It seems the trend that as soon as you get married everyone starts asking when you’re going to have a baby. And then, as soon as you have a baby, when you will have another. This certainly has been the case for us, but I have found the way the question has been posed since Finn was born often comes layered with an underlying, and in some cases outright, connotation of “Do you think you’ll have another child…after what happened with Finn??” I even had one friend come right out and ask, “Will you take the risk?”.
I have always known that if and when I had children, I did not want to have an only child. This is not a slam against all the only children out there, nor the parents who may not be able to go on to have more, or simply opt for “one and done.” To each his/her own, and parenting is hard ass work so I get it! For me, I grew up with 5 siblings as I come from a blended family (and the blending occurred when I was just four years old). Weekends and holidays were always a mad house and I loved everything about it. I can’t imagine it any other way, in fact. And now that I’m older, I still love having that big family and leaning on each of my siblings for support, laughs and often times, commiserating over something our parents have done to drive us crazy. The relationship I have with each of my siblings is simply put, like no other.
I had Finn the day after my 38th birthday and conceiving was not an immediate process. Luckily, by marrying Patrick I inherited an amazing stepdaughter who guaranteed that my wish for Finn to have siblings was automatically granted. However, having your sibling grow up primarily in a different house, much less a different country, means a lot of the benefits I see in having a sibling are primarily absent for Finn. For one, having a live in playmate around on a daily basis. So, although technically Finn isn’t an only child, he is currently growing up as such, as is his big sister.
So not too long after Finn’s 1st birthday, Patrick and I began discussing another child. We knew if we wanted to pursue it, the clock was ticking. Our discussions were no different than what I imagine any other couples talk about when thinking about growing their family. Were we ready? Could we handle it? Would it be the best thing for our children? For us? The one thing that didn’t come up was, “What if the child were born blind?” We knew it was a possibility, of course, but we simply didn’t view that possibility as a risk of any kind. We didn’t fear it. The truth is, if I could have 15 kids just like Finn, sign me up! And Patrick feels the same way. The only fear we discussed is whether we have the bandwidth to give another child the attention he or she deserves. Having one child living in another country and another with special needs both bring their own challenges and require a lot from us emotionally and physically on a daily basis. As much as we embrace these challenges and as much joy as our children bring us, I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been really hard because it has. It is. But on the flip side, we know having successfully (at least we think so) navigated these unique challenges thus far, we’re pretty well-equipped. So, if what we truly felt was that another sibling would be the best thing for Finn, a sibling he could grow up with in the same home, we knew we could and should pursue it.
As I said, I always envisioned siblings for my child, but now knowing my own child I want that even more for him. The hardest part about Finn’s blindness so far has been socialization (more on that in another blog post I’m sure) — helping him to interact with other children and vice versa is a struggle. He doesn’t see what game they’re playing or toy they may be holding to motivate him to want to participate. The loud noise of other children overwhelms him as he has usually has no idea where it’s coming from or why. In my opinion, what better way to help Finn learn how to socialize and acclimate to playing with others, sharing with others and the chaotic noise of other children than by growing up with other children in the same house? And whether he’d been born blind or not, I know I want Finn to always have as many people in his corner as possible, when one day his parents are no longer here. It isn’t a sibling’s job to protect or support their brother or sister, but in my experience, that just naturally is the way it goes. It’s what we do for those we love. So, the more people to love Finn and support him, the better. And finally, knowing how much Finn has taught me about life so far, I think the more children or people to know him and to learn those lessons of acceptance, of not judging a book by its cover, of overcoming challenges and misperceptions, and of how the unexpected can be such a beautiful thing, the better too.
So, we did pursue it. And next month, we will be welcoming a baby sister for Ariella and for Finn. Words can’t describe how excited we are to meet her, and to see Finn and Ariella hold her for the first time. Both of our children have been full of amazing surprises and life lessons and we know this child will have her own surprises in store. We don’t know if she will be born blind since Finn was never diagnosed with anything to test for. We’re often asked if we worry about that and we truly don’t. Finn has taught us that there’s no need to worry. Much like he knows no different in living a life without sight, I know no different in parenting a child without sight. And it’s been by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. So, why worry? If our daughter is born blind, we would without a doubt be prepared for that. But even more importantly, we’re prepared to handle any other curve balls that may come our way. Because of both of our children, we are more prepared to expect the unexpected and not fear it. To let life take us where it may. And to know that whatever this little girl turns out to be, she will be loved and supported and amazing. Just like her big sister and her big brother.