Prevention Child Abuse: NEVER Shake a Baby

Elijah’s Story

I remember the first time I saw Elijah’s Story. I had just given birth to my first child, I was exhausted, hormonal, and frustrated that nursing wasn’t the easy, natural experience I was promised. I desperately wanted to be discharged from the hospital so I could go home and get some real sleep without a nurse taking my blood pressure every hour. My nurse rushed through the discharge paperwork, but then made my husband and me stop and watch a movie about “shaken baby syndrome.” I wasn’t prepared for the impact Elijah and his story would have on my life. Elijah was a toddler who was violently shaken by his father and then died on Christmas Eve in 1997. Watching Elijah’s loved ones talk about what happened to this beautiful boy was heart-breaking for my new mommy heart.

Elijah’s Impact on My Life

A few months later I was the frustrated parent at my wit’s end. I was trying to transition my one year old daughter from a bottle to a sippy cup and she was not having it. I had worked a long shift at a very physically taxing job and my husband was gone at his job. I was home alone, exhausted, aggravated, and my toddler wouldn’t do the thing I needed her to do. I wanted to hurt her and those thoughts and feelings scared me. I remembered Elijah and I put her in her crib and walked away. I sat on the steps of my back porch and cried my eyes out while my baby cried her eyes out in her crib. We both survived that day because I took a deep breath, put her in a safe place, and walked away until I calmed down. Elijah’s story saved us both.

Elijah's DVD fCover high res icon
Thirteen years later I was interviewing for a position at The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. As a social worker and a CASA volunteer I was already committed to the safety of children and preventing child abuse and I was impressed with the Center’s commitment to keeping all babies safe from harm. In my research of the position I re-watched Elijah’s Story and remembered the impact it had on my life and the lives of my four children. I parented differently because I had been taught as a new parent through the Center’s mission of education and prevention how to control my anger and walk away before doing irreparable damage. I was excited to be hired to work for an organization that directly impacted my life and my children’s lives for the better.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child abuse cuts across every socio-economic, racial, gender, and sexual orientation boundary. No community is immune from child abuse, but there are things we can do as individuals and parents to prevent it. The American Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse determined that the number one factor to combating child abuse is education through public awareness. Through education parents can learn coping mechanisms and skills that can help them deal with frustrating situations, like Elijah taught me to walk away and calm down.

crying baby

Keeping babies safe from harm is the belief statement of the Center and one I whole-heartedly embrace. My co-workers and I do this through our SBS prevention program, The Period of PURPLE Crying©, which teaches parents about normal infant crying patterns, how to soothe their babies, that crying is the number one trigger that leads to SBS, and how to cope with crying which can aggravate and stress out even the most well-rested parent. Parents and caregivers who understand that crying is a normal and healthy part of infancy can greatly reduce their own stress and frustration with incessant crying. The difference between a parent or caregiver who abuses a child and one who doesn’t is education, coping skills, and self-control. Prevention is our number one goal and education is the key.

Facts about Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that shaken baby syndrome is the leading cause of child abuse deaths in the United States. This is a very sobering statistic. However, the good news is that shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable through education. It’s important for anyone caring for an infant to know the symptoms of shaking a baby. They are:

• Trouble sucking or swallowing
• Decreased appetite
• Trouble sleeping
• Increased fussing or irritability
• Vomiting
• Lethargy
• Difficulty breathing or turning blue
• Change in level of awareness
• Inability to suck or swallow
• Loss of Consciousness

Shaking a baby can cause devastating injuries, which can include traumatic brain injuries and bleeding in the eyes. These injuries are seldom found together in any other kind of child abuse, medical condition or accidental trauma, and are often found with other child abuse injuries like bruising, broken ribs, broken long bones, and skull fractures.

Sadly, 25 percent of all victims of SBS/AHT die as a direct result of their injuries. Those who do survive often suffer severe, lifelong disabilities including: learning disabilities, motor/cognitive difficulties, cerebral palsy, blindness, paralysis, or coma.

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What Shaken Baby Syndrome Isn’t

Every week I have worried parents calling me wondering if they have caused damage to their children by accidentally jostling them. Often they are crying and worried that they have done irreparable harm to their child. I have to reassure them that shaking injuries are not caused by casual or accidental handling of a baby. Shaking injuries require massive, violent force. They are not caused by:

• Tossing a baby in the air
• Sudden stops in a car or driving over bumps
• Running, jogging or bicycling with a baby
• Bouncing a baby on your knee
• Short Falls

While some of these activities may be dangerous and are not recommended, they will not likely cause SBS/AHT. However, I recommend parents have their children checked by a medical professional if they are worried. Doctors are never too busy to make sure your child is okay. At the very least, the visit will give parents peace of mind.

