Dearest Little Brother,
I am writing to you tonight because you have been heavy on my heart this week. I have been feeling quite guilty about something, and I need to confess it to you/sort it all out for myself. Blogging seems to work best for me when I need to do that. So here goes:
Mommy hasn't felt quite well this week. That, along with a very busy schedule has caused a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions and not very much movement from you. You moved just enough to where I knew you were OK, but your movements were not as frequent as I thought they should be.
It got me thinking. When I was pregnant with your sister, she was very lethargic and didn't move much at all. During her non-stress tests, Mommy had to sit and eat ice cream for an hour and a half in order to get enough movements to satisfy the doctors.
Not for the first time, your lack of movement reminded me of a fear. A fear that makes me feel like the biggest hypocrite on this planet.
What if you have Down syndrome too?
What if you are born with that extra chromosome and health problems like Addison was? What if you have a seemingly never ending NICU stay, months on oxygen, a g-tube and surgeries?
What if you won't be the one to grow up to watch over your sister, protecting and slaying dragons for her? What if you need just as much protecting as she does?
Yes, your Level II ultrasound looked perfectly normal. But I know a lot of people who had perfectly normal ultrasounds and then were surprised at birth. Is that how it's going to happen for you?
When I found out that your sister had Down syndrome, my biggest fear was that I had caused it- that it was somehow my fault. My body, supposedly designed to carry perfect babies, had messed up and created a faulty one- full of health problems and a questionable future. It took me months to realize that God truly doesn't make mistakes and that's how he perfectly designed your sister.
But if it happens twice, my body is the common denominator here. Those fears and feelings all come rushing back.
While pregnant with Addison, I did everything right. I was the textbook pregnant lady with the vitamins and extra care with everything I did and ate. My biggest fault was eating too many sweet things (which explains her affinity for sweets, I suppose).
With you, I am far more relaxed, recognizing that you are being designed perfectly too, and in all reality what I do has little to do with what God has planned. I down a ridiculous amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, eat the appropriate amount of vitamins and don't sweat the small details.
But there is still this fear. This hypocritical, gnawing fear that attacked me this week especially while you weren't moving very much.
What if I finally get to hold you for the first time and I look down and see that you have almond eyes just like your sister?
This whole pregnancy, I keep imagining you as a rough and tough, capable little boy. Smart, mischievous, always on the move. Wild curly hair- I imagine you as a mini version of your dad. Perhaps you will grow up and love landscaping as much as he does. Perhaps you will work together? Perhaps you will take over the business someday?
But what if you can't work on the same level as he can? What if you are limited physically and mentally and aren't able to run the same large machines?
I was fretting and worrying about that this week.
And your daddy called me a hypocrite. He was right.
I have spent thousands of hours writing a book called No Guarantees, telling the story of how there are no guarantees in parenting. Just because I did the whole Ds thing once, doesn't guarantee that it won't happen again.
The whole overriding premise of my book is acceptance and love- stating that it doesn't matter in the long run what label your child might wear- it is still your child to love and protect- encouraging and teaching them to their full potential, whatever that might be.
And even after writing that book, I struggle, thinking, wishing and hoping that when you are born, you will be healthy and normal. Not because I wouldn't love you otherwise, but because I desperately want someone to be there for Addison when we can't be to help make her way easier through life.
Is that hypocritical? Maybe.
Even though I've been through this once- and I get so hurt when I hear other people praying that their baby be healthy and normal because that's the most important thing to them. I love Addison exactly how she is- she was very unhealthy and quite abnormal as far as things go- so to me that isn't the most important thing. But for you, little guy, I find myself torn. I don't know how to pray.
Do I pray that you're normal and go against everything that I have built up in my heart to believe about the babies that we're sent?
Do I pray for another baby with Down syndrome to love and take care of? We certainly have experience in that department, and Addison could more than show you the ropes around here.
I know I should just pray "thy will be done", but it would be nice to know what that will is.
I have really been enjoying this pregnancy. Just pregnant- no labels, no fears, no HIGH RISK neon sign flashing above my head every time I'm at the doctor's. Just a normal mom with a normal baby bump.
Is it too much to ask that that continue after your birth, little guy? Is that hypocritical to even hope that way?
Of course we will love you no matter what. Don't doubt that for a minute.
But every pregnant lady, reveling in the blossoming of her belly to house a tiny baby imagines holding that baby for the first time. Imagines life with the newborn. And I'm not sure what to imagine.
All I know is sickness, fear and a roller coaster ride that is sure to shake even the strongest when it comes to dealing with a brand new baby.
Is it wrong to want something different this time?
More than anything, I want to be able to hold you right after you're born. I want to kiss you, hold your tiny body close and proclaim my undying love. I want the doctor's to announce a clean bill of health, and I don't want ten million NICU doctors and nurses cluttering the delivery room. I want to take you home after a day or two, and I want my biggest complaint to be lack of sleep. I want to watch you develop quickly so that you can catch up to Addison and push her along. Her competitive spirit is sure to rise to the challenge.
I know what I want. But is that wrong?
Yes, I firmly believe in the message of my book, and I don't take back a single word. My struggle here is- after you already have one child with special needs, is it wrong to wish for a normal baby so that the child with special needs that you love so dearly adds another member to her support team?
Little guy, I love you dearly, and I feel so much better to have confessed this. I don't know what the magical answer is, but do know this- if you are already growing inside of me with an extra chromosome, grow away free of guilt because I will love you so fiercely and will protect and advocate as strongly for you as I do your sister.
And if not- we will love you of course just as strongly- but we will have to have longer conversations at a later time about your sister and how you'll need to watch out for her more than an average brother might have to for his sister.
Thank you for letting me vent to you, little one...and for kicking up a hearty storm while I was typing as if to assure me that you will be here for me no matter what....and for kicking in response to your sister's hand on my belly today. The look on her face was priceless...can't wait for you to see it in person.
I'm definitely still sorting out issues, but feeling somewhat consoled after this confession- feeling pretty tired now, we'll have to pick up this conversation at a later time.
See you in 12ish weeks,