If you've followed this blog for very long, you may remember the post I wrote almost a year ago about whether or not to have another baby.
At the time I was not at all ready to have another child, but I was feeling the pressure to make a decision, as Cora had just turned two. I went back and forth over the pros and cons, questioned all my intentions and suppositions, and put all my worries out on the table. And I got a lot of really wonderful responses to that post.
And what I realized is how very personal that decision is for each and every person. I simply wasn't ready at the time.
Fast forward less than a year, and here we are, expecting our second child in early July.
I've had a few people ask for me to share my process in making that decision. And I've had a couple of people express that they are worried for me, or that I must be so afraid.
As for the process we went through in deciding to try again: the simple truth is that we just felt ready. Attribute it to getting slightly better sleep over the past few months, perhaps, or to Cora seeming less like a baby. She must somehow know it's time to become a big girl. Heck, a couple of weeks of after we learned about the pregnancy, she completely weaned and became a full-time walker. Talk about making some big-girl strides.
As for fear and worry, I think that many people assume that Cora having Down syndrome weighed heavily into our decision, but I'm not sure how much that is true. Of course, she does have Down syndrome, and our lives are definitely affected by it. Her delays do make her path through childhood and development different than may be typical, and we have long-term concerns for her that are more complicated than they may otherwise be.
But all in all, Down syndrome didn't factor in as much as you might think. And the fear of Down syndrome certainly wasn't a big consideration. Many people on the outside of the disability world seem to assume that Cora's diagnosis is a huge burden and something to be feared. And depending on their situation and where they are on their emotional path, a lot of parents of kids with disabilities fear it, as well.
Statistically, once you have a child with Ds your risk of having a subsequent child with Ds goes up to 1:100, and can go up even more if you have other risk factors like advanced maternal age or being a balanced translocation carrier. There are no certain answers as to why the risk increases, just as there are no certain answers as to why Trisomy21 occurs in the first place. Learning this when Cora was a newborn made us a little nervous at first. But very soon we began discussing how much we felt that Cora would benefit from having a sibling, and most of our thoughts on having another child have continued from that point of view.
I think the biggest challenge for us was making the decision to expand our family not solely because we felt it would likely benefit Cora, but because it was something we wanted as a family. As I've said before, there are no guarantees when it comes to having children, so making a decision solely to "help Cora" wasn't convincing me. There is no guarantee that another child will help her, just as there is no guarantee that any child will be healthy, or free of disability, or happy, or anything else. That is simply part of being a parent... choosing to love something that is so much out of your control.
But that is a risk that we are willing to take at this point. We do not fear having another child with Down syndrome. As much as we know there would be some advantages to raising Cora with a typically-developing younger sibling, that is not really up to us. We also know that there would be many advantages to raising Cora with a sibling with a disability or other health challenges.
I won't tell you that I wouldn't love to not have to worry about health issues, hospital stays or surgeries. I would love for this baby to be healthy and not have to face life-threatening concerns. A new pregnancy can definitely bring anxieties to the forefront, and for me most of those surround all the fear I felt after Cora was born until she had her heart surgery, and when there have been other health scares. I am not particularly eager to relive those fears, not with Cora or with a new child. But these are not the decisions that I get to make. All I can do is trust and hope, and make whatever plans I make with that in mind.