Monday, October 17, 2011

Birth Order

I commented to Lisa the other day that sometimes I envy her the fact that her son, Finn, who has Ds was her sixth child. I think anyone who is a mother would agree that each child changes your life but that first one...well, the culture shock is a doozy. My situation was even a little different in that Pacey was premature and had his medical issues we dealt with before we even got his diagnosis. All put together? It was about the most atypical introduction to motherhood you can have. It's hard to acknowledge, but I truly believe that I didn't bond with Pacey as his mom until close to his first birthday.

I remember there being so much that I hadn't quite decided about how I'd approach breastfeed or not, to teach sign language or not, daycare or nanny, etc. And then I had a bunch of unexpected and foreign factors added into those decisions to make and I felt SO out of my depth. I guess sometimes I feel like if I had at least been through some of those experiences and decision-making with another child at least I'd have something to go on. And sure, I know that every kid is different but at least I'd have had some trial-and-error under my belt. It was really hard to figure out sometimes if I was doing everything I could to help Pacey or if my lack of experience was making things even harder for him.

Perhaps the hardest thing about having Pacey first is that it set me up to believe, naively, that a second, more "typical" experience with pregnancy, birth, babyhood etc would be easy and it was ANYTHING but easy. My pregnancy was much more difficult, taking care of a newborn right away (plus toddler) after a c-section was so demanding...although I'd never ever wish for a preemie again, there is something to be said for having 8 weeks to recover while your baby is in the hospital! And Brighton was just a much more needy baby compared to laid-back Baby Pacey.

Of course, there were a lot of good things about Pacey being my first child. Probably the biggest thing was that we weren't worried about another child's needs while we dealt with hospitalizations and a pretty rigorous therapy schedule. I could truly put all of my resources into him and I am grateful that I wasn't having to split my time and attention at that point. I also think that it was easier not to have another typically-developing child's milestones to compare to. I knew, based on the literature, that most children hit milestones quicker than Pacey did (and boy did it sting sometimes to see a friend's much younger child crawling/walking/whatever) but I didn't have a magic age in mind that had been my own past experience. For that, I'm grateful.

I think the thing I like the best about Pacey being my oldest child is seeing him in his big brother role. I know at some point that Brighton will "lap" him in many ways and I hope that she will stick up for him if and when it is called for. But for now, he is her protector and she feels comforted by his presence. She hates it when we drop Pacey off for school and wriggles out of my arms to go and wrap him in a huge hug at pick-up. The other day we were at the indoor play structure at our gym and there was a birthday party group of some older, sorta rambunctious boys playing. Brighton was a little intimidated by them but as long as she was with Pacey she was fine. When she needed a boost up she'd call for his help and, despite the fact he only has about 2 inches and 5 lbs on her, he'd crouch down and unceremoniously shoulder barge her rear end up until she could get a foothold. I'm happy he will always be her big brother.

Thoughts from anyone else about where in your birth order your child with Ds came? Or, if you don't have one, thoughts on birth order in general?


Lisa said...

I've thought about this a lot, Jaida.

It's funny, because when I had my twins (and at the time, THAT was a huge shock, finding out we were expecting twins), I would look at other families that had twins, and I would consider the birth order in their families as compared to ours. Was it easier for families whose twins were their first and/or only children, since they wouldn't know or miss the "ease" (and I say that loosely, because my second baby, a singleton, was such a difficult, high-maintenance baby!) of a singleton? On the other hand, having had two babies before our twins, I felt at least somewhat equipped and prepared for the challenges of having babies, period - it wasn't a completely new or foreign experience.

As for having a child with Ds, I'll be honest - I've always been glad that Finn's the youngest, for so many reasons, a lot of them you mention: I had already gotten my feet more than wet with motherhood and so already had a pretty good idea of how I would mother Finn (much the same way I've mothered my other children); I'm also grateful that he's got five older siblings who dote on him and look out for him and motivate him - they are the best therapists I think he could ever ask for. I've often thought that having a first child with Ds would be harder in some ways, that that would be perhaps a difficult introduction into motherhood. On the other hand, maybe it would be, like the families I used to observe with twins as their firstborn, more a case of not missing what you don't know. I don't know.

Anyway, I'm not sure there is any ideal birth order for a child with Ds. We all, hopefully, reach a place of gratitude about our own individual situations. Loving and nurturing our children, no matter where they fall in the birth order, is what counts. And I don't have to tell you that, sistah!

Tami Leitz said...

I think about this ALL THE TIME! It drives me nuts that our two year old is modeling her tantrums for Claire and Claire, now well past two, is mimicking her. Ahhhhhhh I wish she had an older sibling to model! But I must say it was amazing going threw a lot of the heath issues with only one. The times we had other foster kids (and after our babies were born )and Claire in the hospital and sick were SO HARD! I have a friend with 4 and the youngest has DS. She is always comparing our lives and feeling discouraged that she can't do as much and Im always reminding her that when Clarie was that age I only had Claire or Claire and one other baby, never older children. So... I should be thankful.