What am I doing up in the middle of the night? Giving myself a treatment. Normally, I don’t treat myself. I go to an acupuncturist. But, we’re in a new town and I don’t have one yet so, here I am, with a sore throat, writing a blog in the middle of the night as I sit on my couch and wait for the needles to help my body do it’s magic. Note to people who get acupuncture treatments: don’t be like me and mess around with technology during your treatment! Rest!
Anyway, since I had my baby, I hadn’t thought a lot about acupuncture. I’d been on maternity leave and I was focused full-time on mom-stuff. It wasn’t until my baby got a cough around the holidays last year that I began to think about it again.
By Karen Bostock Estepa
Dear Sister In Loss,
You were seeking help for continuous bleeding after your abortion. You called my friend to get an appointment, but she had no room in her schedule that week so she called me. I just reopened my practice after the loss of my own newborn and had some room in my schedule. She asked if I could work with you. I had to think long and hard about that. Could I express compassion and love for someone who chose to have an abortion when my own loss was still so new?
by: Karen Bostock Estepa
The emotions that go along with being a mommy are intense! They may be especially so this morning because I’ve been up since 3 AM and was breastfeeding my growing baby all night before that. It could also be because we have two very special days in our family this month, one of them being the 4th anniversary of Kalis’ birth.
So many thoughts have been running through my head. As my sweet baby’s body curls into mine, I think of what I have and what I can no longer hold.
Does your kid never eat or sleep but seems to live off your energy instead? Is your kid out of control, but you don’t have the energy to do anything about it? It may be that your child has Hyperactive Deficiency. In Chinese Medicine this disorder can lead to behavior problems, frequent illnesses, and challenges in maintaining boundaries with a child but, also the necessity to do so - for the sake of healing. The good news is, acupuncture can help your child heal from this disorder and help you get your energy and control back!
What does Hyperactive Deficiency look like?
A child expressing Hyperactive Deficiency usually has lots of energy, frequent illnesses, poor digestion, and doesn’t eat much. He may also resist going to sleep. He is clever and can usually figure out how to get what he wants, even if he has already been told “no”. To him “no” means “maybe”. He may be hypersensitive or nervous but he may also be coy. He may have been a very sick baby that needed lots of attention and may still crave that level of attention, acting out to ensure he gets it.
Meanwhile, his drained parents cave to the child’s demands because they have no energy left to enforce clear boundaries. This could also lead to relationship problems between the parents. If one parent is a primary caregiver and the other is away from the family for several hours during the day, the one who is away more often may not understand why the exhausted primary caregiver submits to the "unreasonable” or “silly” demands of the child.
What to do about it
If you relate to the picture I just drew, you may not like what I’m going to say next, but if you gather your strength and courage, and do your very best as a parent, you will be helping your child, and your family, to heal. The most important thing you can do for your child is to set clear boundaries and enforce them.
You also need to make sure you’re setting boundaries with your own energy. When you lose your temper or bend to the will of the child, you give your energy away. You need to remain calm and grounded. Have you noticed your child gets more energy when you get worked up and meanwhile you’re left depleted and drained? Remaining relaxed will help you save energy and demonstrate to your child what you expect of him.
According to Stephanie K. Glassman, Psy.D., boundaries “begin to form in infancy through family and environmental interactions…We learn about our boundaries by the way we are treated as children, and then we teach others where our boundaries are by the way we let them treat us.” Children with unclear boundaries are more likely to give in to peer pressure or be treated inappropriately by another person. Conversely, children with unclear boundaries are also at risk of becoming the type of adult who lacks respect or takes advantage of others.
How to create boundaries
I cannot tell you how to create boundaries for your kid. First, no one knows your kid better than you. Second, I have never had the opportunity to create boundaries as a parent. My best suggestion: Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no". I am very interested in the work of Marcy Axness. Her book, Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, might be a good resource. I also loved the book Bringing Up Bebe in which an American mother, Pamela Druckerman, learns first-hand the French approach to the raising of children. I appreciated the French concept of giving children extreme freedom within well-defined boundaries.
What will happen next?
The next thing that will happen is that your child will freak out. I don’t want to scare you, but I think you already know this will be the case. Your child is used to thriving on your energy and getting his way. He may be shocked to find he is being asked to create his own energy (from food and sleep) and is no longer in control.
Your child will be more calm and relaxed
Soon, however, he will feel more calm and secure when he knows you are in control, where the boundaries are, and that food does provide the energy he needs. Boundaries set by parents and caregivers are vital to helping a child with Hyperactive Deficiency. Once caregivers are committed to enforcing boundaries, a pediatric acupuncturist can help the child heal from Hyperactive Deficiency. This includes regulating digestion, balancing emotions, and improving sleep.
