Parenting Preemies

3 Aug

 No parent dreams of spending time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Most of us plan to have children and then the imagination takes us on a journey, but never to a place so dark an…

Source: Parenting Preemies

Parenting Preemies

3 Aug

NICUday1a Day 1

No parent dreams of spending time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Most of us plan to have children and then the imagination takes us on a journey, but never to a place so dark and surreal as the NICU.  We make love, we hope, we pee on sticks, and from the moment that stick changes our lives forever, we dream of what he or she will bring to life!

We get ultrasounds.  We find out if it is a boy or a girl–or choose to be surprised.  In 1976 when I had my first pregnancy, this option did not exist.  Fifteen years later, I had two ultrasound exams.  The first on October 2nd showed that I was 5-6 weeks pregnant.  I was thrilled.  The father was apprehensive because we were not living together at the time I found out I was pregnant, and although we had seen each other frequently in August, he was aware that I had dated someone else in mid September.  I understood his skepticism about the paternity of this child, but I knew without a doubt he was the father.

Nobody dreams of starting a family this way.

I had been dreaming of my second chance at motherhood for more than a decade.  I had failed on my first opportunity–single parenting in 1977 turned out to be too hard for someone with too much empathy.  It was excruciating to watch my little angel’s future swirling down the toilet because of my stupidity.  She deserved better (than me).

Fifteen years later, the joy of being pregnant was an early Christmas present.  I was so happy!  I was relieved.  It had taken so long–many years since I had stopped taking birth control pills.  I was past the point of seeking help from a fertility doctor (my ex husband was supposed to go first because that is the way they figure out why you are not getting pregnant).  Anyway, this is not about how we get pregnant, it is about parenting preemies.  My point is, none of us ever imagined being in the NICU.  One does not know what a NICU is until one wishes they did not know.

My second ultrasound was on December 31st.  “Have you been spotting?” the technician asked.  Spotting–you mean bleeding?  No.  Why did she ask?  Was something wrong?  There was…a “partial placenta previa”…that meant there was a risk of rupture.  Nobody said that word then.  Rupture.  Nobody mentioned the probability of a premature rupture of membranes, a different kind of PROM.  No, the only hint of a warning received at that poorly managed prenatal clinic was a yawning instruction that if  I started “spotting” to call the clinic.  This is where Day 1 in the NICU begins.  With an innocent mistake like this.  Yes, I did start spotting and of course called the clinic, and was told to lay down and keep my knees up until it stopped.  And whew, it stopped.  And then a week later the traumatic event happens and suddenly you have to be the grizzly mama, fighting for survival and the survival of your cub!

‘Parenting preemies’ means that long after your tiny one has grown into a fine young man pursuing his dream through a college degree, you are still concerned about all tiny ones because you shared the NICU experience with 31 flavors of family.  There were 30-plus babies in there on any given day.  My son’s NICU was a Level 4, and the premier hospital for preemies in the region.  Babies were flown in helicopters to this hospital because these neonatologists and their team were best in class.  These specialists were consulted by doctors from all over the globe!   That’s how lucky my tiny one was–but don’t think for a second that that was sufficient to give me an ounce of peace.  You know the agony of which I speak!

Day 1 of the NICU holds the terror and nausea and numbness of a shell-shocked combat veteran.  It took me five hours to go downstairs to see him there like that, not because I slept for five hours after surgery, not because I was unable to get from the fourth floor to the first floor…it took five hours to go to the NICU because something was absolutely blocking me from even thinking about it.

So today, for no apparent reason other than I simply stumbled onto something about it that has to be brought to light, 24 years and 163 days since it happened, I extend a hand to those who are parenting preemies today in the NICU…and today in the sensory integration playground…and today in the pediatrician’s waiting room.  I reach back to tell you it is going to be okay-ish.  Hang tough.  These tiny ones are mighty big fighters!


Carma & her son on graduation day, BHHS 2011

Addie’s Little Angel

4 Aug

Recently I learned that the difficulties my granddaughter has had in school are known as Asperger’s Syndrome, and that there is an organization that trains dogs to help kids with Asperger’s – AMAZING!!!  Now I am learning about Asperger’s and doing all I can to help spread social understanding and acceptance, as well as the wonderful news that Little Angels Service Dogs exist!

Please share and if you can donate anything at all, please do!  Share and share and share – that is so helpful!!!   My granddaughter’s story is at, scroll down to Addie, age 11.  Please share the link to help raise awareness and spread KINDNESS!!!  Please take a few moments to learn about Asperger’s and to teach your children to recognize it in their classmates and to be sympathetic and respectful of their special challenges in social settings, especially at school!  THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

This is my granddaughter, Adairah ("Addie")

This is my granddaughter, Adairah (“Addie”)

Gramma Carmels

Gramma Carmels, Tessa, Addie & Chelsea

Making Amends

14 Jun

It’s Father’s Day and that, for a lot of men, means a healthy reminder that it is never too late to make amends!  The attempt to make amends takes tremendous courage.  Before you consider how to go about making amends to children whose faith in you, and in men, and in God as a Father figure, has been damaged by your repeated failures to act like a man and keep your promises, a word of advice from a grownup daughter of a lame dad who never attempted to make amends.

