It has been ages since my last post and yet I feel like I just wrote one a month ago. I still call the girls my babies, heck, I still call Noah my baby and yet I can’t find a single outfit in the baby section that will fit any of them. I know time is moving forward because each time I see myself in the mirror I notice my pixie hair cut is no longer cute or short and I think there are at least 100 new grey hairs sprouting now. Who knows when my last hair cut was but I swear I told my neighbor the other day how I am loving having really short hair. Not so short these days since I can put it in a ponytail now. Time has passed and it is all relative.
Just last week I went through every single photo I have on my phone or uploaded to my saved folders. I found myself smiling, laughing, getting teary eyed, and then feeling utterly blessed. My husband and I truly are so incredibly blessed. Noah has come so far. Since we see him every day I have to remind myself by visually seeing his progress through my constant snap happy photos I take each week. To think a year ago I sat on a chair exhausted holding two newborns and got to witness Noah pushing up from his tummy onto fully extended arms for the very first time. One year later Noah refuses to lie down on his back. The second we lay him down on his bed or the floor he is flipping to his side, pushing up on one arm, assisting with the other arm, getting into a full upright sitting position, and then teeters there for at least 20 minutes before his core gets tired. In the beginning of this new stage Noah would crash hard and we had to take every safety precaution to ensure he wasn’t smacking his head on his way down. Helmets were purchased, pillows littered every square inch around him, tables and tiles were padded. Nowadays Noah can catch himself 95% of the time on his way down to ensure a safe fall, major progress!
Over this past year I have found myself having pretty much all the classic ups and downs that goes into being a special needs parent, a new parent of multiples, a full time working mom, a wife, a pet owner, an owner of bills and finances, a home owner, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I found that I have pretty much experienced every single situation, thought, fear, happiness, joy, panic, or memory making moment a person can have this year. Sometimes I say “I survived” this past year. Sometimes I say “I lived” this past year. Sometimes I am too tired to even know how to think and just sit there staring at a tv and realize minutes later that I never actually turned it on.
Through all that I have experienced the two things that stand out the most are how strong my marriage really is and how well we work as a team. And raising three little souls who are night and day different from one another teaches you more about what life truly means than any book, blog, podcast, tv show, or news article.
I have learned that everyone around me faces their own trials, hardships, ups and downs. I have learned that every person deals with these things in their own way. Some find things more life altering than others and what one would consider an easy battle is a major storm for the next. I have taken to heart those around me who fill their days with joy and laughter. I have learned that it isn’t easy, but doable, to brush things off and go feel the wind or rain on your face. I have learned that I will compare Noah to Ellie and Maddy just like any other person would compare their children, pets, siblings, or coworkers. It’s natural to notice differences in similar things. I will always notice when the girls do something that Noah has yet to even attempt. I also will notice when one of the girls does something before the other.
I never did baby books for the girls because I didn’t for Noah since nobody has ever made a baby book for the type of milestones he can make. I also never wanted to have the girls sit and compare who did what first, if what they did do, were only days apart from one another. It didn’t matter to me who spoke first, walked first, rolled first, or ate first. What I have learned from watching my three kiddos is that they learn from each other and teach each other without even knowing it. When Noah was able to push up with arms extended the day I brought the girls home, I knew the girls would be following him shortly. The day I saw all three push up together as if I had my own mini gym in my front room I was elated. Noah started doing barrel rolls about the same time the girls did and somehow he learned where all the toys are stored in the living room and will roll that way. Had to be because he noticed the girls always heading that way. We never showed him.
It didn’t take too long for the girls to surpass Noah. I had been reading up on how to prepare myself for the emotional rollercoaster I thought I would have on that day. I remember it clearly. It was after work, I was tired, I had about 30 minutes until my husband got home and was trying to stay calm and collected to care for the three until I had him home to help me. I kept them in our “safe zone.” Our fully baby proofed living room. The only room in the house I could sit and breathe without panicking about one or the other getting hurt or hurting each other accidently. I had my diaper station, my bottle station, my toy area, Noahs helmets, the tv, books, crash pillows, a basket full of burp clothes, the emergency puke bucket and Noahs emergency gtube kit just in case little hands found his button and decided it was a toy while I was changing one of those diapers I previously talked about. After doing my rounds I found 30 seconds to sit back and actually lean against the back of our couch and remind myself to breathe in and out slowly and pace myself. The kids were all on the floor and Maddy suddenly flipped onto her stomach and then back onto her back. Ellie then found a toy, grabbed it, chewed it, and then tossed it to pick up a different toy she thought was better. That is when it hit me. Noah couldn’t yet flip back and forth like that. He was close but not quite there and nowhere near that fast. And even though Noah could now bring toys to his mouth he never visually tossed one aside to reach and go after another toy. I sat there watching them thinking to myself “this is the moment!” “Angie, this is that pivotal moment you knew would be coming.” “Feel those feelings you know are coming.” Yet…I didn’t. I just sat there and watched them thinking “cool…Maddy can now flip and Ellie can now make choices.” It was simple and fleeting and anticlimactic. I did notice it but it wasn’t this monster of a moment I thought it would be. All that time reading and prepping for this big sudden realization and emotional roller coaster that never happened was kind of disappointing. Not because I wanted a big rollercoaster but because I had spent so much time worrying about a moment some people told me would be massive and yet for me personally it wasn’t.
