why is it be wrong to call it like it is with a mom who repeatedly hurts her babies by using drugs?
We help nurses see that it’s harmful to patient and baby to treat substance use disorder as a character flaw rather than as a disease. We ask our trainees to consider: if you alienate this mom with your judgment when she first comes to see you, how likely is it that she’ll continue with prenatal care? Will she see you as a safe person she can seek help from? What is the best thing you can do for that baby each moment in caring for that patient?
Bias gets in the way of compassion for all of us. Our training emphasizes the call for nurses and other healthcare professionals to remain neutral in both their judgments about patients and in their guidance of any big decision she makes for her and her baby.
Family to Family Support Network in Our Communities
Family to Family Support Network has trained in hospitals and communities around the country, in states like Colorado, Louisiana, Idaho, Mississippi, Washington, DC, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Montana, Georgia — and we aim to come to your community, too! (Let me know if you can help facilitate that.) We aim for widespread reform in the way unique families are cared for.
If you’d like to know more, join us for a 90 minute webinar on July 17 ($25).
Hello Growing Things
Other than that, I’ve been planting flowers in my garden, hanging out with my kids, and walking my dog with my husband. Lovely.
I have a few trips to tell you about — another time. Stay tuned!
Happy mid-summer, everyone!
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.