Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Having a Baby to Benefit my Child with Down Syndrome?

The past few days I have been obsessing over the question of whether to try for another baby.  Stressing and obsessing, having dreams about taking pregnancy tests and going into labor.

I just don't know if I want to have another child.

While planning for children, I always said I wanted two, so my kids would have a sibling. My sisters are my closest friends and the sibling relationship is so important to me.  Yet, in the back of my mind I was thinking.... "Well, maybe one would be enough for me."

After Cora was born I thought that of course we'd want another child.  Everything I heard and read discussed how beneficial it can be for a child with developmental delays to have a sibling. 

We originally discussed starting to try when Cora turned two years old.  I mean, if we do have another child I don't want them to be too far apart, and I am not getting any younger.  Well, Cora just turned two.  And after searching myself up and down for the past few weeks, I think the only conclusion I can come to is that I'm just not ready.

There are so many reasons I don't feel ready.  Most of those reasons can be waved away by parents who've been there and for whom it's turned out just fine.  She's not sleeping well and never has.  We are exhausted.  She is still quite dependent on nursing and I don't want her to rush to wean.  She is so, so attached to me.  I love the one-on-one time I have with her, helping build her interactive and social skills and taking her to activities on a whim. I love having the freedom to just focus on her.

I know that having a second child could be a great thing for her.  I see photos of other children with their siblings and then I start waffling again.

But what if it's not a great thing for her?  What if we have another child with even more significant needs than Cora has had?  What if we have a child that doesn't interact with her or who interacts negatively?  Perhaps that's not likely, but it could still happen.  What if we choose to have another child solely for Cora's benefit and it doesn't end up benefiting her?

There is always a lot of talk on the Down syndrome boards about having another child after the birth of a child with Down syndrome.  For some it's whether and for others it's when.  Many fear having another child with Ds.  Some want the opportunity to have a typically-developing child or to help eclipse some of the pain surrounding their child's birth.  Many more want to provide their child with a sibling.    I can understand all these things.  Part of me would like the experience of parenting a typical child.  Part of me wants to have a baby at home and not have to send her off to the NICU and watch her have open heart surgery.  And part of me would even like to have another child with Ds.

In my heart, I think I would be sad if Cora never had a sibling, regardless of Down syndrome and whether it will be good for her social, cognitive and physical development. 

But I don't think that having another baby just for Cora is a good enough reason.  It's something that my husband and I need to want for ourselves and for the whole family.

So for now I'm putting it on the back burner.  I hope that in time I will know what I really want.  I don't expect all my doubts and concerns to disappear, but if we do decide to have another child, I want it to be because it's what we all want.


  1. I remember feeling similarly (well, minus the huge complication of the Down syndrome) when my son was about Cora's age. And it was years before I got past those feelings of not wanting another. Honestly, it wasn't until well after Lily arrived that I fully got over it! I have always had a very close bond with my oldest, and I truly could not imagine loving another child as much as I love him. I was scared that another child would take me away from him physically and/or emotionally. So, I guess the point is, with or without developmental delays I think your feelings are normal. Just know that you might not ever THINK you're may take the actual arrival of another child to make you realize you are. With baby #3 on the way my feelings are less complicated than they were when I got pregnant with Lily. Maybe because now I know that what everyone else told me is true - somehow you just find extra love without taking any away. Sounds like you're comfortable with where you're at right now, so enjoy! More children definitely means more work and adjusting to new routines (as I knew that it would) LOL :) But, it's all worth it when I see the love between my two kiddos!

  2. I've been struggling with when to have #3. I have always wanted a big family with kids close together, but I worry about taking care of Addison on top of the other two. Carter is growing up so fast I know he will be more independent soon but with Addison there's no telling. If Addison was a typical 3 year old she would be very helpful in a year with a newborn, but she's not and it's hard to decide if I should go ahead anyway and let the circumstances force Addison to grow up faster, or to NOT because she has Down syndrome. Having a child with Down syndrome really changes family planning no matter how big or small a family you want. I can really relate to this post....even though in kind of a different way. (-:

  3. I thought about this frequently after Owen was born. I had only wanted to have one child (I'm from a family of 5 girls and I'm the oldest) and then we had Owen and got his Ds diagnosis. And then I thought, should we have another to help him out? And I came to a similar conclusion as you did--I'd need to want a second child for me and for our family, not just for Owen. On top of that, I was and am really concerned that the child will think that we had him/her JUST to be there for Owen, especially when we pass on. I wouldn't want to put that kind of burden on the second child, even subconsciously. For our family, having one kiddo fits and so that's where we'll leave it.
    Excellent, thought-provoking post!

