Happy Halloween 2015!

Once upon a time, Ted and I were fancy dress fanatics. Halloween would be the peak of our costume creations (in part due to the Brighton Zombie Walk we attended every year). But times change and babies arrive… We haven’t had many costume parties to attend or much time to devote to cutting, sticking, sewing etc.

However I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to have an annual Halloween bash where Audrey can wear a costume and we can make spooky treats for her to eat… This year Ted dressed as Sheriff Brody from Jaws, I was his wife and Audrey… Was the SHARK!

Enjoy the pics and Happy Halloween!

   
    
    
    
 

Advertisements

The downs 

Audrey doesn’t have a lot of physiotherapy sessions as the NHS service here is understaffed. This hasn’t been ideal, but I haven’t been excessively worried about it.

As we near the arrival of Audrey’s baby brother however, I do grow concerned over her lack of interest in standing/walking and I want this to progress as quickly as it comfortably can.

The truth is, we’ve been given exercises to work on at home, but I hardly do them because Audrey gets grumbly/upset. I basically let her get away with 20 seconds of standing here and there and then give up.

Some other parents of children with special needs recommended a local service (funded by a charity) that offers physio on a weekly basis, so I got in touch and we attended our first session Friday morning.

I’m not sure I can quite put into words what it was like. The funny thing is, I’m sure the ladies running it would have had absolutely no idea that when I left I had a cry on a friend’s shoulder because I found it all so hard. When I was at the session I bottled up all my feelings and was polite and thankful for their help. And that’s the thing – they were helping, this wasn’t a torture group! But oh it felt like torture.

Audrey was given some shoes to wear (the new boots we bought her just a week ago aren’t supportive enough) and she was “encouraged” to be in certain positions (kneeling, standing, walking(!), sitting and crawling). Audrey was her usual friendly, kiss-blowing fabulousness – but she spent much of the time saying “nished” (finished), “no” or simply grizzling. The bottom lip came out in full force (I just wanted to cuddle her!) and there were tears (from her, mine came later).

The ladies running the session assured me she wasn’t that upset (they’d seen worse) and they were encouraging… But it was one of the first times I felt fully exposed to a feeling that things were hard. That having a child with Down’s Syndrome involves a struggle. And I was angry that I have to put her through that in order to progress her walking… It won’t just come to her, we’ll have to work hard and it will be hard.

It was also just really horrible going to a group that wasn’t fun. Don’t get me wrong, they sang and we looked at books and drew pictures and had a snack… Most of the usual stuff… But normally I go to groups specifically for Audrey to dance and have fun (sometimes whilst learning of course), but I sit there beaming with pride whilst she does her thing and we leave happy.

This involved all the grizzling, plus questions about what she can and can’t do. It just highlighted her issues, rather than all the positives I usually focus on.

And I appreciate that there’s no use in me ignoring the tough stuff – we have to deal with it and get through it. But I guess I am haunted a little by some lovely things people said when we first had Audrey… “She’s so lucky to have you as parents, you’ll work so hard for her”, lots of people said we’d be so great at helping her progress and I felt worried about this expectation because I’m quite lazy, forgetful and also a soft touch – this combination doesn’t make for a great task master! I knew we’d work hard on the signing, speech and read to her a lot, we would play and hopefully make it educational… But I wasn’t confident I’d “push” her. So I guess this group highlighted this insecurity – or rather exposed it!

Now it’s been over 24 hours since the group, I’m feeling better about it (and remember, I am a mess of pregnancy hormones), so onwards and upwards! We’ll work hard and Audrey will enjoy standing up eventually and when she’s walking, all this tough love will have been worth it.

I don’t have any pictures from the group, but I’ve always got pictures of Audrey to share, so here she is from this morning:

  
 

Bun in oven

I’m going to start this post by describing what it was like to find out “we” were pregnant with Audrey.

As someone who enjoys a surprise but wants the surprise RIGHT NOW, I peed on a few sticks unnecessarily before striking positive after about 6 months of trying for Audrey. I just couldn’t “wait and see”, if I had a pregnancy test in the house, I had to pee on it!

