Growing up, I had always wanted a brother or a sister. That decision wasn't mine to make. "My child will not be an only child," I promised myself.
When Matthew was a baby, I struggled with the thought of wanting a sibling for him. The diagnosis of Down syndrome brought many questions that I couldn't answer at that time. However, I obviously got over my self-doubt. Elizabeth was born 2-1/2 years later.
Questions and Realizations
What were our chances of having another child with Down syndrome? With all the doctor visits, therapies and extra time and effort needed, I didn't know if I could handle another child with Down syndrome.
Newsflash to self: Every child has needs! Every child is unique and special.
Having Down syndrome means that Matthew's development is slower than his typical peers, which is why he gets therapy for certain areas of development and I put more effort into his development.
Having Down syndrome means he may have more health issues that need extra attention, which is why he has many doctor visits. Some kids with Down syndrome see more doctors and specialists than we do, some see less. We take Matthew to a pediatric opthamologist once a year or once every 2 years, his pediatrician every year and a pediatric otolaryngologist (ENT) every 6 months on average.
Matthew is just like his typical peers - all needing varying degrees of time and attention. Down syndrome is just a part of him. It doesn't define who he is.
When I was pregnant with Elizabeth, it didn't matter to me if she was born with Down syndrome or not. I wanted her to be healthy just like I prayed for Matthew to be healthy when I was pregnant with him.
How would he be as an older brother? Early on, I didn't know many families at all who had other kids after having a child with Down syndrome. After writing "Another Baby After Having A Child with Down Syndrome" and reading the many wonderful, supportive comments on it, I found more blogs of families who have had one or more children after having one with Down syndrome. Reading their stories helped me picture how Matthew might be as an older brother.
How will I find time for the things that Matthew needs extra help with? I try to make time. I give up something else to give him and Elizabeth time. I think it's a similar story with every parent who has 2 or more kids. I definitely have less time for Matthew. It's inevitable.
I multi-task. I find myself constantly trying to synchronize both kids' schedules whenever possible - naps, meals, playtime. I'm a planner and an organizer so I try to orchestrate things so that they work out just right. At the same time, I have to learn to go with the flow when things aren't "just so." It's a constant struggle and some days I feel like a total failure, even if Bill tells me I'm not. I wouldn't trade this job for anything else though.
Matthew plays independently when I take care of Elizabeth's needs. I try to devote some time for one-on-one play with her everyday. Matthew usually enjoys participating and gives her toys while she's in the bumbo seat.
I try to take advantage of Elizabeth's naps and use them for one-on-one teaching or "play therapy" time with Matthew. When she was little and she was up, I'd put her in her bouncy seat or swing. These days, she can sit independently so I sit her near me and surround her with toys to keep her busy while I spend a few uninterrupted minutes with Matthew.
Having two kids is doubly harder than one but I love the fact that I have two. I love them both - equally and unconditionally. I'm so happy we added on to our family.
The Best Big Brother
So how is Matthew as a big brother? So far, he is wonderful!
He always looks out for Elizabeth. He makes sure she has plenty of toys to play with. He gives her kisses and hugs even when I don't ask him to. He likes to tickle her tummy. They make each other smile. He makes her laugh. They love playing peek-a-boo. He even offers to share some of his toys with her.
I have no first-hand experience with sibling relations but I think Matthew and Elizabeth have a great start to forming a strong bond. It'll be up to us to encourage that as they grow up. They may have their disagreements later on but at the end of the day, my wish is for them to be able to rely on each other and have each other's back.
Another Baby After Having A Child with Down Syndrome