Lamaze for the Whole Family

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My stress levels couldn't have been higher. Sabrina was 29 months old and into everything. Jake was 8 weeks old and constitutionally incapable of sleeping at night. The Navy had given us surprise orders, which meant we had to move two years earlier than we'd expected...and we couldn't find a buyer for our house. It was tax time, and Great-Grandma was visiting with lots of advice about child-rearing, gardening, and cooking -- whether I wanted it or not.

I shipped my husband Rich off to the accountant's and convinced Great-Grandma to go along for the ride. Then, knowing that a potential buyer might want to stop by at any moment, I set about tidying up the house. First on my list of chores was to close up the sofa bed where Great-Grandma had been sleeping the night before. As I hurriedly folded the sofa bed closed, Sabrina stuck her finger in the mechanism, and it got stuck in the hinge.

I got her finger out and saw blood, but worse -- I saw bone. I wrapped her finger in a dish towel and got her to the emergency room. Once there, we learned that Sabrina would need 10 stitches to close the wound.

Maybe it was the experience of being a Navy wife and having to deal with so many family emergencies on my own, or maybe I missed my calling and should have been a nurse. Whatever the reason, I kept my cool and remembered something I had learned in my birthing classes.

I had taken Lamaze classes before each of my babies were born and my instructors had explained that tension increases pain. People usually respond to pain by tensing their bodies and holding their breath, but by training ourselves to relax our bodies, we could minimize our labor pains. Having used deep breathing exercises in two childbirths, I knew this method of relaxation worked for me. And though she was calm at the moment, I knew anesthetic shots and stitches were in Sabrina's near future.

The nurse, worried I would freak out and upset Sabrina, suggested I leave the room during the stitching process, but I assured her I would remain calm and insisted on staying. While the doctor gave Sabrina shots to numb her hand and stitched her fingertip closed, I had Sabrina look in my eyes and imitate the deep breathing exercises I had learned and practiced when she and her brother were born. Sabrina kept calm and held still so the doctor could work on her. When it was all over, the nurse said she'd never seen anything like it.

The technique worked so well, we've used it to minimize pain during all the occasional bumps and scrapes childhood brings. We were especially glad to have it in our family toolbox when Sabrina, by then age 10, put her tooth through her lip and had to get stitches for the second time.

"Deep breathing?" Sabrina asked in the ER that day.

"That's the drill," I replied.

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Do you have your own ways of helping your kids handle pain? What are they? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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Lamaze for the Whole Family

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