Once we had recieved the positive test we were hoping for, of course we said we’d keep it to ourselves until the scan… just tell a few friends… Actually we were super restrained in that we didn’t tell our family. We kept this secret as our scan was due just days before Christmas and we thought it would be an amazing announcement to make on Boxing Day with both mums and brothers in attendance. However outside of that big announcement, we did tell quite a few friends. Not least because of the logistics of me dodging alcohol during Christmas party season!

The fact is though, that despite my lack of morning sickness and general feeling fine, we were pregnant and that was that. And so it progressed and we had Audrey and the rest is history.

The second time we got pregnant (end of September 2014), we treated it in a similar way. We were on the same schedule, so the family announcement was set to be the same… Although this time an event prompted me to tell lots of people – as the company I worked for (for 8 years) went into administration and I lost my job. At about 4 weeks pregnant. So I was emotional and worried and kept telling people why this was such spectacularly bad timing.

At 10 weeks we lost the baby. I’m relieved we weren’t further along and even though it was still horrible, it could have been so much worse. Plus we had Audrey around to keep our spirits up.

And so at the beginning of 2015, we were back to square one, trying to make a sibling for Audrey.

I still hadn’t found a job, but we feared more miscarriages or a long period of trying, so decided to just keep on going and see what happened. Naturally I fell pregnant shortly before starting a new job. Oops.

With this pregnancy, we still told lots of people (we can’t help ourselves), but we didn’t feel anywhere near as confident. You just realise how fragile it all is and that people don’t like to talk about miscarriage, so you only really find out how common it is once you’ve had one and others start sharing stories.

So we’ve waited until 20 weeks until “coming out” as expecting baby number 2. Which means we’ve had the scan and this time we’ve found out the sex. Audrey is going to have a baby brother! We didn’t care either way, but I’m feeling excited about having a boy, as it’s new territory. We just genuinely feel blessed to have one child, let alone two. I’m scared of what lies ahead (looking after two?!!), but I’ve always wanted a big family, so haven’t ruled out a third (hmmm, let’s see how that goes).

When Audrey was born, I yearned for a “normal” child – I wanted to make another one quite soon. Well that’s not entirely true… I guess I just really wanted to know we would have a typical child or I wanted to fast forward to having one – to getting that child I was expecting to have in the first place. The great thing is, as time has gone on, I stopped yearning for that child for me, I just really wanted it for Audrey. A sibling, a playmate… a family with more to offer her. I realised that if we couldn’t have any more children for some reason, I didn’t care… We’d adopt to get that bigger family because we just want more than one child. I don’t need to produce a perfect baby to satisfy a need, I have that already, in Audrey.

  

Down’s Syndrome Awareness Month 2015

October is Down’s Syndrome Awareness Month. 

Sometimes I feel like I’m living DS awareness continually and I don’t need to highlight the month (I imagine friends and family thinking “Yawn. Yes, we know you have a kid with Down’s Syndrome, stop banging on about it!”), but then I realise it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

I’m always trying to raise awareness that Audrey is great and we are happy – that having a child with DS might not be what people expect. But I also realise that our reality with Audrey isn’t everyone’s reality of living with a child with DS. I’m still keen to spread awareness that she’s everything we hoped for and more, but for this month I’d like to teach people a few important things too. So I’m going to try to cover some topics that people commonly don’t know, questions we get asked or uncomfortable language people use without realising.

1). Language does matter.

When Audrey was first born, I thought people were being petty over “a baby with Down’s Syndrome” rather than a “Down’s Syndrome baby”. But as things have progressed, it does grate when that language comes up. You start to feel strongly that your child is just a human being who happens to have DS. They are not “Down’s Syndrome”, they have it. My mum in particular used to say “just because Audrey is Down’s…” And I had to correct her, because she isn’t “Down’s”, she’s Audrey! This is a tricky one, because I wouldn’t say “a person who is deaf”, I’d probably say “deaf person”, although I guess the preferred term now is “hearing impaired”?  So I understand it’s hard to get this language right and no one wants to feel all politically-correct-crazy. But do think before you speak if possible…

You wouldn’t expect it, but often other people with family members with DS are the worst. Just this week I’ve had someone say “I have one the same” (pointing at Audrey) and “My sister had a Down’s kid… They’re so loving, aren’t they?”. Yeesh. 

