To be completely honest, I had no idea that having Nola was even an option for us. Once we learned that she was going to be joining the family it was first, about the shock of knowing a second child was on the way and not at all about the sibling relationship between our soon to be 2 children. I never once thought about how Hazel having Down syndrome was going to affect this new baby. I think the shock of the pregnancy carried on until about half way through when we found out the babies gender. It was then that things started to get real.
She was a girl!!! SISTERRRRRRSSSSSSSS!!!!!!
I don't think there was a moment in my life that I ever felt so relieved (maybe after Hazel's 2 surgeries but it's close). This is of course no surprise to readers who have been here a while. I am obsessed with the fact that they are sisters. Immediately, I did a lot of thinking about how the new baby sister was going to affect Hazel. Hazel was going to have a sister. Hazel was going to have a friend. Hazel was going to have a nurturer. Hazel was going to have a caregiver. Hazel was going to have someone out there who loved her just as much as I do. The best way I can describe it was relief. God provided exactly what this family needed. Exactly what Hazel needed.
What I never stopped to think about until recently is just how Hazel will affect Nola? Specifically, how will Nola's sister having Down syndrome affect her. How is Hazel's Down syndrome shaping the person Nola is becoming? I mean she is going to a preschool that all her classmates are children with special needs. That's maybe not necessarily where I would have sent her if it wasn't for Hazel. Not that it's not a great place for her, but would I have chosen that place? We might not go as many places as she would like because it is too difficult for me to bring both my kids out and watch them run away from me in different directions. We don't do many extra circular activities yet. At the end of the day, I am not really sure how this impacts Nola.
What I can tell you is that Nola is just about the most loving and compassionate little gal I know. She loves something fierce. She protects like it's her job. She is the mommy of everyone, all the time. She is wise well beyond her years, she is always up for having a love fest, which is usually on the more aggressive side. She's the happiest, bounciest, sassiest little person I have ever met.
When it comes to her relationship with Hazel, well - what can I say?
They're sisters. She hits her, takes her toys, hugs her, kisses her, tries to give her the food on her tray that she doesn't want and vice versa, takes the food from Hazel that she does. They play, they read, they jump on beds together. They laugh, they cry and they watch TV (they almost never want to watch the same thing). When Hazel is upset, Nola asks her what's the matter and tries to offer her things until the crying stops. She copies her, she teaches her and she learns from Hazel. They pretty much do all the things that a parent dreams their children will do when they find out a brother or sister is on the way. So don't fret if you are having a child with DS, your kids will fight and torture you just as you imagine they might (and then a little worse even). They'll also love and play with each other just as you dreamed they would (and then maybe a little better even).
Nola is the one person in this entire world who sees Hazel for who she is. Stereotypes do not exist. Different is not a concept she understands. She sees her in a pure and honest way. She knows Hazel is not the same as all the other kids but she also knows that EVERY SINGLE kid she's ever met is different from the next one, no matter who they are. Nola is in an environment where being different IS 'normal'. She goes to preschool with kids who have all kinds of different needs. Some have DS, some have braces, some don't talk yet, some are in wheelchairs. In Nola's world this is "NORMAL". This is her reality. It's what she lives. It's her culture.
The way I see it, Hazel has opened us up to a world we had no idea existed. But for Nola, she will always know this world. This world is shaping her and moulding her into the compassionate, loving little human that she is. For us, we had to learn to accept, understand and unconditionally love but for Nola, it will be who she is right from the very beginning. Everyday she demonstrates a culture of compassion and love. Everyday she accepts difference. Everyday she make me proud to be her mom and even prouder of the little sister she is to Hazel.