DSAM Day 24: Becoming a Big Sister

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.

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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.

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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?”

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But as the weeks flew by I began to wonder, how do I prepare a 1 year old for a new sibling?

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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.

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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?

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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….”

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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Welcome to Oz

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When my daughter was 6 months old, we began planning for our second child. Because of how long it took to get pregnant before, we thought we should start early just in case. Turns out that the rumors are true- you are much more fertile the second time around- it only took 3 months to fall pregnant with baby #2!

I found out I was pregnant 5 days before we moved into our first house, we were so glad we chose to buy the 3 bedroom instead of the 2 bedroom! As James skipped out of town on business, I, once again, was left to move all of our stuff while pregnant. (I am not a fan of this trend and will have make sure to break it when baby #3 is on board).

They say no pregnancy is ever the same- not between you and your friends and not even between your first and your second. I found this to be true. My pregnancy with Lily was pretty easy physically but hard emotionally. This time proved the opposite.

Everything seemed to happen much sooner this time around, the fatigue, the sickness, various pains and even the baby bump! Although I entered into this pregnancy with much greater confidence than my last one, I still became petrified before each dr appointment. Will they find the heartbeat? Is the baby growing?

A truly miraculous thing occurs when you are busy chasing around a 1 year old, time passes by quickly.

Before I knew it, I was out of the first trimester and speeding head long into the second. When I first became pregnant, the burning question from every one was if we would do the testing for chromosomal disorders. As you remember, we didn’t with Lily. Since Lily has Down syndrome, our risk for having another child with DS automatically goes up to 1/100.

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This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me though. The type of Down syndrome that Lily has, is not hereditary. So why then are my odds automatically increased? Regardless, we chose to decline testing this time around too.

Our 20 week ultrasound was a huge marker for us. This is the day we not only find out the gender of our baby but if there is anything noticeably wrong. This was the ultrasound that changed our lives forever just a little over a year ago. And I had to brave it alone.

The first thing I did was inform the ultrasound tech that I have a daughter with DS and we had so many troublesome ultrasounds with her, that I am a PRO at reading the face of the tech. So please be upfront and honest with me, if you see anything wrong. She must have liked my candidness because she had no problem with what I said and was very explanatory during the entire ultrasound.

Including the part where she said, “Hmmmm hang on a minute.” and “He has a shadow at the base of his spine.”

You have to be kidding me. Whaaat??

I was then referred for a high definition ultrasound. Before I left my ultrasound, I spoke with my dr. he reassured me that he didn’t believe it was anything but wanted to be sure. Although I was inclined to believe him, I still traveled home with a heavy heart.

I revisited some similar thoughts I had from a year ago- only this time it was different. This time I knew that things were not always as they appeared and that through the fear of the unknown lies an incredible blessing.

That evening was not a depressing one, quite the opposite! I had the tech put the gender of our baby in an envelope so that James and I could learn about him/her together. So at dinner, we gave the envelope to Lily, to open.

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The anticipation was mounting as Lily tore open the envelope. Did we want a girl or a boy? A brother or a sister? I thought at first another little girl would be better because sisters close in age could be close and fun. I also thought that having a boy would be so exciting.

As the little piece of paper appeared from inside the envelope, James smiled big and said “BOY!”.

My heart soared with excitement. I was going to have a son! A little boy to fit in so perfectly with our daughter. It was at this moment I began to really bond with the little soul growing inside me. He had an identity. He was my baby boy!

The next week brought the high definition ultrasound. This time I was joined by James and Lily. James and I shared an all too familiar look of love, fear and faith as I laid on the table.
And suddenly there he was, my son. He waved and looked at us, his picture crystal clear. Despite the anticipation, my heart filled with love and warmth. Even Lily smiled at the monitor!

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The ultrasound tech spoke easily with us and as she referenced his spine, she said “I see nothing abnormal.” Since the picture was so clear, neither did I. Flooded with relief and gratitude, I finally felt enjoyment receiving an ultrasound.

