Friday, December 19, 2008

Changing my thinking

Recently I was looking at some photos of a friend's baby who is younger than Finn by a couple of weeks. In the photos, the baby is grinning and grabbing her toes, and my friend goes on to describe the things her baby is doing, like passing a toy from one hand to the other. I felt the usual sadness start to creep into my heart. Finn doesn't do those things. He doesn't yet grab his toes, and he doesn't pass toys from one hand to the other.

And interesting thing happened, though, while I was starting to get sad. I reminded myself that Finn's physical growth is not charted on a "typical" babies' growth chart. His height and weight and head circumference are charted on growth charts for babies with Down syndrome - and rightly so. Babies with Down syndrome are different. Yes, more alike than different, but different all the same. And really, I'm totally okay with the fact that expectations concerning his growth are charted in accordance with a different timeline. So why, I asked myself, do I keep expecting - or wanting - him to achieve developmental milestones according to a typical baby's timeline?

I actually have a developmental timeline for babies with Ds which was given to me by the geneticist who diagnosed Finn (and then re-diagnosed him a few weeks ago). And according to that timeline, Finn is on track. In fact, he's excelling in many areas.

If I can allow myself to look at it like this, I feel much better. This isn't me surrendering. I will always want and push for Finn to reach his greatest potential in every area. But to continue wanting him to do all the things that "typical" babies/children/people do - and on their typical timeline - I'm just setting myself up for feeling like a failure.

When I was reading Gifts recently, I noticed that a common theme parents wrote about was wanting - at least initially - their child to be a "superstar," to be the exception to the rule and exceed all expectations of children with Ds. I think I've been doing that . . . somehow trying to convince myself that if I love him enough, if I want for him enough, he will be typical, and not delayed. And that thinking isn't fair to him or to myself, because every delay that manifests, however small or minor, then leaves me feeling like I've failed him.

It's such a simple concept, but one I guess we each have to accept in our own time. I'm getting there.


My name is Sarah said...

Lisa, This is Joyce. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I have tears running down my face, just outstanding. You have such a gift, and I am so blessed to be sharing in your journey. I just can't express how touched I am by your insight.

Liz said...

Bravo, Mama.

He will show his uniqueness, his passions, his specialness, his gifts as time goes on. And now you are ready and prepared to be open to them!

JaybirdNWA said...

I can relate because I struggle with the same issues and they are my issues, not John's. As a Therapist, I take pride in the fact that I am able to help change the abilities of people. This is how I have been with John these past 4 months - working with John daily, almost hourly thinking that I can reverse his genetic make-up. But I am slowly coming to realize and accept that this is who John is and I am growing to love him for who he is and not what I am able to change him to be.

There is a wide range on the timeline when "typical" children as well a Ds children meet their milestones. However, as a Father of a Ds child and a Therapist, milestones mean about as much to me as an IQ test which is not much. I am learning to just be happy with making progress toward the goal. As long as he is making forward progress, he will reach the mark - he just may not reach it in the predetermined time that I or someone else has set for him.

Heidi said...

Hi Lisa,

Every baby is different. My baby is 5 months old now. He's not doing lots of the things that most of the other babies on our birth board are doing. He doesn't sit up. He doesn't roll over. He slumps forward a lot. He hasn't found his feet. But he's the joy of my life. I try not to worry about how he's developing. He's perfect just because he is. I find myself getting angry at people who ask shy he's not doing things yet. He's just not ready to yet. He will when he's ready. Anyway, you're not the only mom out there who compares her baby to other babies. For me, I just keep reminding myself that my sweet babe is his own unique self.


Anonymous said...

"and that thinking isn't fair to him, or to myself..."


bravo from me, too!


Laurie said...

Thank you for posting this, Lisa. It is so interesting to be traveling this journey with you...

The other night Cass wanted to watch a home video. She LOVES watching dvds of herself : ) She picked one at random and I put it in. It just so happened to be when she was exactly the same age as D is right now. She was in the exersaucer, jumper, Bumbo, she was laughing and sitting up. What was so weird, but yet wonderful for me, was that I looked at Dylan and did not feel badly. I did not feel sad. I felt really ok with the fact that he is not there and he is not really even close. I know that he will get there in his own time, and that's ok.

Tricia said...

Very cool indeed.

Tara Marie said...

What a sweet, beautiful woman you are, and I am loving watching your journey.