Five Years

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, and I it occurred to me today that that means that it has been five years since I found out that our little Ellie Bean had Ds.  I was 18 weeks pregnant when we had the amnio done, and it was about a week until we had the results back, making March 21st pretty darn close to the day we found out that she had an extra chromosome.

We had our suspicions before-hand. The extra fluid on the back of her neck at the 12 week nuchal translucency test (when we also found out that we were having twins), combined with the particular heart defect that she had pointed at Down syndrome.

But it was still a shock to the system, holding the print outs of our (now confirmed) girls’ chromosomes in our hands and seeing the third copy of number 21 sitting there.  I remember calmly talking about what this all meant with a very nice genetic counselor, who tried really hard not to cringe when she told us that we still had the option of trying to selectively abort one baby, but that at this stage it was very possible that I would lose both in the process.  She was visibly relieved when we told her that abortion was out of the question.  We loved our girls, no matter how many chromosomes they each had.

Then I went home and cried.  A lot.  I’m not going to lie about it.  I was heartbroken.  Not at the thought of having a child with Down syndrome, per say.  I didn’t have much experience with people with Ds, but from what I had seen, they seemed like pretty happy, healthy folks.  I was the loss of all the things I had envisioned for my child that hurt so much.  She would never drive a car.  She would never go to college.  She would never get married and have babies of her own.  She would never be a famous writer or artist or doctor or dancer.  Would people make fun of her?  Would she sit in her room, crying, because her sister had a date to the prom, but no one had asked her?  Would she watch Laurel drive off to college and wisht that she could go, too?

After a couple of pregnancy-hormone fueled days of this, I hopped online and started doing some research, where I found that most of my fears were completely unfounded.  People with Down syndrome do all of the things I thought she wouldn’t.  I had an image of Ellie being shunted off to a dreary special ed room with the other “disabled” kids, like when I was young, but that isn’t how things are done any more.  Next year, when she starts kindergarten, Ellie will spend a decent part of the day in a regular classroom with the “typical” kids.  She’ll have extra help, of course, but it really isn’t like it use to be.  One day Ellie will go to the prom, and there are more and more colleges that are opening their doors to kids with special needs every year!  Our little Bunny’s future is pretty darn bright, and you had better believe that she isn’t one to feel sorry for herself.

A lot has changed in the past five years, but some of the biggest changes are happening right now.  For the first four years of Ellie’s life, she was, quite frankly, coddled by Chev and me.  She was our baby long after Laurel started to become her own little person.  The combination of Ellie’s developmental and speech delays made her more apt to sit in my lap and snuggle than to explore the world.  But something has changed.  Ellie is starting to talk, and that has made her bolder, more confident.  She has found her voice and at the same time she seems to be finding herself.  It is a fascinating thing to watch.  Just in the past few weeks, she has started to string words together into short sentences, and she can now hold a conversation with us about simple things.  She has NO problem giving her opinion, either, and woe betide the person who tries to ignore her when she wants their attention.  She is growing into her own person, and that person is pretty fantastic.

I can’t wait to see what she’ll be like in five more years.

Also, if you are interested in learning more about the college opportunities for people with Down syndrome, or are feeling generous, check out Ruby’s Rainbow and take their 3/21 pledge.  The Ellies of the world thank you.

Advertisements

Dogs Are Not Babies

 

Foster

Foster

 

The other day a friend of mine told me that she understands the craziness of my life because she just got two new puppies, and it is NUTS at her house.  At first I just stared at her in disbelief, then I laughed hysterically.  But it got me thinking…this isn’t the first time I’ve heard people liken having puppies or dogs to having children.  I’m fairly sure I even made the comparison myself, before having the girls.  Because until you have kids, you have NO idea.  You just don’t know what crazy is.  And to prove this to you, here are some ways that dogs and children differ.