Step 1.  Put yourself in the child’s shoes.  Stop thinking of yourself, your feelings, your reasons, your circumstances, your excuses.  The fact is, whatever you did (or did not do, and that is the problem), you were the adult, and they were the child, and no matter how mature they seem to you now — that little boy or girl is still inside, those memories of pain, fear, confusion, doubt, hopelessness…those feelings are still attached to thoughts of you.  The moment they found out you could not be counted on for love and support — that is the nerve touched at every thought of you, and they have to set that aside and try to override the negative emotions with rationalization.

Note:  Even if they reject your attempt to make amends, the fact that you knew that was a probability (deserved) and that you attempted anyway — that you were willing to risk pain yourself in order to heal theirs — it at least gives Men and Dads and God as a Father figure a better reputation!

Step 2.  Think carefully about the approach.  More often than not the problem is not the problem — the problem is how you approach the problem.  A handwritten letter of apology in the mail might be a nice touch, unless there is a restraining order in place, in which case, you should follow the law to the letter of it on how to communicate with those you have already traumatized.

Note:  If you write a letter, don’t write about the weather or the hooker you’re trying to save, and never lay blame on anyone but yourself for your failures to act as a responsible parent.  YOU chose to put your impregnating device into an impregnable place.  YOU chose to do things, or not do things, that were destructive.  So, no excuses and no blame game.

Step 3.  Don’t ask for anything in return and don’t expect that all will be forgiven.  Even if you are so lucky as to be forgiven, verbally, the negative feelings and memories will take a long, long time to heal, and you obviously have some growing to do as a human being to understand how bad what you did (or did not do) was and why trusting you enough to let you back into their world will take a lot of positive reinforcement initiated by you.  BABY STEPS:  Give your word on little things, and then keep your word on little things.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Don’t tell lies, fibs, or exaggerations of the truth — be straight.  Don’t introduce your young adult children to your hooker girlfriend.  Don’t leave porn out where your grownup daughter can see it when she finally comes to spend a little time with you.  Don’t tell your children you can’t help them even a little bit with college or rent, when your checkbook shows $500 here and there paid to your 21-year-old friend named Pam.  Someday, you too will have a heart attack or stroke, and your checkbook will become part of the family record.  If you are a sex addict, own up to it and get some real help!

It’s time to man up!  Do or die in dishonor.

Note to the idiot who screwed his many second chances to be the hero to my son:  This is not an invitation to bother me, or him.  We stopped caring about you years ago when you failed to attempt to make amends when it would have made a difference.  It’s definitely too late for you.  Remember the time you were concerned about his well being and asked to speak to him on the phone when you called my best friend’s house the week we left?  Remember when you wrote to him c/o the Safe House PO Box?  Remember when you cared enough to prove to him that you had stopped abusing drugs and alcohol?  Remember when you saw the happy tears in his face?  No?  You don’t remember that?  Hmm.  I wonder how you could have forgotten doing such important things.  Oh well.  Whatever.  Your loss.  Remember the judge’s words, recorded in court, “Leave her alone…no contact…?”  Good.  At least you remember that!  Don’t make me file another restraining order.

Confessions of a Welfare Mom

19 Sep
2002 Carma&Son

Geology Badge, Webelos 2002

I am deeply offended by Mitt Romney’s accusation that welfare=laziness. When my son was born tragically early, I could not return to work – he would have died. I lost everything. I had perfect credit for 8 years. I’m a mere secretary with a  GED, and I had never looked for government handouts. And when the State Medicaid program paid for my son’s healthcare in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, I thought, well, everyone in my family has been paying taxes all their lives and we’ve never been on welfare, so I guess that’s what we paid for. Also, for 12 years I did valuable community service as a volunteer for families. I was part of a NICU support group, I founded a Young Astronauts Science & Math Club, I was a Cub Scout Den Leader, Registrar, Treasurer, Activities Planner, and Child Protection Training advocate. I also arranged amazing Science field trips for the homeschool community in Colorado Springs. I helped my neighbors. I forged a relationship with our Muslim neighbors that made a difference in the lives of Christians and Muslims there. I worked super hard to pay my debt to society. I am deeply offended by Romney’s attitude, and anyone who has that attitude is part of the problem with America.  If you agree, you are welcome to share my story with others.


Science & Math Club, YEARS in the Rockies 1998-99

In 2004, I started from scratch with nothing but a 13-year-old mini van, what I could fit into it, and $2000 cash thanks to Earned Income Credit on my federal tax return. My husband at the time was mentally unstable, self medicating, and unpredictably violent – it was unsafe for me to remain in Colorado. I took my son, not his (he never adopted), and came to California where I had 3 friends who know my word is gold. My friends helped me by loaning me furniture & small appliances, and loaning me money for rent. All of which I returned and paid back the following year. Today, I own my own home. I did it all on my own. With money I saved in my 401k – which took quite a hit in 2008, thanks to the de-regulated investment industry and white collar criminals. I bought the home based on my own good credit, with money I borrowed from my 401k. I am also paying my son’s tuition at CSU this year – not the government, not the taxpayer – I am, out of my secretary’s salary.

