Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Day of Kindergarten

Dear Addison,

Today you enter Kindergarten. You, a big, beautiful, grown up little person, begin your educational journey.
It's hard to believe that you are the broken baby that I cried over in the NICU. It's hard to believe that your bouncing pony tail, infectious smile, and sparkling blue eyes are in my life when I remember all too clearly placing a trembling hand on my swollen belly 6 years ago, scared at what "Down syndrome" would mean for the baby I had yet to meet.

Because I was scared. Terrified, actually. I received your diagnosis with bitter tears and twisted it to mean whatever my prejudices wanted it to mean. But I was wrong. There was nothing to be scared of. These past five years you have spent surprising me with your brilliance and ability, delighting me with a beautiful personality, and humbling me with how blessed I am to be your mother.

Now as I think of you sitting tall in your seat marked with your name, listening to your teacher, learning alongside your peers, being a kindergartener, I am once again terrified. How will you do with the academic side of things? What if you become isolated from your peers because of your difference? What if you don't like kindergarten? What if you are made fun of and I'm not there to protect you from it? What if you struggle to follow classroom instructions and rules? What if you don't click with your new para? And right back to...what if you fall too behind in the academics to successfully remain in the mainstream classroom?
You have been begging to go to school all summer, but yesterday when you realized that "school" was no longer your safe preschool classroom with the para that you love so dearly (T), I could see you processing this all a bit differently.

I am terrified. This is a big change. For a big girl. For a big step towards the rest of your life.

And so I fall back on what you have taught me so far: do NOT I repeat DO NOT underestimate you. And so I won't. I have utmost faith and confidence in your ability to adjust to this new thing. To not only adjust and survive but to thrive while doing it. I know that you carry that infectious smile and sparkling blue eyes into the classroom with you and how can those other kids help but love you too?

Remember what we have been working on: kind hands. KIND HANDS. Treat the other students the way you want to be treated. OBEY. Do not just run off whenever you feel like it. Wash your hands. Frequently. And if you don't get something the first time? Try again. And again. And as many times as you need to to learn new things because it is worth it. (What am I talking about...YOU taught me that last point.)

I know you can do this. It might take a while for you to figure out the new classroom and the new expectations of kindergarten, but you've got this. (And I've packed your favorite chocolate milk in your lunch to help renew your superpowers halfway through the day.)

I love you, baby girl, and I'm so proud of you. You are amazing.

If you have such an awesome time at school that you forget about boring ol' mom, no worries. I'll be the one standing over here in the cheerleading outfit holding pom poms and yelling your name. (and remember who restocks the chocolate milk)

Have a beautiful first day of the rest of your life. I can't wait to hear all about it.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Baby Sister

6 years ago, I answered a phone call with much anticipation and fear. This phone call was delivering to me the results of my unborn daughter's amnio. I will never, ever forget this call.

"I'm so sorry, but your tests returned positive for Trisomy 21," said  in the most depressing voice you can imagine.

6 years, 1 beautiful daughter, 2 handsome sons, and a lot of life lessons later, the actual news of having a child with Down syndrome is no longer a horrible bit of news, but is in fact quite a beloved part of my life.

But even though the actual news of Down syndrome is no longer horrible to me, that phone call traumatized me in a way I can't even explain. In a way, this was the turning point for me as a Christian, as a mother, as a person. How was I going to respond to this "bad" news? (Turns out, badly, but we've covered this before.) I still cry when I think of this phone call. Not because I'm sad that Addison has Down syndrome but because I will never forget the devastation I felt in that moment.

Well, this week I re-lived this phone call.

The phone rang. It was my doctor's office.

"Hello, we are calling with the results from your test."

"Yes?" All of a sudden I was transported to 6 years earlier. Yes, I had the early blood test done for chromosomal abnormalities. My risk factor is higher (because I've already had a child with Down syndrome), I like to be prepared, and insurance was covering the test. Why not? The test would not change anything but just help us be prepared to welcome our newest blessing. But mostly I was convinced to take the test because they can now tell you gender. GENDER!

My hand started to shake. This was weird. I wasn't concerned about what the results were. I really wasn't.

"All of the tests came back completely normal. Your risk factor for all of the Trisomys couldn't possibly be any lower."

"And gender?"

"Yes, it looks like you will be having a baby girl." I could hear the smile in her voice.

A baby girl.

And once again, this phone call made me cry.

This was the phone call I imagined in my head 6 years ago. THIS is what I expected him to say when calling with my results. And yet I got something so different those years ago and I am now so SO glad. It was the strangest thing ever because in that moment I felt like I had a do over for that phone call and some of the trauma that lingered for years suddenly went away.

Addison was due in February. This baby girl is due in February. They are the only two of my babies that I have done chromosomal testing on. Addison came back with a little extra. This one...wasn't as lucky and came back "normal". But in that moment somehow I felt my motherhood journey come full circle.

Addison is going to get a sister.

(You like how I snuck that in there? With a first child you get a HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT and perhaps a video or even a musical number. With a fourth? Just casually slip it in a paragraph and we're all good.)

In no way am I saying that this baby girl replaces my old expectations for Addison. Not at all. (this is so hard to explain). I have learned that expectations in motherhood are a bit like writing in the sand right before a huge wave settles over it. Extra chromosome or not, everything little thing I put into my head about how MY CHILDREN SHOULD BE is always boxed out rather aggressively by my actual children bringing me back to reality. In a good way...and in "teachable moment" ways.  I hold no expectations for this new baby other than I know that I will love her. Fiercely. Just as I love my other 3. Fiercely.

So where was I? Oh yes. Pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen. Again.

You don't see me complaining. (-;

So I am 12 weeks, totally psyched to already know gender (yes, I am the most impatient person IN THE WORLD but I have come to grips with it...quickly), and do not plan on posting many belly shots this pregnancy. Sorry not sorry. Turns out I have a rather large cyst on an ovary (5cm) that my doctor is keeping an eye on that has more than doubled the size my stomach is supposed to be right now. At my 9 week appointment my stomach measured as though there were twins inside because of the size of this cyst. If this continues through the pregnancy??? Ummmmm. Prayers would be appreciated that this cyst would go away on its own (as the doctor says it usually does) instead of continuing to grow.

I am sorry for my lack of posts these past weeks, but I have been focused on survival. I have been in a weird 1st trimester fog that has taken away my ability to function as a human being let alone string together readable words. I feel a bit of my normal self coming back, so hopefully I can hop on here a bit more.
Carter has been so sweet about the new baby, always giving my belly rubs and kisses, asking if we can meet the baby TODAY (I'm afraid impatience must run in the family), and asking lots of questions like "Can I get a baby in MY belly too?" ahem.

Addison has seemed pretty happy, but hasn't had the same reaction as Carter. We will see if she "gets" it more as my belly grows. I know she is going to be an awesome big sister...again.

Eli has become a touch more clingy, scooting himself between me and whichever child is currently hugging me or sitting on my lap. He is such a Mama's boy that I think this transition will be the hardest on him. He will be 27 months when baby sister is born, so hopefully he has some time to get un-babyfied by then. (gulp) We just finished a playdate in which Eli aggressively tackled the sweet "baby" (one year old) girl every chance he got. I might have my work cut out for me on this one.

So news. It's nice to finally share. And I hope you won't hold my silence against me. Hopefully I will start to feel even more like myself as I continue into the second trimester.