Maybe it’s because we are thinking of baby names and hers comes up as a potential middle name. Maybe it’s because I’m 36 weeks pregnant and slightly hormonal. Probably it’s because baby #3’s birth is imminent.
Either way, I’ve been thinking a lot about the baby #3 I almost had.
As I was packing our stuff for the move, I found an old ultrasound picture. It was dated July 2011. I can’t believe it was 3 years ago we found out we were pregnant with twins, which quickly became identical twin girls. And then spiraled into a diagnosis of TRAP Sequence complete with weekly ultrasounds and scary phrases like “acardiac twin” and “10% chance of survival.” That pregnancy was a whirlwind of emotions filled with desperate prayers for baby A to survive and simultaneous mourning for baby B, who would never exist outside my womb.
Cayden Marie. That was her name. It means heart of the sea. She never had a physical heart. And yet she held mine from the moment I saw her on the ultrasound with her twin sister.
Sometimes, I look at Summer and think, wow, there were almost 2 of you. Identical twins. I see her feisty spirit and am amazed at how her little heart sustained both of them for 9 months at the risk of her own life and to the surprise of the medical staff.
She is my miracle baby.
And she is at that stage where I just want to eat her up. Like literally smother her with jelly and take a bite. She strings all her words together so quickly that her little tongue gets in the way and it sounds like she is saying blah blah blah. (And yes, I’m aware it’s very possible she is mocking me and saying exactly that.)
I see our little family and how the girls love each other. The kind of love that I thought Summer would miss out on by not having her twin sister. But they have it. Yesterday, Mia was taking a nap and Summer started stroking her hair and saying “lub you, lub you.” Don’t get me wrong, this is not always the scene in our home (and after 2 time outs today for both of them, it’s actually more rare than common). But still. It’s love.
And I get scared adding another girl to the mix. Girls are weird. They are territorial and mean and sassy. Part of me gets anxious about changing the dynamic these sisters already have in place. And yet, the other part of me is excited to welcome this new baby girl into our fold of love. Of messy, searching, real love.
I spoke at an Autism Resource event last week and there was a lively discussion about siblings of children with special needs. The parents were sharing concerns that many of their typically-developing children express – that they live in the shadow of their sibling, that they resent not getting as much attention etc.
Those sentences can be true of any sibling pair. I know many people who lived in the shadow of their valedictorian sister. Or didn’t get as much attention as their drug-addict brother. Or star-athlete brother.
But here’s the difference.
All the siblings of people with special needs that I know, and I know hundreds, love their sibling with a rare kind of love. A protective, all-encompassing love. The siblings, they are compassionate. They have a perspective unique to seeing the world through the eyes of someone with a disability. When you celebrate things like your family getting a wheelchair van, or your sister learning to walk at age 4 when her muscle tone was finally strong enough, or your brother getting invited to a friend’s house for the first time at age 10, your perspective widens. Your values change. And for these sibs, hearing people say the R-word is no longer something to gloss over. They know the pain it causes. Seeing someone being bullied is not something they tolerate – they stand up. They defend.
And as I thought of these amazing siblings, I realized my job as mom isn’t to make sure my girls are all best friends. That they always get along or have the ‘twin’ thing going on. My job is to raise compassionate kids. To raise girls that value their bodies and learn how to respect themselves. To teach them how truly loving others starts with loving yourself, something I’m only learning now. To stand up for the right thing even when it’s unpopular. My job is to teach what compassion, and integrity, and true strength looks like.
Sometimes I feel like these lessons get lost when I am spending my days teaching and re-teaching what sharing looks like. What being gentle to the dog looks like. What not whining sounds like. Why drinking mommy’s juice is not a good idea. And by juice, I mean wine.
And the part of me that always wanted boys is starting to diminish as I begin to see the overarching role of mom is the same for both genders. The qualities you want to instill in your kids – empathy, truth, humor, respect – they are the same qualities whether you are raising sons or daughters. The difference is if you have to try and teach these qualities through an overload of drama and tears and boobs or an overload of hairy, stinky testosterone (and an obsession with boobs).
I guess that’s the fun (?) part; figuring out how to teach your kids the values that are important in the midst of it all – and I get to do it in the midst of princess dresses and periods. Times 3. God help me.
As I reflect on baby #3 coming soon, part of me says goodbye officially (again) to the baby #3 I almost had. But there is a bitter-sweetness about it this time. Because I’m no longer mourning the loss of the twin-thing. It wasn’t the twin thing that makes sibling relationships special. It’s the love and respect they learn to have for themselves, each other and the world around them. Ok fine, the twin thing is still so cool but whatever.
I am focused on teaching these qualities to my girls. I’ll start with sharing and not pushing and singing songs NOT from Frozen, and if I’m lucky somewhere in there, they will learn to love each other and others. Because they have compassion. And insight. And strength. And hopefully, those qualities will shine through the hormones and the drama and the sharing of one bathroom.
I will have 3 girls ages 4 and under in the next month.
Pray for me.
And send Mommy juice.