Growing up, Erin and I were always somewhat competitive. She was a natural athlete, and although 16 months younger than me, usually learned to do a lot of things first. She swam first and rode a bike first. And you know what? I learned to do those things within days of her. Maybe not quite as well, but still... I was stronger in different areas. Always verbal, I easily did well in school, and as a child was known for my singing voice. Our strengths were different but it was always difficult to not compare, at least a little.
The stories of our pregnancies reflect those early years of closeness mingled with competition. We spoke on the phone just after we both had hoped to conceive, and 2 weeks later when Erin called to tell me she was pregnant my own pregnancy test had shown up negative. As happy as I was for her, I still cried poor little tears for myself, sad that I wouldn't get to share the experience with her, and yes, like a silly wee girl, sad that she was pregnant and I was not. As someone in my family apparently remarked that Erin would have the first grandchild, my dad replied that he wouldn't bet on it. He wasn't sure that I wouldn't still somehow try to "beat her to the punch." So a few days later when my own pregnancy test showed positive, we all had a good laugh. With due dates just 3 days apart, we enjoyed being pregnant together, even living apart.
At 37 weeks, when my exam showed that I was likely moving toward delivering early rather than late as I had expected, Erin reluctantly admitted that nothing like that had happened to her yet. Then suddenly she shouted out. In the next few disconcerting seconds I learned that her water had broken! I guess Erin didn't want to be "beaten to the punch" after all. Little Kai was born several hours later. And four days later, Cora was born.
These days I don't get to talk to Erin nearly as much as I would like. With babies and part-time jobs, it's hard to find spare minutes that coincide. A couple days ago though, I got to hear about Kai's latest antics. Motivated to tackle Erin's two cats, he's suddenly learned to army crawl with alarming speed (right up to the stairs), is almost pulling himself to standing, is climbing and sitting and even starting to use signs.
My little Kai. Look at all that attitude!
In past conversations I usually found myself saying, "Wow, Cora's not doing that yet," but this time I tried to keep that voice quiet. I let myself enjoy the images of my beautiful nephew exploring his world and his proud mama filling me on his remarkable and exhausting accomplishments.
And throughout and afterward, I kept telling myself, as I do so so often, that it's all OK. That I know that Cora may not do these things on the same schedule, but she will do them. That I am not going to put limits on her potential. That it is true that a child with Down syndrome's life is really more alike than different. And that I already know that to be true.
But even so, I admit that I still feel occasional twinges of pain when I hear about what Kai is doing or watch the other babies at our play groups. I wish I wouldn't feel them. I keep wondering when they'll go away... when I'll truly feel no sadness waiting for her milestones. It's a fine line, balancing between the encouragement, the therapies, getting so excited for everything she does do and hovering toward worrying about what she doesn't yet do. But I am learning to keep that voice quiet, to give Cora the credit for what she can do. To try not to compare.
For now Little Beanie continues to amaze me with her abilities, with her motivation, and most of all with her hilarious little personality and ridiculous level of cuteness.