Where is the mutually agreeable solution? — When parenting calls for blood draws

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Dear readers,

Perhaps you can help me. I don’t know the answers. I don’t know that there are any answers.

Let me tell you a story:

Three years ago, a child was born. His parents were so happy to see him, and from the very beginning they tried to honor his personhood and respect his wishes: they welcomed him into the world at home, in warm water, in a dim room; they warmed him against themselves; they brought him to bed with them, so he would never be alone; they helped him to eliminate his wastes away from his body when he indicated he needed it; they let him suckle sweet milk whenever he wanted. He was weighed in a sling, measured while lying in his mother’s arms, had his heel pricked while asleep in bliss at his mother’s breast. They left his perfect body whole, exactly as it was designed to be.

They fell in love with him, in an instant, in every instant they were with him, which was every instant from his birth. They were entranced with his perfection — smooshy nose (which straightened in a couple days) and bruised head and predilection for copious spit up and all. He was perfect. Simply, completely perfect.

Swimming in oxytocin, floating in joy, at one week out, they got a call.

Screening results positive: congenital hypothyroidism. Need a recheck. No, today. Now. What do you mean you don’t have a pediatrician picked out already?

Something… wrong? With their perfect child? Panic. Fear. Grief. They went through all this, and more.

Eventually, they realized it wasn’t the end of the world. Eventually, they realized their child was still perfect. Eventually, they got used to the new rhythm: pill crushed and delivered with breast milk every day, blood draws to test levels every month — then two months, then three months. The child grew up, and the pill part got even easier, with him asking for it and chewing it down plain every morning. Fears of his development being stunted proved false; confidence in the ok-ness of the diagnosis got easier. They clung to the hope — promised by everyone they talked to — that the blood draw ordeal would get easier too.

But it didn’t.

It got worse.

He learned to anticipate. He learned what it was “blood draw” meant, learned that it was the little room in which the trauma happened, learned it was when the people in the white lab coats called his name that it all started.

His parents learned hell. Learned that no amount of play-acting beforehand, no amount of promise of bribes afterward, no amount of distraction during would prevent his terror. They learned what it was like to hold a screaming, straining, snot-smeared child against their chest, legs locked around his to prevent him kicking the techs, while he pleads “Mama, dada, help me! Help me! Let me go, please! Please, help me!”

It had to be done — somehow, the blood had to be extracted, the tests done, the levels monitored, the meds adjusted. But what lessons were they teaching him, this child whose autonomy and bodily integrity they held sacred since before he was born? When the first step in raising a not-rapist is not violating his own body, when the first step in raising a sane person is not traumatizing his own psyche, how could they justify this traumatic violation? Repeatedly, regularly?

Of course, how could they not, either, when thyroid is vital for brain development? They could and did offer the child so many choices — when (a little), and in whose lap, and what color smiley face drawn on the bandage tape, and what toys to buy afterward, and where to go to lunch to celebrate surviving — but they could not, would not, offer the choice to not do it at all.

Here’s the question:

How does one do this? How do we get the necessary medical tests for our child without traumatizing him? How do we traumatize him and teach him to hold others’ bodily autonomy supreme? Endless suggestions for EMLA cream aside (and sending dismissals of his own right to autonomy directly to hell), how do we simultaneously respect his personhood and protect his health?

This isn’t a theoretical question. Third-person-distancing aside, this is a real dilemma, and we’ve six months at most before it comes around again. And it’s never going away, not for the rest of his life. He might outgrow the screaming, but he’ll never outgrow the testing.

Help us. Help him.

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38 Responses to Where is the mutually agreeable solution? — When parenting calls for blood draws

  1. I haven’t dealt with this, but I’ve dealt with enough similar issues as a parent. And I don’t think there are any completely good answers.

    The closest that I can come is believing that, when I act with the best of intentions, it will be OK. Yes, you are violating your child’s personhood. But you are doing it for the very best reasons, and you really have no other choice. I believe that when your son is old enough to understand the long-term implications, he will believe you did the right thing.

