On Sam's and my first date the discussion of the number of children came up. We were "laying it all on the table" from the start, limiting the amount of potential surprises I suppose. We both said between 4-6, however, if Sam had his way it would be enough to complete a full hockey team lineup. Ironically, my one stipulation was that I wanted as many as possible before I was in my mid thirties with the reasoning that the older I got, there was a "higher chance" of having a child with a disability. I will just insert that perplexed face emoji here and take a moment to pause.
After our first daughter was born she of course became the center of our universe. I was so shocked when I quickly became pregnant with our 2nd when she was only 8 months old. We vowed from the beginning to make sure we carved out "dates" with her and ensure she always felt special. Towards the end of my 2nd pregnancy we learned that her brother was going to be born with a heart defect, but we would have to wait until he was born to learn specifics and severity. I honestly do not remember if I feared the logistics of how we would manage because soon enough he was born. He spent a blink of time in the NICU and thankfully he required (and still continues to require) minimal medical needs. With just the two of them, I was always so proud we were able to continue with our individual dates for her and then soon our son as well.
Throughout pregnancy #3 I was so nervous about how we would manage our sanity and being outnumbered, forget about that inidividual date time with each child. When our daughter was born it was overwhelming, but we somehow managed again to fit in our special dates. I felt so proud that we were continuing to make it all work. When we became pregnant with Sonzee, while I was nervous about a 4th child in general, I was not especially concerned about making sure we would each have our dates, because we had kept making it work. And then...
I am unsure where exactly it happened, but all of a sudden "we need to plan a date with [insert child's name here]" became something that continuously needed to be scheduled to happen, but was not actually happening. We were doing our best to squeeze in a date here and there after each child's respective after school activity and utilizing organizations that provide tickets for us to take our other children to, however, somehow over the past year our oldest has managed to fall through the cracks. Her love for dance disappeared close to 18 months ago and so our built in alone time vanished just the same. Her oldest sibling mentality and personality in general led us to the false belief that she was fine.
Recently I noticed a shift in her behavior and after mentioning it to Sam he agreed. We decided last week instead of a Sam and Randi date night we would invite our daughter along. We kept it a surprise and at last minute told her to get dressed because she was joining us on date night. She got dressed up and had our amazing babysitter do pigtail braids. She chose the restaurant and away we went. At dinner I asked her if there was anything that Sam and I could do more of or that we weren't doing at all, to which she replied, "to be honest ema, I don't mean to be not nice, but I am really missing this...going on dates. I want more alone time".
The reality of the confirmation weighed heavily, yet knowing we stumbled upon the discovery before more time slipped away paves way to some relief. We all know the impact of a child with medical and or special needs is heavy on the entire family unit. We know the positive outcomes that can come from having a sibling with medical or special needs. As a parent, one of my biggest fears is the potential resentment that my typical children could develop towards Sonzee or Sam and myself over our preferential treatment of her needs. It can be easy to forget that it isn't just Sonzee, Sam or myself that loses pieces of themselves during this special needs journey. I know what it is like to parent a child with significant disabilities and am simultaneously learning how to parent the siblings of said child. However, fortunately, but unfortunately for my children, I am left saying and thinking "I can only imagine what it must be like to be a sibling to a child with a profound disability". and so I hope none of my kids become lost.
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