02 March 2011

5 Words Make Such a Difference



Our lives descended into emotional turmoil following Cathal’s birth. This new member of our family burst onto the scene with five little words:

Down
Syndrome
Congenital
Heart
Defects


And nothing was the same again.

Huge sadness. Gripping fear. Unbearable pain. Sense of Loss. Un-comprehension. Overwhelming powerlessness. Most of all, for the days and weeks that followed his arrival, the constant worry, relentlessly occupying the mind, physically gripping the body during the day, invading dreams during troubled sleep.

I first saw Cathal in the Intensive Care Unit of the maternity hospital. He was only a few hours old, waiting for his transfer to the Neonate Cardiac Unit of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital. I was standing by the incubator with the Mammy, and we both agreed he looked perfect. Simply perfect. Yet by then we knew our lives had taken a turn onto a road so less than perfect! And the following 18 months indeed turned out to be so tough!

A few hours after meeting my first grandchild, once back home and talking to my sister on the phone very late that night, I remember saying to her: “He is going to need a lot of love, so much love.... All I can do is love him so much... I can’t do anything else....”


Down
Syndrome
Congenital
Heart
Defects

These words were absent from our vocabulary last Friday morning when Oisín joined our family. When I asked the Mammy “What is he like?” she said “He is perfect!” With a laugh I reminded her that Cathal was perfect too when he was born. “Of course he was. But Oisín IS PERFECT!” Joke aside, I knew what she meant.

Strangely, I did not have any sense of relief at the confirmation that Oisín was as we had been told to expect. Somehow, I was not worried, and even though all the signs pointed to a “no diagnostic needed here”, the shock of Cathal’s own diagnostic had prepared me for accepting anything that may come our way. All I felt was joy. Joy of the anticipation of loving and spoiling another little being, joy for the joy my own daughter was experiencing.

Oisín and his Mammy went home the next day. I had been looking after Cathal and we waited another 24 hours to allow parents and new baby some time on their own before introducing Big Brother to Little Brother. This introduction went very well, and all signs are that Cathal is very accepting, and mindful, of Oisín. I am so proud of him!

But two things struck me on that day: The first was the atmosphere of serenity and joyous contentment in the house. Relaxed faces. Happy voices. Ease of interaction, where no one was afraid of saying the wrong thing, or letting their own angst spill out. Also the ease of looking after a newborn who is in good health, who can feed so easily, who does not have weak muscle tone hampering his sucking, who is not exhausted after a few seconds because his little heart cannot keep up the pace. It all felt ordinary, even (dare I say it?) “normal”.

And then, I noticed how grown up Cathal suddenly seemed. Even though he was the same child as the little boy who had been playing in my house earlier that day, or cuddling up to me in bed that morning, he was no longer the baby. Rather he simply looked older, responsible. He radiated with knowledge, ideas and imagination.

Oisín has no idea yet of how lucky he is to have a big bother like Cathal. Deep inside me is the certainty that I will truly enjoy watching the two of them growing up together.

Do not tell the Mammy and the Dad this, but I secretly hope that the two of them will quickly gang up together and drive their parents demented... You know: “grandchildren are parents’ revenge over their own children”.... ;-)

Oh! The fun they will have!



5 comments:

Elbog said...

I hope it's not too goofy, but I hear the song "I am Woman" in my head:
"Yes, I'm wise, but it's wisdom borne of pain.
Yes, I've paid the price, but look how much I've gained."
A wider vision; a larger heart. Not 'cautious optimism', it's more than that.
Joy expanded. Multiplied by Love.
Those two are gonna tear it up, Nana.

Anonymous said...

Great blog entry, looking foeward to meeting the new family member in June

Margaret

Mel said...

So exciting that Cathal is a big brother, and glad that everyone has had an easier time of it this time round. Let the trouble begin! (I am happy to lend my three to join the cause- they are masters of trouble!)

Anonymous said...

Mum from Australia here again, i visit and read your site regularly and experienced the same emotions (although with a daughter this time) almost 6 months ago. Having faced life with a sick baby (leaving the Ds aside) makes you appreciate a well baby in an overwhelming new light. To be fair the emotions that you describe continue in our house, with most people we know telling us that we are very "relaxed" with a new baby in the house. A new baby who doesn't required ECG's, hospital stays, open heart surgery, what is there not to be relaxed about!!!

Congratulations, he is a beautiful baby, with a very proud looking big brother, bring on the mischief.

jazzygal said...

Lovely post Nan. I have to be honest and say that I wondered how things would go for everyone. I had no doubt that you'd all cope with whatever came your way and I'm so delighted that all babies are doing so wonderfully ;-)

Cathal is an absolute credit to you all. His progress enhanced by all the love bestowed on him. You can see it in his gorgeous face :-)

Oisin will be spoiled with love too :-)

So happy for you all!

xx Jazzy

 
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