    There are a whole lot of events and moments that go into parenting. Some of them are less than ideal. The best that we can do is to try to make it mostly good. If you respect your child’s autonomy in as many ways as you possibly can without sacrificing his health and safety, then I think that will carry more weight than the times you needed to hold him down to have a medical procedure or physically restrain him in a parking lot. Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself. Because I see no other choice.

    • Amber — thank you for this. I think this was what I needed to hear most, and I didn’t even know it. I went to bed last night feeling much more loved after reading this.

  2. I have an eighteen month old who’s going in for another (sigh) blood draw tomorrow. She’ll know as soon as we step into the room what’s happening. The EMLA cream will help. I’ll hold her, and soothe her, sing to her and comfort her. The pathology nurses will be experts on paed. blood draws, kind, understanding and patient. She will be popped into a sling immediately afterwards and cuddled all the way to the car (longer if necessary). I’ll offer her the breast if she finds it comforting. I’ll offer toys, distraction-laden-sugary-treats and even try the “hey, look over there- a distraction!” technique (which won’t work).

    She’s going to scream as though we’re holding her down to torture her. We are.

    After we leave that room, I’m going to go back to respecting her personhood. I’m going to talk with her about it, as much as she can manage and I’m going to explain to her at each-and-every-one of these ordeals that she IS going to be OK. She’s a healthily attached kid. She trusts me. I’ll betray that trust tomorrow, but I’m going to keep on rebuilding it as many times as I need to and believe that she’s resilient enough to grow through her ordeal and her disease.

    I didn’t help at all, I’m sorry. I don’t think there is another way through this for either of our children. But they aren’t alone in all of this. They have us.

  3. The most important thing I know about this sort of thing – for us it was as simple as vaccinations, having a repeatedly dislocating elbow replaced painfully, that sort of thing – is never ever to pretend anything can make it ok or not awful. Yes, it’s horrible, yes, it’s going to be horrible, yes, that was horrible. And not fair, and mean, and necessary, and how can we make you feel better just for now? Eventually it becomes horrible but bearable.

  4. Oh, Arwyn! Millions of hugs to you and the Boychick. I have terrible veins and having blood drawn usually takes about an hour and four techs; during one span in my life when I needed daily draws I experienced so much dread and fear that I am honestly crying for your poor child. That’s so, so hard. I can only hope and trust that your love for him and respect for him in all other areas will see him through this, that he will come to understand that it is necessary for his physical well-being. But, oh! It’s so hard.

    The only things that came to mind — is there any way you could give him more control by teaching him how to do it himself? Not so that he actually would be able to, but maybe just have him tutored through the process, and let him practice on some dolls and animals (or fruit or whatever). Giving him ways to act out the scenario through play might be healing as well. Let him take the part of the tech or of the parent and you be the scared little guy.

    And this one is kind of a long shot but — is there any chance of a house call? Any friendly tech (or tech who is a friend) who’d be willing to do the test in your own home so it’s maybe a little more comfortable and less clinical? I ask this based on my experiences as a cat sitter (sorry for the odd association!), where some cats would accept treatments like subcutaneous fluids at home but not at the vet’s.

    • Lauren: Oh, we’ve gone over it and over it and over it again with him. He LOVES pretending to give his dolls or us blood draws, asks us to do it to him sometime, handles all that fabulously. (We even did the pretend-to-be-scared/hurting thing, and talked about ways to make funny faces and noises — “ah! eee! O! ow!” — without moving the arm on which the blood draw was happening. He loved it, but he freaks out well before we even get to that stage during the real thing.)

      I hadn’t considered an in-home draw. That might be worth looking into, thanks.

  5. How much can you recode the blood draw experience? Do it in a different room/place (maybe at home as suggested above?), remove some/all the related stimuli that the kid has been conditioned to associate with a negative experience? If it always goes a certain way, and he’s come to expect it will go that way and he will behave the way he has in the past and have the bad experience he has in the past, changing how it goes is pretty likely to change how he experiences it and hence behaves.