What can you do?

Whenever I get a phone call from a parent or loved one who has lost a child to shaken baby syndrome, I often think of Elijah and how he would be in high school by now if he had lived, but because of an impulsive, split-second decision his father made out of aggravation and anger, his family will never get to see Elijah grow into the young man he could have become. So much potential was taken away in a split second and it all could have been prevented. Although his family has moved on and live full and complete lives, their grace in sharing Elijah’s Story with the world has benefitted thousands of parents, me included.

Please, if you’re a parent do everything you can to keep your baby safe from harm. Take care of yourself, ask for help, walk away when you are frustrated, and remember Elijah and who he could have become if he had been allowed to grow up.

To learn more about Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma please visit dontshake.org.

If you suspect a child is being abused please call the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD. 

 

This post was featured on The Huffington Post.

THRIVING, not just surviving

I’m a huge skeptic. I follow the old adage, “don’t believe anything you read and only half of what you see.” A few years ago my friend April, whom I’ve known since we were children growing up in the same neighborhood (only she was the cool older girl who wore cool clothes and listened to cool music), start talking about this new supplement she started taking that changed her life: THRIVE.

I didn’t really pay it any attention and probably rolled my eyes at a few posts. I think we’ve all be told a million times that a new product will change our lives. What is that famous line from The Princess Bride? “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling you something.”

Then about 2 months ago I came to a crossroads in my life where I knew I couldn’t continue down the path I was going. I was tired all.the.time. So much so that I was seriously thinking I might have chronic fatigue syndrome. I know that working full-time and being a mother of 4 children can exhaust anyone, but this was next level tired. I felt like crap all of the time. I never felt good. I used to exercise daily, but had given that up when I started working full-time and made every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t find time in my busy schedule to work out. I was in a perpetually bad mood (working in child abuse prevention can start to affect one’s emotional health). I was drinking Mountain Dew like it was going out of style, and I knew all that high fructose corn syrup was bad for me.

My mother developed Type II diabetes in her late 50’s. She changed her lifestyle and managed it so well that she didn’t even need medication after about the first 6 months. However, she died from pancreatic cancer at the young age of 62. She has missed out on the last 7 1/2 years of her grandkids growing up and missed the births of the last 3 grandbabies (at least in the being alive mortal kind of way).

I want a better future for me. I want a better future for my children. I want to live to see my grandchildren and watch them grow up. Not only watch them grow, but be a full participant in their lives. Something my mother never got the chance to do.

And I don’t know if it’s directly related, but my mother loved Coca-Cola and drank it the way I drank Mountain Dew. And I don’t know if the daily intake of excessive amounts of sugar, and later when they added the high fructose corn syrup, it was made her develop Type II diabetes and eventually pancreatic cancer. I don’t know anything, but I do know that it couldn’t have been good for her.

So there I was at in my life. Exhausted. Feeling like crap. Missing my mom. Not eating healthy foods. Drinking high sugar drinks. Feeling miserable. Not living the full life I wanted to live.

I don’t know what post it was that April linked to on Facebook, but something I read in that post clicked with me. April works in the medical field and has a lot of knowledge about nutrition, so I thought I would be brave and trust her.

I decided that because I wanted to observe Lent this year I was going to give up a bad habit that would be exceptionally difficult for me (Mountain Dew) and begin a habit that could possibly be very good for me. I contacted April and we discussed all the details of THRIVE. I was still skeptical, but I was willing to try anything. I had to see for myself if it actually worked. I desperately needed a change.

They say people don’t usually change until it becomes too painful for them not to change. That was me. I was at max level pain and exhaustion.

I decided to take the 8 week challenge, and today marks the end of the 8 weeks. This is how my life has changed since taking THRIVE:

1. Immediately I noticed an increase in my energy. Now I finally have the energy to actually live my life instead of just going through the motions. I have so much energy that I’m finally doing all those chores around the house I’ve been meaning to get to for months.

2. I’m now a morning person. As a life-long night owl I cannot believe that I get up at 4:30 am every day and am usually in bed between 9 and 10 pm.

3. I sleep better. I’m a deep sleeper, but I would usually wake up several times throughout the night. Now I sleep deeply throughout the night and never wake up. And I wake up fully rested instead of waking up already tired and wanting to go back to sleep.

4. I now exercise regularly. All those excuses I made about not having enough time to exercise? They were just excuses. With THRIVE I actually have the energy to get up, get an hour work-out in, before I come home and get ready for work and get my kids ready for and off to school (with the help of the Hubs of course).

