THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Procrastination works: When late is more than better than never

My second son was born a year and a half ago with hemifacial microsomia, which means half of his face is deformed.

I knew the minute he came out. I tried to tell myself that maybe it was because babies' heads are scrunched right after vaginal birth. I went nuts. I summoned every available professional– there were very few that late at night– for a diagnosis.

He did not pass his hearing test, and one kidney did not look right. The doctor told me that the kidney problem is common, and he just won't be able to play contact sports.

I must have looked really bad because social workers started streaming in. I am crying so hard it takes five minutes to tell my brother that my husband will die when he hears this so I have to hide it from him forever.

This is when my brother says, "I'm coming there."

I say, "No. I don't want you to see the baby."

The world can publish ten thousand books about how parents love any child they get. And it's true, but it's also true that there's a moment, a short moment, when you think you might die from the news.

My husband came back right after my phone call to my brother, walked in, and I said, "The baby is deformed." "You think I can't see that?," he said. "I know."

We took the baby home two days later. We diagnosed him by looking at pictures on the Internet. We were absolutely stunned to see a whole population of children who had the same weird deformity.

I brought him to New York University's Crainiofacial Clinic. Hemifacial microsomia is a complicated deformity because it can affect eyes, ears, nose and throat, all at once. Many specialists work together to come up with a plan for surgery. At my son's doctor's appointment, I presented him at the front of a room, with a social worker next to me, while fifteen doctors asked questions and examined him.

My son's surgery was performed by the best team in the country for hemifacial microsomia. All the doctors were incredibly compassionate. The support team of social workers, speech pathologists, and administrators always knew what my son and my family needed before we did, and they figured out how to get it. My son has a scar, and his face is a little uneven, but many people don't even notice at first glance.

I told myself that I should write thank you notes because the team at NYU changed my son's life and helped my family at a time when we really needed it. That was six months ago. It's been on my to-do list for six months.

Last week I admitted to myself that my son will probably need more surgery once his jaw grows to full size. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I had better write those thank you notes or we won't get into NYU for the next round of surgery.

So tonight, I finally wrote them. There were a lot. Each note made me cry. I thought about how much people did for us. How kind they were. How fragile I was. How tiny the baby was. Everything. Every sentence made me cry.

And I learned a bit about procrastination. I had been so angry at myself for waiting so long to write these thank you notes. But I do not procrastinate because I am lazy or unorganized. I am not those things. I procrastinated because I could not bring myself to think about the operation again. I was not emotionally capable of writing the notes until tonight. Sometimes procrastination is the best tool we have for taking care of ourselves. 



Your story is wonderful. I'm amazed you were able to write thank yous after 6 months! My son was born with a life threatening birth defect. I scoured the internet too and ended up giving birth at New York Presbyterian because their pediatric surgery team was the best for his defect. He will be four next week and, although I did write thank yous (when he was 8 months old or so), I am just now really recovering emotionally.

I think you are very brave and smart for giving yourself a break -- procrasination (and a short one at that!) is a good thing in these cases. Good luck with everything and take care of your self.

I was born with Hemifacial Micorsomia in 1952. My life has been entirely normal. When I was little I'd get other kids asking what happened to my right ear but since I've become an adult the comments have been so rare that I honestly can't remember the last time someone asked. Over the years I've met 5 others with the same condition and we all have lived very average lives. About 13 years ago I met the mother of an 8 year old with the condition who'd done a lot of studying on the subject. She told me something I hadn't known, that it's very common for children with Hemifacia Microsomia to be well above average in intelligence. (not to blow my own horn but I was blessed in that department too) I think your child will live a better life than I did because there have been so many advancements in the past 55 years that he can take advantage of.

Best wishes to you both.

Robert Jensen