  4. Great post, and great comments! My boys are 20 months apart. My first is Royce who also has Down syndrome. Both of our babies were planned. And we chose to have Liam when we did because it was right for us. And really we felt like Liam was anxiously wanting to join the family. I think it's important for us to listen to those feelings. Right now it sounds like you're feeling that it's not time. That you're enjoying this time with your daughter. And when there comes a time that you feel like there's a baby that wants to come, or that you're ready for the newest member of your family, you can act on it. We decided to have Liam for Liam's sake…not Royce's. And yes, Royce had a hard time adjusting to the new baby, but we just made sure he got a lot of one-on-one time, extra love, and we didn't push the baby on him. He was on his own pace adjusting to the baby, and that was okay. Also, I remember comparing the birth experiences, and my love. They were both very different experiences, and I was sorting-through a lot of new emotions as a new mom of 2…like how could my love possibly be equal. I thought my capacity to love was already full, that there couldn't possibly be any more to give. My experiences were undoubtedly different, but that didn't mean one was right and one was wrong. And my love for both are just as special to me as it sounds like your daughter and your love for her are to you!
    Here's a little blo-post of mine after Liam was born

  5. No matter what you do, as long as you are doing what is right for your family, is the best choice :) I think there are always pros and cons to everything we can choose.

  6. Leah, this has hit me hard right at my core. This is exactly how I feel. Not to mention, how could I possibly love another child with my whole heart so entirely and fiercely as I love Gary? (I know I would, but that's not the point!) We're actively trying and have been for about a year now. When we conceived in August, I thought to myself - do I really WANT this baby? Whether I do or not, this is happening and I'll accept it. Then I didn't have to. Maybe it was my body's way of saying "if you're not sure, then it's a no-go". Seriously, I would have jumped at the chance to have another baby - typical or not - if this was 8 years earlier in my life. I am certainly NOT getting any younger, and my alarm is starting to go off....we said that we'd stop trying in January - then with the miscarriage, we extended it another year. I guess in the end, you always end up giving up something for the other.

  7. Oh goodness this is a hard decision...I just read a article in the huffington post about having another child and it had some good points on having another child because it completes your family...I liked that way of looking at it...Maddie completed our family and good is of everything! Cora Bean is getting to be a very big girl! So cute...smiles

  8. I thought about this lot's after Russell was born. Because Russell was a surprise there is a big age gap between him and his siblings. When we found out he had Ds I panicked and thought, who will go to school with him?? I wanted another baby so that child could help and protect Russell. But then I realized how ridiculous that was, to have another baby and give it the job of watching over Russell, that just wasn't' fair. So Russell is officially our last baby.

    I think Ilisa's comment summed it up best. There are always pro's and cons to things we choose. So listen to your heart...You will feel when the time is right for another baby, or you will feel that your family is complete. Just let it be for now and give it time to feel it all out.

  9. Leah, I could have written this post! As I watch all of my other friends going on to be pregnant with their 2nd and 3rd children, I find myself asking Drew about another kiddo. My uterus is screaming "I am empty!" and I feel the baby fever. It is contagious! And yet. . . I am not worried about another child with Ds. In fact, I think I might be confused as to how to parent a "typical" child! Bear is so hyperactive and requires so much supervision/redirection/carrying/therapy that I feel like I could never leave the safety of our house if I had to also care for another child! I think it would be good for her to have a playmate/brother/sister. When Aunt Peg passed, I saw how my Dad, uncle, and aunts rallied around her and made sure that she was not alone as she passed. She was taken care of. Yet, Ellie has no one. Who who take care of her? However, if we have another child, it is not fair to fully expect him/her to step up to the plate and look over Ellie. Ugh! It is complicated and I am so conflicted. The fact is, we only planned on having one child. Getting pregnant is complicated for us and may not even be possible. We cannot go into it thinking "if it happens, it happens". For us, it must be planned and right now, it looks like it is not happening. Beautiful pics of Cora btw.

  10. My son Steven is now 24, and the 2nd of four. Our decision was like yours, except we were thinking after we are gone. We had more, so that our oldest would not have to be the only one responsible for him when we are gone. The problems we encountered with this decision were that the younger siblings resented their big brother a bit since he didn't have as many responsibilities growing up. However, the one 2.5 years behind him is his biggest supporter. Everyone always thought they were twins growing up and the graduated together. When he shattered his ankle and had surgery, she helped with everything from toileting dressing/bathing. It made her decide on nursing as a career, and she and her husband go with us every year to state Special Olympics. The younger brother is 4 years behind him and has helped, but not as much. I think it was the best for us, because our health is not so great, and it is a comfort to know someone will be there to look in on him after we are gone.