At 27 weeks, I was wheeled to labor and delivery to get checked out as I was having contractions. I was nervous because I didn’t know I was in labor with Lily and her heart rate was plummeting with each contraction. Would it be the same with my son? Is he okay? I could feel him moving. After being hooked up to the monitors, they validated that I was in fact, having regular contractions but I was not in labor. More importantly, my son was just fine! I got to home just a couple hours later.

The rest of the pregnancy became filled with strong kicking, lots of weight gain 😦 and massive hip pain! Once I hit 36 weeks, I celebrated. I had now made it farther than i did with Lily! I may actually make it to full term!

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I began to get excited as I assumed I would go into labor any day now. I didn’t believe I could carry to term even though I wanted too. Soon my excitement faded as I entered into my 38th week. Now I began to understand why so many of my mommy friends would exclaim that they were done being pregnant!

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Just when I thought my belly couldn’t stretch any farther and my hips couldn’t handle the pain any longer, I woke up in labor.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 I woke up a mother of one and a family of three and went to bed a mother of two and a family of four.

Labor still eludes me a little bit- my contractions are so different than what I thought they would be and I have learned twice now to follow my gut on whether or not I am in labor. I simply felt sick and crampy. I had my grandmother come over to help with Lily and James left work early to take me to the hospital.

I was scheduled to have a repeat c-section on Friday, July 5. I figured I was probably only in early labor and they would send me home to wait til Friday. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, and here is yet another example: No one showed any record of my scheduled c-section. Somehow, although planned back in April, it never made it to their books. Let me just say here, that I found it very strange to “plan” my child’s birthday. This is something one is asked to do when having a schedued cesearan, I learned. After waiting a couple of hours for my dr, he appeared and said that since I am in labor, would I like to go ahead and have this baby tonight?

Um….yeah! Although I was only 39 weeks on the dot, I was so over being pregnant.  Since my son was doing fine and not in any distress, everything moved at a much calmer pace than with my daughter. I chose 6pm as a good time to deliver. This gave me a little over an hour to mentally and emotionally prepare to meet my little boy. Or so I thought….since Lily was an emergency, I didn’t notice all the prep work that was neededbefore surgery. I was moved to my room where the anastethiologist came and hung out with me. She was very sweet and comforting. My nurses came and went, placing my IVs, bringing in the baby’s stuff, shaving me (soooo uncomfortable and awkward!) and even bringing me a charger for my phone! Then it was time to go to the OR. But wait a minute, I hadn’t had time to prepare!

I thought that I wouldn’t have any anxiety this time around. After all I had been through this before and this time was so much calmer and relaxed. But surgery is surgery and I soon found myself shaking and wanting to run away. I told the anastsiologist that I was starting to panic. She handled my anxiety so well. After she administered my spinal and laid me down, I finally got to see the one face that would hold me together, James. And it was his face and the touch of his hand that prevented another anxiety attack when my blood pressure dropped and the meds made it difficult to breathe for a minute.

After a small eternity, the surgeon told the nurses to lower my drape and told me to peer over. I had every intention of looking at myself cut open (the biologist in me couldn’t resist the opportunity) but my thought was interupted by an abrupt cry. As I gazed over my drape, I laid eyes on my son. I am incapable of depicting my feelings in that moment. They were so much beyond joy and love. He was huge! And he had lots of brown hair! I wanted to reach out and grab him and hold him close. It was like seeing a piece of my heart manifested outside my body and wow! I mean wow!!

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Very shortly afterward, James brought him over to me and I got to touch him and kiss him. Since there was no rush to hurry him off, I soaked up the moment. Then James took him out the door to wait for me while I was being put back together. Finally after what felt like forever, I was wheeled into my room where my husband and son were waiting for me. I immediately put him to my breast and he nursed like a champ!

He was here. He made it. He was healthy and beautiful and he was mine!

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