Oh and when you are referring to other children and discussing my child with DS, those other children are “typical” children, not “normal” children. Obviously it’s uncomfortable to imply Audrey is abnormal!

2). Different.

Children with Down’s Syndrome have lots in common, due to the condition (and I’m going to cover some of those things in this post), but they are all different. Just like typical people. Crazy, eh? People who have Down’s Syndrome are people. So they can be naughty, they can be into heavy metal or be gay – yep, just like typical people they all have different thoughts, feelings and interests. So they don’t all love cuddles (although luckily Audrey does, phew). 

Again, I might get asked “When do they expect her to walk?”, “Has anyone been able to give you an idea of how mentally able she’ll be?”. I appreciate the interest and I know people mean well, but unfortunately all we know in general is that she will be on a slower learning curve than typical kids, but even that could be smashed… Audrey was the first back to front roller in our group for example. But she’s 26 months old and still not walking, so how about we just see how she gets on and not over analyse, ok?

3). Low muscle tone. 

Now, this is something I had no idea about pre-Audrey. Babies with DS usually have low muscle tone, which means they are a bit “floppy”. This results in a delay in physical milestones such as sitting up unaided, crawling, walking and the issue also affects the muscles in the mouth (the tongue and palate etc), which also makes it trickier for speech development. This is a useful one for people to understand as it would be nice if it wasn’t a shock that Audrey still isn’t walking. I also think it’s useful to know it’s not that Audrey hasn’t figure out how to walk, it’s that she physically doesn’t have the muscle tone to stand and walk. She’ll get there, it’s just going to take some work. In the meantime, the bottom shuffle is epic.

4). Learning difficulties. 

Most people associate this with Down’s Syndrome. In general they will be a bit behind typical children, but beyond that we can’t predict how Audrey will progress with any more accuracy than you can decide at 2 years old if little Tarquin is going to be a brain surgeon. 

One good thing about a recognisable condition such as DS; there’s so much research and history, that professionals know what works in terms of teaching. Kids with Down’s Syndrome typically enjoy reading and are visual learners. I’m told by Audrey’s special educational needs practicitioner that many children with DS start school ahead of their typical peers in terms of literacy, as they will have had so much focus and attention on that area and generally respond well to books.

I feel like I’ve gone from worrying about Audrey’s academic future, to feeling excited by it!

5). Being Mongolian.

The Mongolian thing just amuses me. Not long after Audrey was born, I looked up the term “mong” because I remembered it as a derogatory term used in playgrounds when I was younger. I knew this was a term used for people with Down’s Syndrome, but I didn’t know why. When I found out why, I just thought it was ridiculous. John Langdon Down (the man who first classified the syndrome, finding the shared characteristics), thought that people with DS looked like the Mongolian race due to a similar physical appearance and labelled them “Mongoloids”. It just feels a bit ridiculous now, “Ooh you look a bit Mongolian…”. Clearly, the term moved on from a classification to become a term of derision and abuse and I would be appalled if anyone called Audrey a “mong”, so please don’t take any of this the wrong way.

Ted and I have often joked that our genes plus a dash of Mongolian = one beautiful baby. The Mongolians should be flattered.

So what are these exotic features… Well, it’s almond shaped eyes, a button nose (sometimes quite flat), the crease under the eyes and small ears. Possibly also the fact that people with DS are generally quite short, with shorter limbs? 

Poor Audrey, Daddy’s not exactly a giant, but I’ve got serious shorties on my side, so she was never going to compete with Naomi Campbell on height. My mother is under 5 feet tall!

Anyway, I’m going to leave it there for this post. I hope some of it it was useful/interesting… But if you take anything away from Down Syndrome Awareness Month, let it be this; people with DS are similar in some ways, just like the human race is, but they are also individuals. We never know what to attribute Audrey’s qualities to. Is it because she’s;

A girl?

A child with Down’s Syndrome?

Our child?

Her own person?

A 2 year old?

A Brightonian?

Influenced by nursery?

Nature nurture blah blah blah… She’s just Audrey.