What is it like to have a baby AFTER having a baby with Down syndrome?
I have to be honest. After everything we went through with Addison healthwise in her first year- when Carter was born, I half expected him to come out walking, talking and reading Latin simply because he didn't have a prenatal diagnosis.
After experiencing delays, four surgeries, oxygen at home, a g-tube, countless medicines and therapies etc etc etc- when anticipating a typical child, I thought that meant that he wouldn't have ANY struggles (you can laugh at me all you want, but my motherhood experience has been different than most. I think unrealistic expectations are a part of that package)
On Wednesday, Carter will be 8 months old (WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE???)
and in that time I've learned a lot about parenting a child with only 46 chromosomes. (hehe)
Here are my thoughts on the matter:
-Addison stayed so small for so long and was my little baby for a loooong time before she turned "big girl". Since Carter has grown like a small elephant on steroids- I feel like I have missed an entire stage with him.
-Whereas she would practice a skill for months and months and then finally tentatively try it, he thinks about it for maybe a day or two and then just takes off. This is both encouraging and yet incredibly frustrating. Yes, we don't have to work as hard on milestones...but the celebration is far less triumphant because of the small amount of work that it took to get there.
-I oftentimes have to stop and remind myself that he's still only a baby. Because I've waited so long for Addison to achieve certain milestones, I find myself putting pressure on Carter to get them all super fast because I somehow "deserve" that this time around (and his large size makes him seem fair game for these expectations). lol. After laughing at myself (pretty much daily), I calm down and realize to let him achieve at his own speed, just like I let Addison!
-In Addison's first year, she had at least one doctor's appointment a week (sometimes more).
We're going in a couple of weeks to Carter's (gulp) 6 month check up.
-I had to convince her to eat, and she was extremely picky- taking only a few small bites and then refusing certain textures, etc (and of course there was her g-tube). Carter's sharp bites take the varnish off of the baby spoons and the tips off of my fingers. (although he does have some slight pickyness, he really does LOVE to eat) And things that Addison before REFUSED to eat, she now loves because she watches her brother inhale them with such satisfaction. (insert evil chuckle of a plan that's working)
-I have taken great care in purchasing Addison very nice clothes. She stays in them for so long, she oftentimes wears brand new clothes out (4 seasons later). Carter has skipped several sizes entirely so the other day when he had no sleepers (unpacked) that fit him, he ended up wearing a nice girly one from his sister (he would make a pretty little girl). Yes, they are both wearing the same size 12-18 months. (they both weigh right around 22 pounds) But...I probably won't be purchasing him anything super nice until his growth levels out.
-I have worked hard to not have peg-hole expectations for Addison because of her diagnosis (instead I push her to achieve HER best), but I have a harder time with this for Carter. I oftentimes find myself insisting that he's going to be a doctor helping individuals with Down syndrome (kind of like Brian Skotko II.) Aaron always reminds me to calm down (once again) and let Carter achieve HIS best as well instead of assuming peg-hole expectations for him. I'm not sure why this is so much harder for me. Since Addison has medically prescribed limitations and Carter doesn't sometimes it's hard for me to temper my future ideals for him. (still figuring this out)
-This is going to sound weird, and some of you perhaps aren't going to understand. But having Carter truly healed me from everything I went through with Addison. It was so much more than dealing with Down syndrome. Addison had many, many, many physical battles to fight that required a lot out of a newbie mom that I'm still not sure how I made it through. Carter has been so healthy/robust from the beginning and has really completed a part of motherhood that I missed out on with Addison. Do I regret what I went through with Addison? Absolutely not- I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I love Addison and accept her and all of her experiences as the perfect plan for our family- but also? I do the same for Carter.
-The most amazing thing to me is the relationship that Addison and Carter have.
First thing in the morning when I get Addison up, she signs "Carter" and when I get him up he looks around anxiously until he spots her and then he smiles (much bigger than when he smiles at ME. sniff)
When she's in her high chair and he's circling her in his walker, she's always passing off her food to him. This morning she grinned at me with a triumphantly empty tray, and I was super proud (until I discovered her entire serving of pancakes being crushed in Carter's curious little hands a few feet away)
If she isn't being particularly gentle with him, he beams and grins "BEAT UP ON ME AGAIN!" because he loves any and all attention from her. If he gets up from his nap before she gets up from hers, he roams the house in his walker looking for her. He usually ends up in the doorway of her room, watching her sleep and waiting patiently for her to get up and play with him.
He chases her around the house in his walker and corners her in tight places, but in turn she uses him as a climbing device when she can't find her stool (true story).
I often wonder when they get older and perhaps Aaron and I aren't around anymore if he'll be willing to help take care of her. I wonder if whoever he marries someday will love Addison too. I wonder if he'll ever resent being her sister because of the extra responsibility that might fall to him. But I honestly thing that he will always love her and be there for her. Their love will change and grow as they go through different stages of life. But I truly think that he will always be her biggest cheerleader. I do think that he will always watch out for her. (I have no proof of this, just a mother's intuition and hopes for how Addison's diagnosis might mold him into a more loving and accepting individual than he might have been otherwise)...I could do an entire post on this point alone...
The truth is- even though I have two very different children- I love them both very fiercely.
I accept them both for exactly who they are.
I have "enjoyed" both of their different babyhood experiences because that's what I had to go through to get exactly them.
I think I appreciate every tiny part of Carter's babyhood so much more because of everything Addison taught me- nothing is taken for granted.
I laugh at their adorable interactions, and I look forward to seeing how this will change over time.
I love being a mother, and I love my full little nest.
(this picture needs a caption)
(and yes, I am still learning every day, and no doubt this list of observations will be drastically different even in a year. but this is my report up to date)