Before Cora's little sister Ruby was born, my husband and I had a lot of uncertainties about having another child.
We heard that having a younger sibling could be a great thing for Cora, in theory. We knew that it would likely help boost her development and motivate her to push herself to learn and grow. But that alone wasn't a good enough reason to expand our family. We weren't considering another child simply for Cora. We knew that another child needed to be something we wanted in our family as a whole.
We did, of course, worry about sharing our attention and our love. We worried about spreading our resources too thinly. We worried about the possibility of having another child with medical issues. We worried and thought about all kinds of things, because, well I'm a little bit of a thinker and a worrier.
Some may find it strange, but how Cora's sibling would be affected by having a sister with Down syndrome was not on my list of worries. I know that many people believe that a child with Down syndrome is a burden to their parents and their siblings. But those people don't have first hand knowledge of how enriched our lives have been by Cora.
I knew that studies show that the majority of siblings of people with Down syndrome express love and pride for their siblings. I've been lucky enough to have read a number of positive accounts from those whose siblings have Ds, like Elizabeth at Confessions of the Chromosomally Enhanced. Her experience having an older sister with Down syndrome was one of the reasons that she adopted her daughter, a beautiful girl with Ds. This week I came across another article by a sibling, who while writing about about her sister's wish to to be treated as the complex adult that she is, also expresses her own feelings about what her sister has taught her. These stories are not unique, and show me that siblings of people with Down syndrome are not by default hard-done-by victims of circumstance.
We don't know what role Ruby will want to play in Cora's life as they get older and enter adulthood. We hope to help Cora have enough support in place that she can have choices about where, how and with whom she wants to live. We hope that Ruby will want to continue a close relationship with Cora and that she will want to offer her support of some kind. But we certainly don't want her to do so at the expense of her own happiness.
For now, we will just see which paths they each choose to take. We will enjoy the magic of watching them develop their relationship. These days we get sentimental hearing them call out for one another before they're even upright in the morning. We delight in seeing them shriek with laughter as they dance in circles around the living room. We watch their competitiveness take foot as they play tug of war over a water bottle and then race to the same toy. And we feel our hearts swell seeing Ruby respond with perfect understanding to Cora's often hard-to-decipher phrases.
This sisterhood is amazing. It humbles me daily. I am completely convinced that they are one another's greatest gift. We couldn't have planned it better had we tried.