My son is an AP Scholar. He’s never taken drugs, gotten drunk, or taken advantage of anyone in any way. He’s the most decent kid you could find in America. He hates no one. He ridicules no one. He is kind, thoughtful, thrifty – everything a Scout is asked to be EXCEPT he knows that gay doesn’t rub off on anyone and it isn’t the cause of HIV.

My son was raised on welfare for the first 2 years of his life. Then I worked part time and got SSI for 2 years because of his special needs, and then therapy paid off and he no longer had special needs or SSI. Thank you very much. So what taxpayers did is invest in an extraordinary human being who is contributing to the quality of life in everyone who knows him. And I am quite certain that my 12 years of community service as a volunteer has more than made up for the help I needed from taxpayers!

Furthermore, my entire family are part of the 47% working poor and most of them are Republicans who would rather die than need food stamps. My schizophrenic brother could have gotten welfare, but he didn’t want to. Instead, he washed dishes, collected recyclables, and went hungry. Then, hopeless, in 1983 he committed suicide. Partly, society is to blame for stigmatizing our poor and disadvantaged citizens. My brother was a great writer and could have written something that might have changed lives if he wasn’t constantly shunned, feared, and talked about socially as a burden.

My entire family is part of that 47% – hardworking, good citizens. Honest, decent, nice people, several with some pretty serious existing conditions. It pains me that some of them fail to respect what this President has accomplished.

Bottom line, in my opinion:  There is little difference between Corporate Welfare and Social Welfare.  Both are essential to a thriving community and require wisdom and integrity.  We have seen plenty of examples of abuse of corporate welfare, too, and they have done great harm to our economic health as a nation.

Carma Chan
Tarzana, California

Author, 10 Most Annoying Things People Say to NICU Parents
and Memoirs of a Remarkable Survivor

Jaycee Dugard demonstrates the best revenge.

11 Jul

Last night I watched Diane Sawyer’s interview with Jaycee Dugard, who was violently ripped from her family at age 11 and found 18 years later.  One can easily feel the range and depth of hate, outrage, shock, and bewilderment of the mother, but more riveting than the reality horror show of two monsters preying on children to feed their narcissism was the child’s victorious spirit!  “Living well is the best revenge,” it has been said, but few adults practice that wisdom.  An 11-year-old girl, now in her early 30s and the mother of two daughters she gave birth to at age 14 and 17 while enslaved and terrorized, demonstrates this better than anyone!  She will not allow the monsters to devour one more morsel of her identity or rob her of one more minute of happiness.  She will not spend her time getting even in noble ways, such as championing a cause that should have been championed by the police who were grossly negligent of their duty to monitor a convicted child rapist who was on parole during the entire 18 years he kept Jaycee locked in his back yard.  Even during her captivity, she spent her lonely thousands upon thousands of hours befriending spiders and stray kittens, journaling, and dreaming of seeing her mom again.Jaycee is a remarkable woman whose attitude about surviving child rape and extreme isolation is a profound inspiration!  I hope her mother will follow her example, and let the system correct itself.  She already lost enough time and joy with her daughter.

It is highly unlikely that the reader has ever experienced anything close to the horror and losses dealt this child.  Learn from her!  Read her memoir:


Barnes & Noble:


A Stolen Life book cover


Carma Chan rarely blogs.  Jaycee’s triumph deserves recognition and is worthy of mention!

Twitter @Carma_Chan

Holy aardvark, Batman!

30 May

Copyright Dave Sim 1978

Readers of indie comics know immediately who’s in the news again today.  His name is Cerebus, the aardvark barbarian turned prime minister turned pope anti-superhero, created by Dave Sim.  Word on the street is that Dave–can we call him Dave?–renounced his title as ‘Godfather of indie comics’ years ago when it caught on, so we’ll call him champion of indies.  He has to be happy today–his Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to digitize Cerebus and offer it as a web comic more than reached its goal within hours and doubled overnight!  What does that mean for Cerebus fans?  You will be able to pass on this classic anti-superhero, intelligent and amusing story to your grandchildren to read on their electronic tablets.  Cerebus will be going everywhere in the virtual world faster than a speeding bullet.

For those who don’t already know the most amazing thing about Cerebus, this aardvark exists because a man said he would do something impossible and then he did it.  He did it on time and without excuse or apology for the unexpected curves.  Dave started in December 1977.  He proclaimed he would create 300 issues.  This in a time when Marvel and DC were whipping up superheroes like cotton candy.  Cerebus is now a 6,000-page series of graphic novels that is as well-known by geeks as The Watchmen.

This success at Kickstarter is good news for the Cerebus film project that is currently in post-production, directed by Oliver Simonsen.  Although it is not directly connected to this Kickstarter campaign, the popularity of Cerebus is thus established and will help sweeten the pot for the production crew when it comes time to negotiate the tricky business of film distribution rights and its theatrical debut.  The film is slated for release in 2013.



Written by Carma Chan
Copyright 2012

Twitter: @cerebusfilm @cerebustv @carma_chan #buggidoscodge

Check out the perks for Kickstarter donations from $1 up

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