Sunday, April 13, 2008

This is a good column by Silas Lyons in the Redding Record Searchlight, followed by some comments I emailed to him.

We need more folks to write columns like this to bring "The Moment" out of the closet (hopefully, it will emerge with a coping plan in hand ....)

Lyons: A word can help young parents cope

Redding Record Searchlight

Those little voices of theirs, gathered into raspy, screeching cries, are designed to scratch at the soft lining of our inner ears until we do something.

Add exhaustion, disorientation and a sense of inadequacy -- as in, I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm sure I'm already screwing up -- and you can quickly begin to lose perspective. The love and protectiveness you feel begin to cloud over with frustration and helplessness.

I know I had those moments with Emerson. I'd find myself scooping him up and gritting my teeth, digging deep for will-power just to relax and hold him and let the feeling pass.

It happens. It's normal. Good pediatricians and parenting books try to prep you for it.

But it doesn't always end so well.

This week, for the third time since last October, a local young man was arrested and charged with violently shaking an infant. Jimmy Lee Shasteen, 22, has at least his age and gender in common with two others whose vicious attacks on newborns bore striking similarity.

The crimes are sickening, but I'll let the courts sort out their punishment. The more useful question is whether there's a way to protect the next baby. Because there will be a next baby, probably soon.

In addition to being young and male, risk factors for being a baby shaker include anxiety, depression and feelings of inadequacy. Anyone think an economy that leaves more young men out of work is going to help with that?

I'd be willing to bet that at least some of the adults who shake babies later feel true regret. How did they get to that point? Maybe they didn't see it coming.

And maybe that's because we don't like to talk about this. I had a hard time just writing the sentence above, even admitting to myself that I felt so frustrated with my son.

But, I was lucky. I had been told what to expect, and that it was normal, and I was able to cope. If you get a chance, tell a young parent-to-be the same thing. It might help.

…Editor Silas Lyons may be reached at 225-8210 or

I thought you wrote a great column on an issue that most parents (as well as caregivers of young children) experience, but few admit.

It's a subject that I've learned a lot about, but not by choice. Our eleven month old son was shaken by a child care provider and died three days later.

She was a grandmother who had raised four children of her own. That day, she was also caring for her grandson.

Since that time, we have worked with family and friends to support education for parents and caregivers about the vulnerability of young children to shaking injuries and what they can do to help keep their children safe.

At first, it used to surprise me how many people would have a story to tell about "the moment" when they realized they wanted to hurt their child. Now, it surprises me when someone tells me they've never had such a moment.

A couple of things you might want to bring to the attention of your readers:

- in 1998, Mark Dias, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital of Buffalo, had a moment like yours when he was up in the night with his new son. As he tells the story, he realized then that he no longer had to wonder why his pediatric patients had been shaken by their parents shake their children.

Using a video and a few minutes of a nurse's time, he started a program at Buffalo area hospitals to educate new parents. The results were published in 2005: a 47% reduction in inflicted head injuries (Pediatrics, April 2005).

Dr Angela Rosas and the Hannah Rose Foundation are working with hospitals in the Sacramento area to implement a similar program and Linda Loma has also been doing it. Legislation is pending to establish a demo program for 10 counties in CA (although one wonders why a demo program since 10 states have already adopted similar legislation: NY, MO, IL, WI, RI, MA, OH, NE, MN, SC and statewide programs exist in NC, PA and AZ)

- last year, legislation was introduced in Congress to establish the Shaken Baby Prevention Act of 2007 (S.1204/HR 2052). Several members of California's Congressional delegation have joined as cosponsors, but we're still waiting on Senator Feinstein to join Senator Dodd as a sponsor of the Senate bill.

George Lithco
SKIPPER Initiative
Poughkeepsie NY

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