    Has your son been taught how to breathe for it? (DEEP breath beforehand, exhale while the needle goes in.)

    You might do some research on human psychological conditioning if it’s not a topic you’re already versed in, and then associate as many positive experience things as possible with the blood draw, while removing as much of the negative conditioned stimuli as possible. Is he old enough to own the process, making it something he does instead of that is done to him, ie instead of holding him down, let him sit there for himself in whatever way he wants, on lap, next to holding hand, etc, and let him do the countdown to the needle going in?

    Personally, I find watching the needle go in during blood draws to be helpful, along with the deep breath&exhale I mentioned. I can see exactly what is happening, and that helps me.

  6. I don’t know the right words here so I’ll just blab along. I understand and feel your pain. My baby had malaria and she had to be administered daily shots for a week (she was nine months old at the time). I know it is not the same as having a chronic condition, but I just want to say I know what it feels like to have to hold your child down when they look at you with agony and fear in their eyes.
    I understand the worry that by violating your child, even if it is medically necessary, he might get the message that violating is possible, that someone can strap you down and do things to you you don’t like.
    The only thing you can do is empathise with his pain and explain again and again why it is necessary.

    And if it is any consolation: most childen with a chronic condition grow up to be very empathic adults, for they have known pain themselves.
    I think a child can make the difference between necessary suffering and violation out of anger or agression.

  7. That is very hard to deal with. I have no great words of advice. It sounds like you are doing all you can do, though I agree that maybe changing some of the situations, like the room and stuff might be helpful. Or it might not, it depends on your child. I could see that with some children it would reduce anxiety, but others might feel betrayed because they will THINK it’s going to be different since it’s a different room and then it’s just the same old horrible thing. So I can see how changing those external cues MIGHT backfire…..

    My 6.5 year old had to have surgery for his undescended testes. I did everything I could to see if we could get out of it, to make sure it was medically necessary. I’m still not 100% convinced that it did anything other than make it easier to check his testes for cancer…. but I was convinced enough to finally go through with it. We HAD to explain to him why. He was very angry about the idea of a “5 hour appointment” as he thought of it. He was very upset when the doctor said TO ME that he wouldn’t be able to play superhero for a couple of weeks afterwards. That day of the appointment when we got her verdict did not go well and I so wish that I had planned it differently (not taken my mom and daughter, allowed some quiet time afterwards to talk and process, etc.). Anyway, the surgery was hard for all of us, but he did great. There were moments where he was angry he had had the surgery because he was in pain and didn’t understand WHY. It was hard for him, a very active boy, to be in so much pain he couldn’t walk to the bathroom.

    Anyway, it’s not nearly the same thing, but having to make these kinds of medical decisions for our children is just really, really hard to do. It sucks that he has to go through that and that it causes him so much anxiety and pain. :( Since you can’t change that, I think that making him feel as safe as you can, as loved and supported as you can is the best you can do.

    I know there are kids with diabetes who have to get daily injections of insulin. I know that if that were my kids, they would fight it. Heck, they fight brushing their teeth (and I don’t MAKE them, I just ask and tell them WHY it’s important EVERY night! haha), checking for ticks, etc. I have to tell them WHY and convince them just about every other night, it seems. But checking for ticks is much, much easier and better than lyme disease! Of course, if it came to holding them down, I’d just wait until they were asleep. But it’s hard to see where you have any other options.

  8. I wonder this same thing. Our little one is not quite two; in that time he’s had 3 surgeries (and a 4th next week), 2 procedures under anesthesia, and has spent more than 300 days in the hospital in his life. He’s phobic of doctors, stethescopes, bloodpressure cuffs, anyone in scrubs, doctor’s exam rooms, etc etc etc. While toddlers are notoriously anxious….this is different. This is blood-curdling (yet silent, because of his tracheostomy) screams from being touched by their stethescopes, even though he likes playing with ours at home. This is complete panic from sitting on a scale, or having his shirt taken off in an exam room. This is him being so upset about having his ears checked that he vomits (and not on purpose). This is waiting until he’s cried himself to sleep to get a blood pressure or do a blood draw, because when he’s that exhausted, he sleeps through them.