  11. Leah, this is a very thought provoking post! I don't think you have to make any decision until you are ready. Cora is going to grow up loved and adored as an only child or with a brother/sister. After Colin was born, I always said I would try for baby #2 when he was 2. Well, like Cora, he was still nursing and not sleeping through the night at age 2 and I definitely wasn't ready. Sometime before 2.5 years old, he did sleep through the night and I weaned him and I finally felt ready. And then came Ben!!!!

    I too have been thinking about another baby. We always thought we'd have 3. In my case, I am worried about caring for another person, especially if he/she had disabilities. Also, my sister had a baby in September. Seeing her newborn, made me wonder if I really did have a desire to start over again. I'm not sure I have the energy. Newborns are so much work. We've decided to make our final decision this summer. If we don't have the urge by then, then we will not have any more kids. And one of us will be getting "fixed." After two c-sections, I think it is time for Jim to take one for the team:)

  12. And I LOVE your new header!!!!!

  13. I can relate to this so much even though we have 2 kids already. It's really hard to decide whether adding to your family is the right choice! And you know what? It should be. Because what greater, or more important decision is there other than choosing to create a life?

    Hugs! This is a hard choice!

  14. I can relate too! I know we want more, but I am definitely struggling with the whole, "how will I ever love another child as much as I love Kayla", "will I be able to give Kayla and a new baby all of the attention they need", the list goes on and on!

    Cora is so cute! Love the new header on the blog!!

  15. I feel like you took the words right out of my mouth... have you been literally reading my mind. Like seriously, word. for. word. So glad there is someone out there who has the SAME feelings I do!!!! So many people I know, their child with DS is NOT their first. I am kind of alone in that respect. People constantly pressure me about having another child. I think about it ALL the time. Sometimes I want another child, I want Ally to be a big sister and then sometimes I think we are pretty good just the way we are. I guess it is OK to still be "thinking".

    Great blog. LOVE sweet Cora!

  16. I think it is hardest going from having just one child to having two children. You worry about so many things. After having six kids, I can say with all honesty that things WILL change, but the rewards are so great. When I only had one child, *I* was the playmate, when I had two and later, more kids, they had a playmate in their sibling, and I could just enjoy parenting. The roles change, but the bonds were the same. We still did cuddle time, we made special times, and everyone is very happy. When you are ready, rest assured that it WILL be ok :)

  17. I've heard that going from one child to the second is hard, and then 2-3, and even 3-4 is easier. But not having been there yet, that notion seems odd. Part of me wants another child; but part of me likes just having Cora, because I can spend time with her (when I get to) more one-on-one. It would be hard to take two kids to the store and this is something Cora and I share: we love going shopping together, Cora riding in the cart laughing and playing... If I had two kids with me, that would be stressful, I think. And I think my feelings about this would be the same regardless of Cora's diagnosis. So I think personally my thinking is that having another kid must be something Leah and I can do as a family with Cora and have it be something that gives us more joy in life rather than more stress. I agree with Leah's thoughts and am very proud she has such good sense ;-) Nick

  18. My first and only biological child has DS too. We did try for another but it didn't happen and we had come to terms with our daughter being an only child. When she was 8 years old, from out of left field we adopted another child with DS. Looking back, it sort of just happened! Our life would have been fine with just her, but now we have our little boy it is definitely enriched. We still make time for the one on one trips to the shops, one on one time having breakfast in bed together etc, but the pleasure she gets from sharing laughs, bath time, shopping trips etc with her brother is priceless. She is also so proud of her little brother, I think that is the best thing, seeing her pride and also seeing her nurturing him, trying to feed him, change his nappy etc. Sometimes I think decisions are made for us! We don't always have a say what happens to us in life, as we weren't really looking to extend our family, our boy made his way to us. True!

  19. As a mom of 5, I am a firm believer that 2 is the hardest number of children to have. So if you do want more, have at least 2 more! My reasons are:

    1. When there are 2 kids, the rivalry is usually very intense, since they only have one place to dump all their emotions. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceptions.

    2. When you have 1 kid, you can kinda control everything. When you have 2, you THINK you can, but you really can't, even though you have 2 parents and 2 kids. Once the 3rd one comes, you stop trying to control everything, and it's so liberating! Again, there are parents who are not control freaks and they can manage 2 kids ok, but most parents in larger families seem more laid back and relaxed.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!