When you give birth to a baby with special needs, the thought of having more children is wrecked with anxiety, hope, fear, guilt, and love. You wonder if “it” will happen again. Then you feel guilty because frankly, you love your child, special needs and all, and accept them just as they are. In one breath, you know you could handle another child with those same needs – you’ve been there, done that. In the next breath, you hope your body can do the best it can do to grow a baby without those needs. Then in yet another breath, you realize each child has the potential to be born with any number of special needs, or may acquire any number of special needs in his/her lifetime.
The idea of having another child, if that’s in your family plan, may be scary nonetheless. Can we handle the medical needs of our current child (plus our other children!), and a newborn? What if there are medical needs for the next child – now we have two children requiring extra time, travel, appointments, therapies, equipment… But then again, at some time or another, it seems like each child presents varying degrees of needs that pull us as parents from one child to another.
Is it fair to have another child? Will we be able to provide for that child like we have the others during infancy and toddlerhood, given the special needs of our current youngest? Can we handle it? Then again, each successive child has a different experience due to the number of older siblings s/he has – so what really is fair?
What about the mindset of having an even number of kids – seems like someone is always left out if you have an uneven number of siblings. Would having an even number help, or will the child with special needs be left out in the end regardless of number of kids?
And then for us, we have all boys – what if our next child is a daughter… does that still leave the tables “uneven”? Does it give our youngest child a higher chance that his sister will help with caretaking when they’re adults, if he needs extra help? His brothers have pretty big hearts and are quite helpful already… brother or sister doesn’t matter, hopefully it’s all in how we raise them.
And what if we decided we were “done” at three children? Is that a decision we made because my husband and I felt it was right, or would we be allowing our son’s disability to determine our entire future? Sure, having a child with disabilities changes the way you travel, experience places, park your car, live, choose schools, buy cars, buy clothes, schedule things, and more. But it shouldn’t be the driving force of our entire existence, nor should it be the driving force of his.
We have our hands full… People tell us this all the time as it is. As if we didn’t know! But our hearts are also full. We have a home of chaos and fun, laughter and loudness, rough and tumble and hugs and kisses. Three boys ages 6, 4, and 2 years IS a handful. If it wasn’t, there would probably be something wrong!! Add in that one of those children requires 2-4 appointments/therapies each week, surgeries throughout a lifetime, medical procedures on a daily basis… and parents that like to stay involved in schools and community things. We are BUSY. But that’s our life and that’s what we wanted. Kids close in age. Involved in our surroundings.
So then you finally decide. You decide that you want another child. Whatever the reasons may be, as long as they are YOUR reasons, they are the right reasons. Regardless of anyone else’s opinions. It seems that people are more opinionated about the number of children you have the more children you have – and add in that one of those has special needs, and now people think you’re crazy. Want to know what I think is crazy awesome? When people have their first child and s/he has special needs – and then they decide to have another child! I love this. It means that those people realize that each child will come with challenges and mounds of love. They realize they haven’t been dealt a “no more kids” card – life and families continue right along with special needs.
When you finally get pregnant, back come the emotions from deciding to even try for another child…anxiety, hope, fear, guilt, and love. In reality, even mothers-to-be without a child with special needs feel these very things. The added negative feelings come due to the reasons behind why your child might have special needs and how that impacts future pregnancies. Is there a genetic link? Environmental? Do you do genetic counseling? Do you get all the tests in the world that are offered? Are there special things you need to do to try to do something “better” or more “right” than the last time? Then that opens a whole other world of guilt of course… Did you do something “wrong” the last time?
Then comes the time when you think you are ready to start telling people. We knew there were plenty of people out there with their own opinions about whether we should have another child or not, and frankly, it’s not their decision/problem/choice, so we didn’t want to deal with negativity. And we didn’t want to keep hearing the typical conversation that goes something like this, over and over again:
Anyone: Do you want a boy or a girl?
Me: Doesn’t matter. We already have three boys – so a fourth would be “easier” – we have all the clothes!
(or if they know we have three boys already…)
Anyone: I bet you’re hoping it’s a girl!
Me: (awkward shuffle and smile) Well, not really. I mean, we have done the boy thing, we have all the boy clothes, I’m okay with a fourth boy. But either way, boy or girl, in the end it doesn’t matter…
Either of those conversations tends to continue with this gut-puncher:
Anyone: Well, as long as the baby is healthy!
Me: (to myself, in my own head) NO, not “as long as the baby is healthy” – we will take this child with anything s/he comes with, just as we did our youngest child… We’ve done the other road, and we can handle it. So we’ll take whatever this baby brings us! And healthy baby or not, the future can hold a million other things for every child that is born, good and bad.
Me: (finally out loud after biting my tongue, hmm-ing and haw-ing because I’m sure saying THAT thought isn’t going to sound nice coming out, or is just going to be awkward) Mmmm. Sure, either way…
But in the end, the reality is that every pregnancy and every child has unknown risks. Any one of our children could come down with an illness, sustain an injury, or be diagnosed with something requiring way more care than what we give Colten. And we don’t know if/when that will happen. We cannot plan our children “around” special needs. So you either decide you want more children or not – it really has nothing to do with special needs. Yes, we do need to consider our resources, energy, logistics, etc… but the special needs of one child in and of itself should not be a deciding factor.
All that being said, if you haven’t guessed already or been told already, or seen me waddling around town, our family is excited to be growing again! We will be welcoming our new bundle of joy in July! (And no, we do not know if it’s a boy or girl. And no, we are not going to find out.)