    We tell him which parts will hurt and which won’t. We tell him, even though he’s little, what things will happen. We comfort, distract, cajole, praise, reward….and it’s still torture.

    Right now, we’re pursuing a couple of things. We’ve done “play doctor” things – which helps a little, but not enough to get through big appointments. We’re trying to track down a child psychologist or someone along those lines who will actually see a toddler (most don’t want to work with kids under 4) to discuss other coping strategies and write orders for the way things need to be if we’re in a hospital or doctor’s office. Some of my more holistically minded friends suggest cranial-sacral therapy. We’ve specifically asked for sleepy-juice for his upcoming surgery, because carrying him back last time worked until we walked into the OR, and then he panicked…

    …and I don’t know that I can keep doing this.

  9. Awww. Poor mama, poor baby. That’s an awful thing to have to deal with- my son had to have his blood done to test for celiac, and then had allergy testing done. He was so brave, but imagine if it became a regular thing he would have a harder time, knowing what was coming. You have some great advice right here in your comments- I don’t really have anything to add that hasn’t already been said. <3
    Hugs to you mama.

  10. When my son had to have tests and then surgery for bladder reflux from ages 3 to 5 I repeatedly asked myself how was this different from sexual abuse? The only answer I found was we talk about it, and we still do now and then now that he is in college. I knew I couldn’t say to him “It’s ok.” So what I kept saying was “I’m right here with you.”

  11. Oh I feel for you! I do not quite the same situation because we do not have something so chronic and with something as traumatic as regular blood draws, but my son (almost 3 years) has had to have a lot of different types of test/procedures over his life and he is very, very sensitive. He’s had to have a mask held over his face for several hour long breathing treatments. He’s had to be strapped down for x-rays. He’s had to have frequent teeth checks at the dentist and his teeth have to be brushed thoroughly by us twice a day (he has weak enamel) . And he has had to have lots of different supplements/ear drops/nose drops administered which he hates. A few things come to my mind in looking at what has helped my son with these (albeit less traumatic) things. Giving him some sort of control over it. Not sure how to do it with a blood draw. But letting my son hold the bottle of something he has to take, or hold another toothbrush has helped. Also have you tried anything like Hyland’s Calm Forte (homeopathic) or Rescue Remedy before the procedure to help ease some of the fear and anxiety? Not sure if they would work but they do work for some. And then, I do think talking to him about it before, during and after can help lessen the trauma or at least frame it as coming from a place of love (i.e. you needing him to stay healthy becasue you love him) and not with the intent of harm. Acknowledging how hard it is for him, explaining that it IS necessary to keep him healthy. I wish I could offer more. It is really a hard thing.

  12. Have you sat down and really talked through blood draws with him? Get him to describe it in detail for you – figure out what about it is terrifying for him. Once you have a grasp on the part he hates, maybe then you can start to find a solution. Talk to him about a solution – what would make him feel better? Does he want YOU to help do it? Does HE want to help? Does he want to do it in a different atmosphere? (The waiting room? Home??) Is it the feeling that scares him? Can you do it in a different part of his body? Isn’t there a numbing topical that can be used?
    There are so many things you could try if only you knew what exactly was scary.
    One other thought – can you find an older child who has to have blood draws? Perhaps talking to another little (but bigger than him) about the experience can empower him. Perhaps, even, that other child could accompany him for moral support.
    I hope you find something that works!!

  13. oh man…I don’t really have suggestions. Just hurting with you right now. I wish there was an easy answer to this. I liked Lauren’s suggestion? Could he somehow have a part in doing it? maybe give him a little control of the situation?

