Special needs

Special-needs parenting: Bittersweet birth of a new baby

Welcoming a new baby into the family can produce a range of mixed emotions for the parents of a child with special needs.

special-needs-parenting-baby

Syona spends some quality time with her new little cousin. Photo: Anchel Krishna

I grew up with a very tight-knit extended family, and we’re still all incredibly close. It’s an added bonus that my brother-in-law has two kids that are close to my daughter Syona’s age. They have fun together and it was nice to see how quickly Syona and her cousins bonded after they moved here from Vancouver. But on my side of the family, Syona is the only grandchild—that is, until about three months ago, when my sister and her husband welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the family.

My sister had a difficult labour and ended up having her son via emergency C-section. She spent close to 24 hours in labour, while we anxiously awaited the news. When we found out that she had had a son, our family rushed to the hospital. Between our side of the family and her husband’s side, we dominated the waiting room, congratulating each other with big smiles all around. After we all spent a quick minute with the new family we left the hospital.

On the drive home I spoke with Dilip about how that visit to the hospital really brought up mixed emotions for me. It was the first time since Syona’s birth four years ago that I’d been in a hospital to see a newborn baby. It brought me back to the day when Syona was born. It was a day that held a full range of emotions for me—from unbridled joy to the deepest of fears. Seeing my sister, her husband and her newborn son in the hospital was so much more for me than just a first visit with my new nephew. It was a moment that served as a benchmark to see how much I’ve really progressed from the trauma of Syona’s birth.

Read more: Special needs parenting: Letter to myself four years ago>

It was tough. I knew the moment wasn’t about me—it was about my sister and her newly expanded family. But I needed to have a good cry and verbalize my emotions with Dilip because it pulled me back into our own story. And I needed to process all of that so that I could really, truly feel the joy that came with being introduced to a new little family member. What I didn’t realize until much later is how much our challenging birth story with Syona had impacted all our family members. I write a lot about how Syona has changed our perspective. She’s taught us what is important, how to be an optimist and how to advocate for what we believe in. My nephew’s birth reminded me that Syona’s reach goes far beyond Dilip and I—it actually extends through our entire family. Our pint-sized four-year-old has impacted so many lives in such a positive way.

Since my nephew was born, I’ve compared many of his early moments with Syona’s first few weeks. For example, changing his diaper is so different from when I had to change Syona’s diaper—her muscles were tight from her cerebral palsy right from the beginning and it was more difficult to maneuver her. But sometimes I stop and realize that, when it comes to parenting, there really is no “typical” experience. My biggest realization, though, comes when I see Syona play with one of her cousins. Kids bring so much love into our world. And watching that love grow between them is the most magical moment of all.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.