Sisters

These two…

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Anymore it is starting to feel like we have twins in this house.  They are practically the same size with matching temperaments.  They play together, sing and dance together, watch Dora the Explorer together, they fight and make up two minutes later and I am convinced that in the middle of the night they meet up to conspire against their mom and dad. They have mastered knowing exactly what strings to pull, and with what smile, in order to sway us to see their side of things. They are sisters and this is just the beginning.

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While I was pregnant with Kendal, I envisioned their relationship to be like so; but there was a darker point in that nine months where I began to realize the part of their sisterhood that in time, I would not be able to avoid nor prevent.  My doctor knows me well, so I knew she was able to read my fears a few months into the pregnancy.  “Are you worried about this baby passing Tessa [in development]?  You are, aren’t you?” (My husband would disagree that I am totally transparent, but I am and my doctor knows it.)  She was right.  It was true, and I was torn between pity and shame and a whole mess of other pregnant emotions .  It was also inevitable.  At some point I knew that Tessa’s baby sister–still growing in my belly–would catch her and eventually pass by her, doing things ahead of Tessa without slowing down.  To be painfully forthright, I couldn’t bare the thought of it happening because it isn’t at all what I knew or what I was used to.  It just made me uncomfortable and upset, bringing up the parts of Down syndrome I had long tucked away in my “For Later” file in the back of my busy brain.

During that pregnancy I got a taste of what it might be like.  I remember Tessa’s younger cousin crawling, pulling himself up and eventually taking his first big, beautiful steps long before she did. Despite my happiness for him, I remember each new and glorious milestone of his crushing me and desperately wanting all the same for Tessa. Little by little I watched him catch and pass her by.

On the surface I know that comparing one child’s development to another is rather catty and meaningless; but to a parent of a child with special needs it is so much more than a comparison.  Because we want so much to see our children achieve the same natural milestones as their peers.  We want that same kind of “natural.”  We want them to succeed.  We want them to do the things that maybe we were told they may never do.  So we push them hard and support them every way we know how, and we wait–sometimes what seems like forever–for our kids to strike gold.  And when they do, Lord look out because there will be celebrations!  Sometimes, though, it just does not happen.  I know that beauty runs deep–in this case far past the typical ease of development for which many parents take for granted.  Rightfully so. I would be the same way except I have learned to behold her long-awaited milestones for their beauty.  Thankfully so.

I know what makes Tessa unique and extraordinary.  I also know her weaknesses and I witness her setbacks.  There is nothing about Tessa that I would change; however, if I could make her route through life a little easier I absolutely would.  But I just can’t.  Along that route would be the part where Kendal’s development surpasses her older sister’s–the part I once paid more mind to.  As close as Kendal and Tessa are in age, size and development right at this moment, I find myself worrying less.

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I love watching them play together–their little minds quickly creating play scenarios and acting them out together.  Sometimes I just sit and watch without them noticing; and if I am lucky, I can get away with it for quite a while.  Tessa dutifully instructing Kendal on how to bathe her baby dolls and make them dinner.  When the babies are left to dry, Kendal helps Tessa put her puzzle pieces together or assists her up the stairs.  Then back down the stairs they come to a stack of books where Tessa points out the colors and Kendal repeats them.  Back and forth they go without a care in the world, without knowing that they are each other’s greatest asset.

Photo credit:  Little Britches Photography - Judi Carey
Photo credit: Little Britches Photography – Judi Carey

At the start of each day Kendal blows Tessa a kiss good-bye from the car as I take her in to daycare.  Before they go to bed at night, they give each other a kiss and say “I lub you!”  I have learned to love them as individuals and how to love them together.  What they don’t know is what they are they are teaching me in the process of being their mama.  I am thankful they were set to each other…and to us.

When the time comes (and it is near) where Kendal will jump ahead of Tessa in development I will again quietly grieve that part of Down syndrome that I wish could be different–without a doubt.  I know the sting will fade as their relationships carries on just the way it is now. The little savory sisterhood I once envisioned for my girls is now our reality, and now I get to dream up what the next future will look like for them as sisters.  All I know is that it will be filled fiercely with love and tons of laughter.

These two…

Defining love.  Precisely defining what it means to be sisters.

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Welcome Kendal Donna!

On April 11, 2013 at 2:27 p.m., my husband and I welcomed our second beautiful daughter into the world.  Meet Kendal Donna.

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I told Dan about two months ago that I had a feeling this baby would make a different entrance into the world.  Actually what I believe I said was, “She’s just not going to cooperate…”  And as a mother’s intuition serves, I was right.  Kendal progressed quickly before I had her, but she would not commit to labor.  The day I went into the hospital, I was dilated to a five with over a week’s worth of false labor.  My doctor suggested we just break my water to give her a little kick start.  After active labor had began, we learned that Kendal was positioned in a deep transverse arrest.  This means that instead of the top of her head presenting for birth, the front of her face was with her neck bent back.  Having her in this position prevented labor from starting on it’s own, and in the end made delivery unsafe and not possible.  From there we headed down to OR where she was delivered safely via cesarean section.

Feeling terrified in the operating room with bright lights, numerous people moving quickly and a blue sheet over my lower half, there was Dan reassuring me that everything would be fine.  Moments later I heard her first cry–scream actually!  I melted in tears.  Suddenly all of the fears I had leading up to this delivery left me.  She was here.  I knew she was just fine.

It was only a short while longer until I would hold my girl.  The recovery nurses knew how badly I wanted to be upstairs with her so they let me sneak up just a little early.  They wheeled me into my room and there on the couch was one proud daddy snuggling his newest little.  I could tell by the way his smiling eyes were glued to her just how in love he was.  But it was my turn to get my arms around her.  I stared at her and examined her the way I knew I would–the only way I know.  She was 7 pounds, 6 ounces and 21 inches long!  Her sweet little head was covered in fuzzy black hair.  Her long fingers and toes were conversation pieces when we would unwrap her for each visitor to see.  This time I waited to call or text people.  I wanted her to myself–to enjoy with Dan.  I was in love; deeply in love.

She was nameless for a long while.  I struggled with names this time around, because once again I needed to see her.  Nothing felt perfect prior to her arrival.  I wanted it to fit her the way Tessa fit.

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“Kendal” had been on and off of our name list for months and we didn’t pull it back out until after she was here.  I knew I wanted her middle name to be Donna; after my late Grandma whom I deeply adored.  Once I said “Kendal Donna” a few times, I knew it fit her beautifully.

I forgot just how quickly babies transition from newborn to infant to toddler.  Having Kendal showed me just how much Tessa has changed in what feels like such a short time.  But there is something about the innocence and beauty of a brand new baby that captivates me in the sweetest splendor.  The way they smell, the way they wrap their tiny fingers around yours, the snuggles, the needy cries, the hungry rooting and newborn yawns all take me away to a blissful paradise.

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I was blessed once with a sweet and charming little darling.  How did I get so lucky to have it happen twice?

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Since being home from the hospital, I have had overwhelming feelings of nostalgia especially when I dress Kendal is some of Tessa’s baby clothes or swaddle her in Tessa’s blankets.  I am reminded of a once painful homecoming (that is far less painful these days) and of the once new baby girl that is now a big sister.  I am reminded of my blessings.  Kendal molds in perfectly.  Everything just feels right.

Welcome to the world Kendal Donna Carey.  May you always feel the love that surrounds you.

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