  14. Oh this is a hard one. I remember having my daughter on my chest when she was going into surgery and they had to put a gas mask on her to put her under. Every part of her body strained against it and I had to physically force it on her, and I could see all the muscles in her neck absolutely resisting. And I remembered thinking, what if this is the last memory I have with her? Luckily it wasn’t. But I understand where you are coming from.

    There is probably not an easy way here. All I can suggest is talking to him about it, before and after. Possibly – also role playing with a favourite toy? Where he has to choose whether the toy goes to the doctor? And what they have done once they are there?

  15. What a heartbreaking situation to face as a mama…

    I agree with a previous comment about using Hyland’s Calm Forte and Rescue Remedy but would go a step further and suggest seeing a professional homeopath as well as a specialist in flower remedies. A homeopath especially could work with your son’s condition alongside his doctor and might help make the whole experience gentler and less intrusive.

    I would also consider taking a Reiki course. The first degree is usually only a day class and it would give you a direct tool to help calm him before, during and after the proceedure.

    Many blessings to you and your little one.

  16. How horrible for you all. I’m guessing that as he gets older it *will* get… not exactly easier, but more manageable. He’ll be better able to vocalise *why* he hates it (getting him to draw pictures of what scares him might help in the meantime), and better able to figure out suggestions himself for making it less scary/horrible. But, meanwhile, I think all you can do is keep telling him over and over again – very calmly, in a very non-freaked-out way (because picking up on very distressed vibes from you would make it even worse), but very sympathetically – that you understand that this is horrible and scary for him, that he will feel better afterwards but it’s really horrible meanwhile, and that you’re so sorry that you have to do this but it is absolutely necessary to stop him from getting sick. He *will* understand this as he gets older, and he *will* understand the difference between inflicting pain on someone to preserve their life and health and inflicting pain for your own benefit, and he *will* learn not to be a rapist. But none of that will stop it from being hard.

  17. I wish I had any answers for you. It’s hard when what is best is also what is scary and hard to understand for our kids. I try to explain things to Rachel as much as I can, but she’s 3 and a half…what can I possibly say to make her understand that it’s important and that it is only going to hurt for a little while? I’ve had to force her to do things for her own good so many times, like wearing glasses, getting her teeth brushed, taking medicine, getting shots, having dental surgery because I hadn’t been tough enough about the tooth brushing in the first place, and now she’s getting allergy tests tomorrow, and I feel so helpless knowing that she’s going to be scared and uncomfortable and there will be needles and the only thing I CAN do is be there with her, but I can’t take any of those feelings away for her.

  18. Maybe you could accompany a friend with slightly older children who can go into the room, get their blood drawn, and walk out again without tears. Or even just get your blood drawn while he can watch the process and see that you allow it to happen and it doesn’t have to be that scary. I know a big thing for me when I was young was that my older sister had already done it, and she was fine, so I knew I would be fine. It still hurt, but there would be a treat afterwards, and it wasn’t that big a deal, because my sister didn’t think it was.

    • Marley: We have done ours in front of him (and I’ll probably take him along for my next couple, too — one this week, one in 6 weeks), but it hasn’t helped yet. (I actually find blood draws — when it isn’t on my screaming child — absolutely fascinating, and almost took a job as a phlebotomist once.) It might be worth it to try with an older child, although I’m trying to think who we could do that with. Thanks for the idea.

  19. Rosemary Cottage

    Loads of brilliant advice on here.

    You’ve had a lot of advice from the world of natural parenting. I wanted to just throw an idea from more mainstream parenting into the mix, which I hope doesn’t insult you; I’m not suggesting it on its own but teamed with other suggestions from here.

    I know lots of mainstream parents who tell their kids “be brave like would be if they were having this done”. The Boychick loves Doctor Who, right? Is he able yet to put himself in the Doctor’s shoes, see what he would do, “imagine you’re the Doctor when he was being tortured by Davros in Genesis of the Daleks” or something alone those lines? A sort of WWDWD?

    Just a suggestion, maybe team it with some others from here, he could play with a Doctor figurine who has to go to the Doctor (ha!) and have his blood drawn, etc….