That was one of the biggest lessons I learned this past year. There are so many articles and stories about other people’s experiences, triumphs, and trials. I thought that if I read enough of them I would relate or be more prepared. I spent so much time during my pregnancy worrying what it would be like to have children after having a special needs child. I spend so much time feeling guilt for moments that hadn’t even happened yet. I felt so much sadness thinking about how I might feel on a future date because an article I read said they felt that way and thought I might feel that way too. Yet I didn’t. To me there were just so much more to think about when those moments actually did happen for me. Instead of feeling sadness for Noah not being able to eat a spoonful of mush the first day I fed it to the girls I celebrated that Noah now had two sisters to watch eat mush and hopefully give him something to desire to do one day too. The day the girls started to crawl I wasn’t sad because Noah couldn’t crawl. I watched them closely. So close in fact that my camera couldn’t focus on their tiny movements as I took hundreds of pictures to teach myself how a typical child’s muscles worked in the first days of crawling. I learned from their movements and incorporated what I witnessed from them into therapy techniques for Noah. The best part was that I had two babies to learn from which meant two totally different techniques. I love the fact that Maddy and Ellie are completely different because it is an everyday reminder that everyone is different even if they happened to be born from the same place seconds apart. They are just as different from one other as each of them are to Noah. This simple reminder keeps me grounded most days. It tells me that each person young and old are living their life in their own speed and direction. Each person has their own interests, sounds, dislikes, and loves. Just as each person has their own trials and triumphs. I will notice the differences yes, but these differences cannot and should not be compared to each other. I have figured out that when I see something that is different it does not affect me like I read it would. This gives me strength because now I can trust that part of myself. I know for the future that when I do see the girls do something that Noah cannot I will not get all sad and depressed and start comparing and wishing for the shoulda-coulda-woulda’s. I will notice it and see it but I will smile for the girls and learn from them and then use what I just learned to help Noah. One day the girls too will be able to help his as well and add to Noah’s therapy team.
All three of my children have grown so much this past year. Some things I would like to forget but many more I will keep in my memory bank for a lifetime. Their three personalities keep us on our toes and we have to be ready for three outcomes to any event or situation that comes our way. We have to roll with the punches because nothing every goes as one would hope. We have to keep learning and then relearning and then relearning again with each one of them. It’s pure craziness and the bags under our eyes and grey in our hair is testament to that. Sleep is a luxury we have yet to enjoy on a regular basis and laundry is a battle we will never win no matter how much we spend on detergent. Formula is a thing of the past now and our stock pile of baby food jars is dwindling as well. Most of the large infant equipment has been washed and given back to their original owners which has opened up what little floor space we did have for bigger and better toddler toys. Having the girls transition into toddlerhood reminds us again that Noah too is a big toddler and likes toddler things as well. Just because he can’t yet actually play with most of it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to watch and listen to his sisters play with it. Another reminder that as Noah grows up so should his food options, toys, tv shows, and activities. He is no longer a baby even if he can still only physically do baby movements. Noah is growing up and having two little siblings reminds us that he is ready to take on bigger things in life. I am not sure we would have realized this if it wasn’t for the girls. He is ready. Watching all three of them has made us ready.
Noah turns four years old in November. He will be riding the school bus to preschool three days a week. He will be attending therapy 2-4 times a week. He will soon be having two sisters helping push his wheelchair and cheering him on at therapy, two siblings to flip through books with him and bring him a different toy every minute. The best part is that we will get to watch all of these moments, snap our pictures, and bank so many new memories. Just that thought makes me smile. I love my life. Exhausted craziness and all!