I can’t even believe I’m writing about the fact that Tera is four. When she turned one, it was emotional since her first year was so full of unexpected experiences. Turning two and three were emotional, but not as bad as one. And now four. For some reason it just seems so old. One of my favorite pictures of Tera (there are many) is a professional one from daycare when she was two. They captured all that is Tera and her little face has the sweetest expression and her eyes are just full of life. I can’t bring myself to change that picture on my desk at work or in the frame at home because she is so amazingly beautiful in it. But it also reminds me how little she looks in it and how much she has changed since then.
Aging children is an emotion I would imagine most parents, maybe more so moms, experience. It’s a confusing time of trying to appreciate all that they can do as they get older and at the same time trying to hold on to the innocence and dependence of being a baby or toddler. With Tera we pretty much knew we were going to have another one so even though it was hard at times to come to grips that my first baby was getting bigger and older, I was pretty sure I would get to experience that time again. Now with Zoey, I find myself struggling with it so much more.
Despite the fact that Tera is still so little, I look at her chubby little hands next to Zoey’s tiny ones and realize how much bigger she is than her baby sister. I watch her perform simple tasks and motions that at one point she struggled so much with and find it hard to believe there was ever a time when she couldn't do it. I wondered for so long how old she would be when she would finally start saying funny things and now that she does, it’s hard to remember how anxious I was to hear that first word.
Tera’s birthday, and I imagine Zoey’s will be too, is a day of mixed emotions. On the one hand we were finally able to meet our first child. Despite an easy pregnancy with her, I didn’t particularly enjoy being pregnant and so the end came with a definite wave of relief to be done. She was an easy, short delivery and before I knew it, I was holding that tiny little stranger in my arms still in disbelief that she was really ours. But then amidst the excitement and exhaustion of our first hour of parenthood, came the news we had no preparation for. In one sentence our lives changed forever. Fear and sadness temporarily pushed aside our happiness. We didn’t just have a new baby, we had a new diagnosis. Our tiny little girl was different and would always be different.
When we shared the news with our family that day, we only shared part of our news while we tried to accept and come to grips the situation. I felt like a liar as I told people that she was healthy because I didn’t think that was entirely true. We cried. A lot. We were scared and worried and at same time, still very excited and in love with this new little girl.
Four years later, I can honestly say, that while it’s still a little scary, it’s not nearly as scary as it was that first day. She has touched so many people and has most definitely changed our lives. She is not an easy child, but her defiance, fire, tenacity, independence, and strong will are what make her so incredible (and many times are the traits that drive us the most crazy).
There are still a lot of times I cry. Not necessarily just because she has Down Syndrome, but because of some of the things it entails. As I lay my hand on her chest when I’m trying to get her back to sleep at night, I feel the whooshing of the blood through the hole in her heart instead of a steady beat. I listen to her snore as she breathes through her mouth because her passages are so small and her tonsils are so big. We worry more about pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, digestive issues, and skin problems that are common to kids with DS. She has orthotics that prevent her from wearing cute shoes and will probably never be even close to as tall as either of her above average height parents. Her larger than average tongue and low tone make speech more difficult.
But...she is known everywhere she goes. The doctors and nurses fawn over her, she delights all her therapists with her energy and accomplishments, she inspires people all around her, her picture brightens the day of people she’s never met, she has an infectious smile, a willingness to do things that are difficult for her, and continues to amaze Tom and I daily (she also challenges us daily but that’s for another post…).
So what does Tera love right now? She adores her baby sister. I mean, truly loves her. She loves her baby dolls, her kitchen, coloring and painting, jumping on her trampoline, reading, puzzles, her new dollhouse, dancing, tea parties, her Star Wars guys, Batman, dress up, and tools. Her favorite things to watch are: Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Phineas and Ferb, How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2, Gnomeo and Juliet, Monsters Inc, Despicable Me, Little Mermaid, and Lion King. She still struggles with her colors, but I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced her to love purple. She loves peanut butter and jelly, meatballs, pasta, waffles, eggs, avocado, cupcakes, popcorn, blueberry greek yogurt, and bananas. She’s currently in hippotherapy and loves her pony Chance, she does private speech and OT once a week, and is in the literacy program at Gigi’s on Saturday mornings. And she loves life. Tera does everything with more energy than I can muster in a whole day. She loves fiercely, hates when people are upset or hurting, and despite the fact that she challenges every ounce of patience I have on an almost daily basis, I simply cannot imagine my life without that little hellion.
So to you my sweet Tera, on the fourth anniversary of your birth and also of us becoming parents, I want you to know how much we love you. You make me proud to be your mom and inspire me to be a better person. I look at the world differently as your mom and it is a better place.