    • Rosemary Cottage — I’m really not a fan of telling (especially boy children) to “be brave”, but I fucking love the idea of talking about what the Doctor would do. You win major geek points.

      Unfortunately, the Boychick’s idea, one of the last time we play acted getting it done, was to shoot the techs with his sonic screwdriver and then run away. Which, um… yeah, that does sound like what the dear Doc would do. ;)

  20. I wish I had some advice, all I can offer is emotional support!

  21. Sympathy. I know it HURTS, and there is no way to make it not hurt. As an adult It took a long time to adjust to my required blood draws, and I have pretty complete control.

    Do not know if it would help, but he might take to the idea of which part of his body got bled was his to control. Phlebotomists are used to always doing it in particular parts of the body, but others can work. Im peculiar: I prefer the supposedly more painful back of the hand. Ask the tech about this before suggesting it, then give him the choice. Be prepared for the ‘none’ insistence.

    Home visits are an idea to consider. Be careful, don’t want kid to start thinking home invasions are allowed!

    And talk to him about the necessity and allow him to protest. Struggling must be controlled, protesting, even screaming, need not.

    Hugs and sympathy.

  22. I hear you. I so hear you.

    When D was a newborn, he ended up with jaundice and had to get I don’t know how many blood draws. Sometimes nursing while they pricked him helped, other times not. At 2 months he got a UTI and had to get pricked again, and get an IV. It sucked. It was horrible. Then just last week we had to go to the hospital due to a respiratory infection, and I had to help hold him down while the nurses tried FOUR TIMES to get a damn IV in him. Then for 2 days after we had to get him to puff from an inhaler every 4 hours, while holding him down as he screamed b/c he hated it so much.

    It sucks. It sucks so badly. Unfortunately, as you pointed out, sometimes these things are necessary. And you hope that one day they’ll realize that we only did it because of our love for them and to help them be healthy.

    I think the only thing we can really do is try to prepare them ahead of time (I believe strongly in never trying to fool them out of a medical procedure, but instead to talk about what’s going to happen to they can know what to expect and be a bit more prepared), be there to comfort them during, and then try to help them process the events afterwards.

    My mom is a family therapist and works a lot with clients who have undergone trauma. It so happens she just attended a workshop on helping young children deal with trauma by using a technique of telling them stories of a child (either of themselves or a child that’s very much like them) who undergoes the experience they just did. For example, “There was one a little boy who had blonde hair and brown eyes, and he loved to ride his bike and play with his toy cars. But one day that boy got sick and had trouble breathing, so his mom and dad had to take him to the hospital. The nurses there had to put a needle in his arm to give him medicine, which he needed to get better, but the needle hurt a lot…” etc. You notice the reaction of the child as you get to parts of the story that might cause an emotional reaction in them, and kind of repeat the story over time until they seem comfortable with it and ok. (That’s the basic short explanation she gave me when we talked about it, I can get you in touch with her if you want more details/instruction). The point is to help them process the information and event in a more calm manner so it doesn’t remain a disturbing memory, but instead something they understand and can let go of.

    Also, you may have already done this but if you ever need to get blood drawn you could take him with you to watch, so he sees you go through the same thing and be ok.

    My heart goes out to you. HUGS

  23. We went through something similar with a series of more-or-less monthly strep culture tests. Between the ages of 2 1/2 and 3 1/3, our Little Tiger had a high fever every month, and sometimes the results showed strep, sometimes not.

    He is still somewhat traumatized by it, but now that he’s nearly seven we can really talk about these things. If we’re going to the doctor, I tell him that’s where we’re headed – not hours in advance, but usually shortly before we need to leave – with the goal of neither springing it on him, nor causing hours of fruitless worry. I then let him ask what I expect the doctor will do, and I’ll be as honest as possible. “You *might* need to get a strep test, and for sure you’ll need to let the doc see your throat, but I’d be very surprised if you had to get a shot.” I remind him he can have a sucker afterward from the nurse. I explain why it’s important that we do the test, and what kind of medicine he might get it the doctor deems it necessary.

