I know all too well that our child’s medical concerns are something we would rather forget. Like many people, I find myself packing away memories of trauma and sadness into locked trunks deep in my brain where I can deny their existence…or better yet, repress their existence altogether. That said, I know that someday these memories will be useful, to me or to my husband or to our child. While I think it can sometimes be healthy to forget, at least on a daily basis, it is also essential to remember. Here are three reasons you will want to keep a record of your child’s illness:
- For Medical Purposes
What is the technical name of your child’s condition? What tests confirm the diagnosis? What other diagnoses accompany his or her primary concern? What surgeries or other procedures were performed and what, exactly, were their outcomes? What did the doctor say about diet and activity restrictions, some of which may not be relevant until years in the future? When you first get these answers, it seems as if they will be indelibly carved into your brain. But the fact is that over time, you will start to forget. The specifics of your child’s condition and care will start to fade into the background of new
concerns. But at some point – God forbid – you may need to know these facts to influence future care. If you do, you will want everything written down. Keeping your own records in language that you understand, with your interpretations, insights, and notes, is an additional asset both to you and to the treating physicians if you ever need it.
- For Your Child’s Understanding
Think back to your early memories. Chances are, some of these memories are kept alive by pictures that refresh them. Do you really remember your third birthday party, or do you remember the picture of this party in a scrapbook? The same way records like pictures help us tell the stories of our past, the record of your child’s illness can help him or her understand the experience. At some point when he or she is ready, your child will want to know about the condition and everything that has been “done to them”. Going through a record of your child’s illness can offer an emotionally cleansing experience of understanding and release.
- For Your Own Release
Just as I know that I can’t help but pack away my memories of trauma so that I can function day-to-day, I also know that at some point these memories must be unpacked and dealt with or they will manifest in other ways: sleepless nights, an unexplained pain, a general anxiety. A physical record of your child’s illness can help you recall, re-conceptualize, and eventually come to terms with your own trauma, when you are ready and in your own time.
Taking the time to organize these medical memories for some indistinct future when you are simply struggling to make it through the present can seem like a daunting task. But this future will arrive, and when it does, you will be happy to have this record of your child’s illness. Your child and your future self will want to know.