5. I actually have the energy to work a full day at work and come home and make dinner for my family and spend time with them afterwards. Usually by 3 pm I was done every day and couldn’t stop yawning. And I’d be too tired to meal plan or make anything, so I was picking up a bag of fast food every night for my family for dinner. No wonder I felt like crap all the time when I only ate crap food.

6. My cravings for Mountain Dew have lessened. I fully embrace that I am addicted to Mountain Dew. The first step in overcoming is admitting. There will always be a part of me that when something emotionally difficult happens, my first response is to want a 32 oz of MD from the gas station. I have been able to curb those cravings, and for the entirety of Lent, I didn’t have any Mountain Dew. That is the longest I’ve gone without it in 20 years.

7. I’m craving healthy food. I made it my goal with Lent to eat at least 5 to 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day. Now I am finding I crave a handful of grapes over a handful of chocolate. The grapes will make me feel great. The chocolate makes me feel sick to my stomach.

8. I’ve lost weight. My goal with THRIVE was never to lose weight, but I’m not going to complain about shedding 10 lbs in 8 weeks.

9. My libido has increased. Which none of you need to know about, but the hubs is very happy.

10. I’m HAPPY. Yes I deal with emotionally difficult things at work all day. Yes, I have 4 children who need things from me constantly. But I’m happy. The hubs noticed right away that I was in a better mood and had more patience after I started taking THRIVE.

I feel like I’m setting better habits that will lead me to a longer life than the habits I had before. None of us knows when we’re going to die, but I’m trying to live as long as possible because frankly, life is a gift and I have a lot to live for.

So, THANK YOU April! Thank you for spreading the message about THRIVE. Thank you for continuing to share it even in the faces of friends like me who roll their eyes. It has changed my life for the better. I’ll always be so grateful for that. In 8 short weeks my outlook on life has completely changed. I’m THRIVING and not just surviving anymore.

Who died and made you King of Anything?

To the dudebro MRAs who love to tell me and my MoFem sisters how to live our lives, how to live the Gospel, and what our true feelings are…well Sara Bareilles said it better than me. Here are the lyrics from her song, King of Anything, that apply directly to you:

You’ve got opinions, man
We’re all entitled to ’em
But I never asked
So let me thank you for your time
And try to not waste any more of mine
Get out of here fastI hate to break it to you, babe
But I’m not drowning
There’s no one here to save

Who cares if you disagree?
You are not me
Who made you king of anything?
So you dare tell me who to be
Who died and made you king of anything?

You sound so innocent
All full of good intent
You swear you know best

But you expect me to
Jump up on board with you
And ride off into your delusional sunset

I’m not the one who’s lost
With no direction oh
But you’ll never see

You’re so busy makin’ maps
With my name on them in all caps
You’ve got the talkin’ down
Just not the listening

And who cares if you disagree?
You are not me
Who made you king of anything?
So you dare tell me who to be
Who died and made you king of anything?

Let me hold your crown, babe.

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To the Ordain Women Exposed Dudebro:

I’m sorry that you are in so much pain that you feel the need to lash out at others who aren’t as orthodox in their faith as you. I’m sorry that you are so hurt that you want to hurt others. I’m sorry that you think you are doing God’s mission, but God is about love and not harassment. I’m sorry that you must be in so much pain to go after your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. You must be really hurt to think it’s okay with Jesus Christ to use his name to lash out at others. I’m sorry you feel justified in your zeal to harass, defame, mock, degrade, and libel children of God.

You accuse others of not following the prophet when you yourself are not following the words of Elder Deiter F. Uchtdorf who said, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

You might look at the people involved with Ordain Women as apostates, and that is your right to believe, but you don’t have the right to:

-Harass and doxx people online because they think differently about church things than you.

-Set up Facebook pages and Twitter feeds trying to “expose” people because they don’t agree with you about worship.

-Accuse others of not following the prophet when your harassment of them is in direct opposition of what your church leaders teach.

It’s not what Jesus would do. He commanded all of us to Love one Another. He told us to turn the other cheek. He told us to cast the first stone if we are without sin (you are not). He asked us to check the motes in our own eyes before pointing out the beams in others. Nothing you are doing is within what Christ asked of his followers to do.

In the words of Elder Uchtdorf, STOP IT.

And if you happen to quote me again on Facebook or your little blog, just know that I will do the Christ-like thing and forgive you, but my lawyer won’t.

Please seek professional help to overcome the hurt you have in your heart that is so ever present you spend your life hurting others.