    We couldn’t have those kinds of conversations when he was 3, but we can now, and it’s because we’ve gradually built up to them as his understanding has increased. Throughout all of this, his trust in me and his dad seems never to have been rattled.

    Having that basis for communication was invaluable when he broke his arm this winter and all sorts of interventions were required. He needed an IV and complete sedation. He understood that surgery was a possibility. He was able to trust me and his dad through all of the pain and trauma.

    There’s more to that story that still has me enraged, but what’s relevant here is that kids gradually grow to understand that you are protecting them. They recognize what Sara Ruddick calls “preservative love.” This is what helps them to process the experience as a violation of their autonomy, but NOT a violation of your relationship or a breach of your trust and love. I realize that putting “love” and “violation of autonomy” into the same sentence is skidding on thin ice, because of course real abusers all too readily make that connection. But our children put these experiences into context. They interpret them as they get older. If they see us teach and model that bodily autonomy is a core value, they will be okay, I think.

    I picture you having conversations with the Boychick when he’s in early gradeschool, where you can both debrief each other on what you’ve gone through together.

  24. Pingback: Reply-turned-post: teaching patience « Raising My Boychick

  25. You’ve gotten some sound advice above. I’d echo some of it to say, that it has to be done, and it totally sucks. The best you can do is talk to him about it. Talk talk talk. Be open about your feelings and his. And as he gets a little older help him understand WHY you had to make him do it and how hard it is for him and for you. Opening his lines of communication about his feelings will help him channel any negative reactions he is having and keep him feeling good about your choices.

  26. Oh dear, that sounds hard for everyone. My immediate thought was that it’s really not that hard to get blood out of another person. What I meant is, it’s not a really complicated skill. And how much blood do they need? Perhaps it would be possible to investigate doing this yourself at home, perhaps while he is sleeping or something.

    Or perhaps if it was done at home, it wouldn’t need to be done while he was sleeping.

    Where I live, in British Columbia, Canada, I have a friend who has a severe needle anxiety (among other severe anxiety issues that he lives with). As a result, when he needs to give a blood sample, a public health nurse comes to his house, takes his blood, and sits with him for an hour to make sure he’s okay. He has no problems with it done in this scenario. Maybe there are other alternatives, like this, to going into a clinic?

  27. Nothing else I can say that hasn’t already been said.
    I remember having to take my oldest in when she was just over a year, and almost until she was two. She had to get blood drawn for lead levels, they were high. First it was the finger prick, and she didn’t like it, but she tolerated it. Next came drawing blood from her arm, that was horrible.
    She knew whenever we went in to the hospital what was coming. She didn’t care that she got a sticker and sucker afterward. I did the best I could, and that was to hold her while she screamed, let her know I was there, and it had to be done. We had to make sure she was healthy.

  28. Oh I haven’t got any answers!
    Just wanted to offer some solidarity, as we go through a similar thing with my son.
    He has to have regular sputum tests, where they stick a suction tube down his throat to make him cough and suck up sputum from his lungs. He has blood draws too but is okay with that. But he HATES the sputum tests. We’ve done lots of things I’m not proud of – holding him down, tricking him into opening his mouth, bribes. It is just awful. But I actually have to admit to being a little bit proud of him, how much he stands up for himself, refuses to give in to bribes or fall for tricks.
    The last time was much easier, as he knew what was happening and seemed to accept that there was nothing he could do, so he co-operated to get it over and done with quicker. And he knew there was an ice-cream at the end of it.
    So it was easier, but I still felt awful because he was obviously so sad about it, and I didn’t like the resignation, his loss of spirit.
    As he is getting older, I try to be really honest with him about it, explaining what’s happening and what it’s for, offering empathy. It helps a bit. I hope that at least we can maintain trust in our relationship. Even if sometimes bad things have to happen.
    But I don’t think there’s a perfect mutually agreeable solution. No such thing as perfect parenting.
    Thanks for sharing that. It helps to hear others go through similar things!

