November 2, 2012:
In the midst of closing on our very first home, moving out of my grandmothers’ home and getting used to a pre-toddler who can crawl everywhere…..I had lost track of my cycle and realized with a heart thumping moment that I was 2 days late..
2 days late equaled 4 weeks pregnant with baby #2! Lulu was gonna be a big sister!!
Now, of course she had no idea what I was telling her but was laughing and smiling right along with me.
As the first trimester set in, so did the fatigue and sickness. Lily seemed to enjoy the extra snuggle time she was getting as I began to cuddle up with her and take our daily naps together.
The second trimester brought the baby bump and another oportunity to share the news with Lily. Little did Ozzy know, but at only 20 weeks gestational age, he was already teaching his big sis things. She learned “belly” by lifting up my shirt and playing with my obnoxious looking navel and patting my enormous tummy. At this time I began to use the word “brother”. And soon Lily was proudly pointing to, patting and even hugging my belly every time I asked her, “Where is your brother?”
But as the weeks flew by I began to wonder, how do I prepare a 1 year old for a new sibling?
Taking some advice from Lily’s various therapists, I bought Lily a baby doll. (This was a big deal to me because I am secretly a little afraid of baby dolls- let’s just say I have a little paranormal trauma history involving dolls I still need to work through!) After picking out a baby doll that was small enough for Lily to be able to carry and not too creepy looking, I presented Lily with her first baby. She LOVED it! For about a month….then she was over it and on to other activities. So I began to use the doll to represent having a baby in my arms while playing with Lily. I also had Lily practice waiting for things and even delayed my response to her in attempt to simulate what I guessed it would be like for her while I was changing Oz, nuring Oz, etc.
Towards the end of my third trimester, we were both sick of the belly. I began to be physically incapable of playing on the floor with Lily anymore, I was too big to cuddle with her on the couch, I was in a lot of pain and was very tired. The energy in the home was thick with anticpation and everyone felt it. Lily began acting out a little- she would get frustrated with me and sometimes prefer to play with daddy over me. Her emotions intensified and she began whining and fake crying followed also by real crying sometimes.
The long awaited, blissful moment arrived and little Oz joined the world and our family. While waiting to meet my son, lying on the operating table, I had a terrifying thought- What if I have totally screwed over Lily by having another child?
I know, I know, it was a little late, lol! But the truth was and is: Yes, yes I did screw her over a little bit. She will no longer reign as the end all be all in the house, she will now find herself having to share everything she knows and holds dear. Of course she will also now have a little brother to play with, confide in, gather support from, and love.
The night Oz was born, James and I decided to have Lily come up to the hospital to meet him right away. You see, when I left our home, Lily stayed behind with my grandmother (Gma)- I was in pain and hadn’t felt well all day so I know Lily was worried. Also, I had never spent even one night away from my little girl and was very nervous about how she would handle it. My mother, brother and step-father brought Lily up to the hospital.
I made sure that I wasn’t holding Oz when Lily first entered my recovery room. I knew I probably looked funny with all the wires and hospital bed and noises. I knew Lily would probably have some memory of her time spent in the hospital when she had pnemonia and the multiple blood tests and other medical treatments she has endured. I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel when I first laid eyes on her- I wanted to grab her and kiss her and tell her how much I love her and how that although our lives have changed, my love for her has not. The look in her eyes when she saw me, made me sad. She was nervous, unsettled. I made them set her in bed with me and we hugged and kissed. Then I began to talk to her about her little brother and how mommy was fine. I was so overjoyed to have both of my children with me that it proved difficult to hold back tears.
My mother was holding Oz when Lily first laid eyes on him. Her eyes lit up and she smiled a smile that made most of my worries dissipate. However as soon as she saw daddy holding Oz and then me- her expression changed to one of concern. It was almost as if she said “Hmmmm….I don’t know about this….”
I missed her terribly while I was at the hospital but enjoyed getting to know my little man and rest up before the realities of being a mommy of two came at me full force. Oz and I came home on Sunday. Daddy and Lily picked us up and on the drive home, Lily began to break down. The rest of that day was filled with tears. It was like all of the emotional stress the last few days had been for her suddenly poured out of her. I empathized with her as it had been so hard on me to be away from her.
After that one day, Lily was ready to explore her new role as a big sister! To this day she gets more and more amazing- she gives Oz his pacifier, wipes his mouth, pats his back, gives him hugs and kisses, even rocks him in his carseat and holds up toys for him to see!
She has re-discovered her baby doll now too- she mimics my mothering and I must say she is a very good mommy! Since Oz has been born she has re-discovered boobies! She knows where hers are and will nurse her baby doll when I nurse Oz. Sometimes she brings her baby to me to nurse and when she gets upset she will lay her face on my boob (not entirely sure what to do after that – because she doesn’t remember nursing). All in all it has been so touching and heart warming to see both of my children loving one another.
Some people question whether or not it is fair to the other siblings in the house when you have a child with special needs. I have even heard people suggest maybe I should refrain from having more children because they wouldn’t get as much attention as Lily because she is special needs and will be more time consuming. To them I cry BULLSHIT.
I realize I am blessed because Lily has no major medical problems. It is true, medical problems take up a lot of time, time away from everything else in your life. But so do newborns….
The arguement that a child with special needs will take precedent over everyone else in the house and therefore take away from other children is probably a more subjective discussion.
In our household, having Lily has made James and I a much stronger couple and much closer. Lily does not take away from our relationship any more than having any child would. Now we have only been a family of 4 for a few months now but currently, Oz is at a stage of much higher maintenance than Lily- he has higher needs and therefore tends to dominate activities right now. But that will change….and then change back….and so on and so forth. See, it remains my belief that when parents choose to add another child to their family, at any given time one child may tip the balance to them.
I do believe that a child with Down syndrome benefits greatly from a having a sibling. The instinctual need to compete for resources is strong in siblings and can serve as an excellent motivator for them to keep trying, keep going. Oz will help motivate Lily to learn and try new things – maybe she won’t be as delayed? and in turn she will inspire him. Of course they will also drive each other crazy and argue and all of the other ‘fun’ stuff that goes with having a sibling (especially close in age).
Oz loves Lily- he lights up whenever she comes near him. His first laugh was because of her. He will be different because of Lily. He will have advantages others do not, He will know pure joy, pure love. He will have empathy and sensitivity and tolerance. He won’t have to learn this when he gets older, he will BE this as he grows up. I am not saying he won’t struggle – the first time some kid calls his sister a name or whenever he hears the word ‘retarded’ his heart may break a little. So yes, his journey may be a little different because of his sister, because of Down syndrome but it will still be his journey, his life.
I believe one of the best gifts I can give my children is one another. And who knows? We may just sprinkle in another sibling in the future to add to the joy of our little family!