1.  Puppies come to you at around 8 weeks of age, fully weaned, running, and ready to play.  Babies..not so much.  Ignoring the entire pregnancy and birthing process, babies take a year to start eating real food and walking.  That’s a year of late-night feedings, and a year of carrying your baby around everywhere you go.  No just snapping on a leash and hitting the road.

2.  Puppies potty train within weeks of coming home.  Toddlers, on the other hand, can take years.  YEARS of dirty diapers, of poopslosions, of peeing in your face, of peeing on your couch, of pooping in your lap.  You get the picture.  Cleaning up your puppy’s messes has NOTHING on cleaning up after a toddler who has discovered that poop is just like finger paint that you make yourself.

3.  You are allowed, in fact encouraged, to train your puppy to sleep through the night by locking him in a small crate.  Try that with your kids, and you’ll find out if orange really is the new black.

4.  You can call your dog a asshole and not feel guilty about it.  You also don’t have to worry about your dog repeating those words in front of other people.  Actually, I wish my dog would start cursing.  Then at least I could make some money off the little jerk.

5.  You can have a dog and still have a life.  Need to go to the grocery store?  Pop Fido in his cozy little crate, grab your wallet, and be on your way.  Same with going out with your friends on a Friday night.  Not with kids.  Junior has to go with you everywhere.  No crates for babies.  Going to the grocery store with a baby is more like an Antarctic expedition.  You need the carrier, blankets, toys, snacks, lists, coupons (because now that you have kids, you have a LOT less money), diapers, wipes, and….. you get the point.  As for going out on a Friday…unless you can shell out for a sitter, your ass is staying home.  Sitters don’t make a couple bucks an hour like they did when we were young, either.  We’re talking $10 an hour in most places.  Good luck with that.

Puppy Love

Puppy Love

6.  Babies cost more.  I don’t care how many toys, treats, beds, clothes, or organic dog food bags you buy for your dog, it has nothing on a baby.  And toddlers?  Helloooo growth spurts, goodbyyye money.  They will eat you out of house and home.  And they aren’t satisfied with eating the same dry kibble every day, either.  Once they get off of breast milk or formula, they will eat everything.  I swear they can taste how expensive something is, too, and they will decide that the thing they want more than anything is the most expensive food in the house.  Don’t even get me started on the cost of daycare, preschool, or activities.  I’m going to need a second mortgage to pay for gymnastics.

7.  Babies take up more space.  Before we had kids, we lived in a 20’x20′ apartment with two dogs, two cat, and two snakes.  We had plenty of room.  It was great.  Then the girls were born, and we realized that this just wasn’t going to work anymore.  So we bought a house.  Holy crap.  Talk about expensive.

8.  Dogs love you unconditionally.  No matter what I do, my dog loves me.  If I have to go somewhere, he is waiting for me at the door, tail wagging and tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, just happy as can be.  If I don’t have time to rub his belly, he forgives me and lays at my feet until I can give him a quick pat.  I can call him any name under the sun, and he will just keep licking my face.  My girls, on the other hand, are a bit less forgiving.  Now, I know they love me, and that the always will, but they are almost four, so…  If I go somewhere without them:  tantrum.  If I don’t drop everything I’m doing to pay 100% attention to them:  tantrum.  If I give them the wrong color cup:  tantrum.  You get the picture.  I know its not that they don’t love me. I’m not an idiot.  But they sure have crazy ways of showing it at this age.  Dogs, on the other hand, are much simpler in their emotions.

9.  Dogs don’t care about Barney.  Or Strawberry Shortcake.  They don’t cry if I want to watch Master Chef instead of one more episode of Daniel Tiger.  Foster (my dog) just cares that he gets to snuggle up to me on the couch a little longer.

10.  Dogs are quieter, even when they are barking.  Until you have experienced the ear-shattering sound of a toddler who hasn’t gotten their own way, you have NO idea what noise is.

Let me say again that I love my kids and my dog, even though there are times I wish I could lock all three of them in the crate.  But they are different.  Very different.

Best frenemies

Best frenemies