  29. Hi, I’m a friend of Aphie’s and found you through her. I’m not a mum but I have had epilepsy (diagnosed since age 6, probably from birth) and I thought maybe my experience with blood test/draws might help you.

    I hated blood tests as a child and needed them a lot as they balanced my medications. I’d be screaming, have several nurses holding me down, the whole 9 yards. But I am not traumatised as an adult by those experiences as a child, because I was told why I had to have the pain. I can have blood tests now without distress, even though I am the invisible vein woman and the nurses often need a couple of attempts.

    However, the thing that really was damaging was not knowing anyone else with epilepsy until I was 17, and thinking that I was the only one and it was shameful. From what I can tell of your posts (and the fact Aphie thinks you’re great – and she’s a great mum) you’re a good mother. So I suggest not fretting so much about this and carry on doing what your doing now. A relaxed mum makes a more relaxed child, right?

    But, if you’re not already, then I suggest getting your boychick to meet other people with the same condition, ideally slightly older than him, and keep that contact as he grows up. So he has someone to share these experiences with, so he knows he’s not alone. And so if something new is happening, he can find out what its like from someone who has been through it.

    That’s my view. I hope it helps.

  30. We faced similar issues, but with vesicourteral reflux. DD would begin to panic as soon as we pulled into the urologist’s parking lot at children’s hospital. There is nothing I did that I could say, this, this made it better. This made it tolerable. But knowing that her health, her future, her life depended on it, that is why I’m the parent – I can see the long road, I can see the path that happens if the testing and treatment doesn’t occur, and I have the responsibility to carry the burden of ensuring her future, even if it means holding her while she screams today. There are drugs that can be givin to relax them before the more traumatic of tests, and we found these to be life savers. But for the routine tests, all you can do is all you are doing. Breast, ice-cream, hugs, stickers, and love, love, love. For the mama’s – for whom it is mentally exhausting, make sure you have a bottle of wine for yourself (or a box of chocolate, or time to go for a run, read poetry, whatever works for you), a support person to lean on later or during, and make sure the care team of doctors and nurses respects your little and you, so that YOU can trust them too. It took switching drs for us, but once I trusted the specialists, I was more at ease with myself and the decisions being made. I had to KNOW this was necessary and why to fully be able to forgive myself for what was happening. Hang in there. No one said being a mama was easy, and they damn sure never said it would be so dang hard sometimes.

  31. I just wanted to add my sympathy to the comments here – it’s a hard question, how to deal with that sort of thing. I read some and saw the alternates (try it at home, etc) and didn’t read all but had some thoughts to add – maybe take him with you when you need to get a routine blood draw (if you ever do), so he can see that it’s not just something that he has to experience?

  32. I feel your pain. Twice a week. Our son was diagnosed with PKU four days after entering the world. Our feelings were not dissimilar to your family’s. We hated that we had to use our own hands to hurt him twice a week for his blood draws. We have to do this ourselves, at home and mail the samples to the university hospital and then wait a week for the results. It’s maddening. Some times our son makes no fuss at all. Other times, his whole body shakes with fear and dread. My heart breaks. But all the same if we do not do it he will become retarded and eventually die. So I suppose it all must boil down to the weight of the thing. It is more important that he thrive and live than to not cause him fear and discomfort.
    Good luck and congratulations on having all these lovely people here for you to lend you their ears and shoulders.

  33. This is an older post, but I did want to comment. I am a homebirth midwife and have recently started doing some at-home labs. Its not something I do all day, every day, so I’m not the best at it. Nevertheless, I am frequently told that my blood draws are the least painful ones my clients have ever had. I know my skills are not that great. But I know that they are at home and less afraid and feel more in control. Just like in birthing, at home we feel less fear and pain. Good luck to you. I do think you could learn to do it yourself. Kids veins are trickier, but if you think it would be easier on everyone, its certainly not rocket science.

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