I have often felt that on the road to total acceptance I am probably at 70% or 80%. I have felt that I've been stuck at that spot for the past 9 months. Wednesday night made me realize that either I wasn't at 70% 9 months ago yet or I'm now at 90%! It was amazing to be able to honestly tell these new families that everything really would be okay. One gal was funny and shared that when she tells people about her son they try to immediately tell her that it will be okay. She says, "yes, it will, but it still SUCKS". It made me laugh because I felt the same way that she does in that I knew deep down that it would eventually be okay, but having a child born with a disability does suck in that it wasn't what you were anticipating and didn't fit the picture of the perfect child in your head. However, today I don't feel the same level of suckiness (new word) when I think about Sweet Pea's diagnosis. I still wish that she didn't have DS because it would make her life a lot easier (and heck, ours too), but I know that she wouldn't be the same adorable little girl if she didn't. I do believe that the extra chromosome had a major impact on her personality and not just her cognitive and physical attributes. She probably would have been adorable in her own right if she were typical, but she would definitely be different and this particular little girl has stolen my heart completely. I remember not feeling very connected to her for many, many months. I worried that I never would feel for her as I expected to feel for a daughter. I don't know when it happened, but that has definitely changed and I couldn't be happier about it! She certainly deserves a mommy fully in love with her and heck, I deserve to have a daughter that I love so much that I would do anything for.
Here is a very sad secret that I will share...there were many times in those early weeks and months that I actually wished that she had some serious illness that would take her from us! Now just thinking that thought makes tears stream down my face (I need a waterproof keyboard), but I did have those thoughts at times. Just having those thoughts made me feel like the worst mother ever, but I couldn't change that I had them and I just tried to be honest with myself about them. Now I would fight to my death to keep her from anything that might take her from us! Back then I hoped that this day would come, but I honestly had no idea if it would. I am so elated to be able to share that I felt that way because there is no way that I would have shared that if I felt that way at all anymore.
16 months and I'm still not 100% there, but wow, I'm still making good progress! It took these new parents to be so open to sharing their fears and concerns for me to realize that I am not there anymore.
To any new parent that might be reading this, have faith that it really will get better and easier.
- Give yourself time to adjust to the diagnosis and how it will impact your life. It will impact your life, there is no way around it! But it isn't a fraction as bad as I imagined initially.
- Give yourself time to grief the loss of the child that you thought you were going to have. I am sure there are some people out there that have always hoped that they would have a child with DS because they knew someone very dear to them with DS, but I certainly didn't and I had 31 years of picturing my children in my head and Sweet Pea is not what I pictured even once. To grieve that loss is natural and actually healing. Here is a great article that I posted in a prior post: http://www.pediatricservices.com/prof/prof-15.htm
- Get involved with a local DS support group or make virtual friends with a DS mommy via blogland. Blogs have provided me an amazing glimpse into others homes and I believe played a huge role in my progress. Through blogs you can see older children with DS doing many of the things that I feared my daughter would never be able to do. Through blogs you can meet other kids around your child's age and see how they handle issues and share successes. However, be careful that you don't read blogs of children with severe medical issues early on. Even typical kids can have serious health issues, but you don't need to be fighting more battles emotionally and I know with me, if I read about someone else's problems, I spend time worrying about them. Stick to the healthier blogs at least until you get your feet under you.
- Give yourself the space to feel negative thoughts. Maybe journal or share them with a very close friend. This blog was my attempt at getting feelings off my chest and the funny thing is, I think I started to feel better about Sweet Pea when I started this blog. It gave me a forum to share all that I do love about her. I started looking for positive things to share with family and friends and those new friends from blogland. A blog isn't for everyone, but even a weekly letter to a distant relative might give you the same push that this did for me. But allow yourself to feel the wide variety of feelings that you might be feeling.
- If you already feel pretty good or even better, congratulate yourself! Don't worry if you feel like you fall backwards a bit at times because it is very normal.
- Congratulations on your new baby!!!!! I couldn't hear those words without cringing for a long time, but you deserve congratulations because your baby truly is a very special baby and you will love him/her with all your heart soon enough.