Caregivers need treatment too
“Treat the mother to treat the child…” is a concept in Chinese Medicine. You can support your child by building your energy as well. If you, or another of your child’s caregivers, feel emotionally or physically depleted (which may show up as exhaustion, irritability, or impatience), acupuncture can help you recover from the exhaustion and overwhelm and find the balance and strength needed to provide boundaries for your child and healing for your family.
The following is a story that many acupuncture parents relate to. It illustrates the struggles they experience in the process of finding the help their children require to heal and be healthy.
A happy, healthy child gets sick
Once upon a time there was a happy, healthy little girl. One day she got very sick. Her doctor ran many tests but didn’t know what was wrong. He gave her some medications to reduce symptoms. The little girl felt better on these medications, but when she didn’t take them, the symptoms came back.
Her parents worried about the medications
Her parents were very worried. A paper came with each medication explaining all the problems it could cause. The parents worried that if they continued to give their little girl these medications, she might get side effects. But they hated to see her feeling as badly as she did without them, and she seemed healthier when she was taking them. They decided to keep giving them to her; however, they continued to worry about whether they were doing the right thing.
The medications came with side-effects
Over time, the little girl developed unusual symptoms. Her scared parents took the little girl back to her doctor, who agreed one of the medications might be causing these new problems. He changed the prescription to a different one with “fewer side effects”.
The cycle begins again
The parents got the prescription and read the side effects associated with the new medication. They realized that this cycle of medications and side effects might keep happening if they continued the way they were going.
A new option
They decided that there must be a different option, something that would help their little girl get better. They found a website about pediatric acupuncture. They’d never heard of that before. They knew that acupuncture had something to do with sticking a bunch of needles in people, but how was that possible for kids?
Acupuncture helps the body heal itself
But the website said that acupuncture helps the body heal itself. That’s what they wanted for their little girl! They longed for her to be happy and healthy and not have to take any more medications. If their little girl’s body could heal itself, then she wouldn’t need the medications anymore.
A better understanding of the child’s health
They called a pediatric acupuncturist to find out if acupuncture could help their little girl. The acupuncturist explained that she would have many questions about the little girl’s health starting from even before she was born. This would help her figure out why the little girl was so sick. She explained that healing takes time, but she would do her best to help the little girl’s body function at its very best.
What the child will experience
The acupuncturist explained that acupuncture treatments for adults and children look very different. She said that children often play on the floor or walk around the room during the treatment. During treatments, she goes with the child’s flow and lets the child guide the treatments so no force or restraint is needed. Her goal is for acupuncture to be a good experience for every child.
Special tools to help children
She said that she uses needles (which she referred to as “taps”) on children, but she also has other tool like the “little fishy” and the “spaceship” that she uses to deliver gentle and fun treatments to babies and children.
Parents can help their child heal
The little girl’s parents prepared her for treatment just as the acupuncturist suggested. The little girl was shy on her first treatment, but by her third treatment she was asking when she was going to come again. The parent’s homework was to help their little girl heal. They were taught to give her special massages, change some of her routines, and even change some of the foods she was eating.
The little girl gets better
The little girl improved, slowly at first. She began to feel a little happier and enjoy playing a little more. Then she started to eat and sleep better. Eventually she was able to recover and return to being a happy and healthy little girl who didn’t need any medications.
I attended a school board meeting this month during which they voted to support SB 277. A group of us went to speak on why they should not support this bill.
One of the women in my group asked me if I had any kids. I told her about Kalis (kah-Lease). I told her about our beautiful home birth and how Kalis was perfectly healthy during my pregnancy, but that her body couldn’t manage on it’s own because she had no kidneys. I told her how Kalis had a purpose and how she’d fulfilled that purpose before she left. This woman was amazed that I could think about the loss of my daughter in such a positive way.
I can do this because I made conscious choices for my little girl. My husband and I educated ourselves on, and believed in, every medical choice we made. The outcome was not what we wanted, but I believe that I made the right choices for her and that gives me peace.
That is what I want for every mom who brings her child into my office to see me. I want her to be confident and at peace with the health choices she makes for her little ones.
What I have learned from my own experience is that the death, injury, or illness of a child is not truly devastating. We live it, we grow through it, and somehow we come out better on the other end.
I believe that what is truly devastating is the illness, injury, or death of a child as a result of medical interventions that were performed from a space of fear, ignorance, or force. Every mom I have seen who has had birth interventions or medical interventions for their child that they did not believe was right, or they felt forced into, carries a guilt and sorrow that is truly devastating. This occurs even when the outcome is good.
One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to make educated and conscious decisions about their medical care. SB 277 takes the right of parents and pediatricians to make medical choices based on what a particular child needs and gives that honor to politicians and government. That is why I, as a pediatric acupuncturist, oppose SB 277.
Kalis would have been 21 months old today. I am still grateful for every medical decision I made for her. I am thankful for the peace I have. I pray that you can say the same for your children. I pray that you maintain your right to that kind of peace.