That's a word I've come to know as your mama, and a term any parent of a child with special needs becomes familiar with not too far into their journey. We expect them, and the longer we're in this thing, we realize that they are going to crop up in one area of development or another. And although it's never an easy thing to watch your child struggle, I think the more I accept that your diagnosis can at times mean significant delays, the easier it is to come to terms with how to address those issues.
There's a fine line between expecting-not-accepting... and also having a healthy view of reality. Because while it is true in so many instances that children with Down syndrome are "more alike than different", reality is that your bonus chromosome will in fact set you a bit apart in some areas of development. I don't think it's fair or realistic to expect you to be on track with your peers in every area; I'm just setting myself up for disappointment if I hold an impossible standard in my effort to prove just how "alike" you are.
So delays are to be expected, and one of the things I've noticed is that it really is impossible to determine where you're going to be developmentally tomorrow, based on what I'm seeing now. Because just when I'm certain that a milestone is light years down the road- bam!- you're proving me wrong. Last week we were working on a four point crawl with you, while "standing" was not even on the horizon in our minds. And suddenly there you were: pushing yourself up in the middle of the room, proudly planting your feet on the ground with a big grin on your face, as if to say: don't underestimate me, Mama. I've got this covered.
Which brings me to this latest delayed developmental stage, which honestly, Lily, is one I wouldn't have minded missing altogether. It's something every single one of your brothers and sisters have gone through, and with each one of them it only lasted a month or two: separation anxiety. I've never left my children with babysitters very often in the first year, because of breast-feeding, and also because I honestly just love having my babies with me! I admit it, Lily: I'm addicted to my babies.
Having said that, your siblings have all gone in our church nursery somewhere around three months of age... and with the amount of church we go to, that is a significant amount of time spent away from me. But sooner or later, they have all "hit a wall" around 8 months to a year, when they decided nursery was not the place to be. It was never fun to drop off a crying baby in the nursery, knowing that the first few minutes would be spent in a fit of tears. But realizing they would eventually calm down was always my reassurance to leave them there. Sometimes it took two or three services of letting them "cry it out" and sometimes it took a bit more, but without fail each of them passed through that phase unscathed. They soon learned that Mommy would be back for them, and that playing with the other infants and toys was a better way to pass the time than crying.
Enter Queen Lily.
...who decided 10 months after the age her brothers and sisters typically went through separation anxiety, that she was going to try her hand at it.
Oh Lily- those tears and that face just broke my heart. I tried service after service to let you cry it out...but I never saw a lull in the storm. In fact..at times it got a little ugly...
And each time I picked you up at some point during the service, your tiny frame shuttering with sobs and your tear-streaked face red and swollen, I knew instinctively- this wasn't working.
Because all of your siblings have been able to self-sooth at some point. Each one of them seemed to have had a built-in coping mechanism that enabled them to slowly work themselves out of a crying jag, and helped them trust that they were safe without me. But for some reason this ability to cope seemed out of your grasp- not only did we not see progress with each service, you seemed to get worse each time I gingerly handed you over to the nursery worker. In fact, I suspect some of those workers might have cringed a bit when they saw us headed their way. I didn't blame them....
One day I asked your therapist about my theory. I've never been a parent that looks to make allowances for my children...I've always sort of balked at the idea that children are naughty because they missed a nap, or surly because they had too much sugar that day. Granted, there are contributing factors at times, to babies and children and their moods, but for the most part I don't like to make excuses for behavior. So it was with hesitance that I asked Karen about this issue of separation anxiety. Because it seemed to me that you just didn't have the coping skills that your siblings had, and that leaving you to cry was not teaching you to trust your environment or caregivers, but instead was causing the anxiety. For whatever reason, what had worked with your siblings was not working with you, and you started withdrawing whenever we got to church- instead of being your happy, playful self you were clingy and sad, and you weren't even content to go to your daddy or Mackenzie when we were there.
After talking to Karen, who reassured me that you would eventually grow out of this stage, I decided that I needed a different strategy with you than I'd had with your siblings. At first we just boycotted nursery altogether. I wanted church to be a place you felt comfortable going to, a secure environment that you didn't dread. You've always stayed so quiet on my lap, so you weren't the distraction that a typical 19 month old toddler would be. Slowly we started giving you a few minutes in the nursery...if you reached the point where you were inconsolable, the nursery worker would call me, and we would try again the next service.
Each service you seemed to last a little bit longer, until today...your sister-in-law, Naomi, sent me this picture from the nursery....
Naomi said you cried the first fifteen minutes, and then she put you on the rocking horse. You sat and rocked and smiled, and then you got down off of it...only to turn around and climb back on again. You were so impressed with yourself, you spent most of the morning climbing on and off the horse, until the end of the church service. And when I came to pick you up, guess what?! You didn't even cry! You sat calmly on the floor playing with your toys and smiling at me, as if to say: don't underestimate me, Mama. I've got this covered.
So tonight, sweet Lily, as I tuck your tiny sleeping body safely into bed, and brush back the delicate wisps of golden softness from your eyes, I am thanking God for those delays. Because while they stretch and challenge me as a mama, they also cause me to dig deep within the wells of trust and instinct and faith, making the little victories of life that much sweeter.
Loving you always,