New Grief Over a Changing Sibling Relationship

  As I pulled into the Lynnwood Whole Foods a few day ago I was feeling brave, centered, even happy. We had a rough night without much sleep, but we had a good morning and I was about to wander the isles of one of my favorite places. But then my son made a simple comment that fell on me like a bomb and I started crying in the parking lot.

The Lynnwood whole foods has these massive shopping carts for kids in the shape of a car, complete with steering wheels. My son loves riding in them and was super excited to see a yellow one when we pulled in. I parked right next to it and quickly grabbed it. Thad in his sweetest big brother way then said, "Put sister in it with me. I want Sage to sit next to me." I quickly explained that she can't go in the cart yet, because she can't sit up on her own. But, as I explained it I suddenly found myself choking back tears.

What I didn't tell Thad was it might be a long time still before Sage is stable enough to ride in the shopping cart with Thad. But what really made me cry was a vision of Thad continually asking this same question in different scenarios. He is going to continually want a sibling who can be his playmate, who can sit in the cart with him and race him to the edge of the playground and climb on the jungle gym and ride the roller coasters with him, and, in all likelihood, Sage is not going to be that sibling. Today was not, and it will not be, the only time I have to tell him, "I'm sorry. But you will have to do that alone."

We had our children close together (almost exactly 2 years apart) on purpose. We wanted them to be playmates, to be able to do things together. Letting go of that has been something I didn't anticipated when we first found out about Sage's disabilities. But, it has sunk in more and more each day. Every day that passes Thaddeus advances and Sage falls farther and farther behind.

Thaddeus is not the kind of kid who is content being alone or playing by himself. I think his favorite word is "with".

"Do it WITH me mommy."

"I wanna go WITH daddy."

"WITH Sage, mommy, bring Sage."

"Play WITH me."

These are common phrases around here.

Thad is all about connection and togetherness. We have always felt like he needed a sibling and shouldn't be an only child. And he has a sibling. Sage is a great sister for Thad, and I can tell already that they will always be close. I know he will learn and grow so much by having a sibling with special needs. But I'm realizing more and more that she will not meet the kind of sibling needs we've seen so obviously displayed in him.

And that makes me sad. And then it makes me sort of want another kid.

When we talked about kids before we had any we always said we just wanted two kids. Sometimes we'd talk about maybe adopting a third. And I've always had a deep heart for adoption, but mostly we planned on being done after two.

Then we found out about Sage's microcephaly and Bryan's melanoma and with our work situation being what it's been, well, lately having more kids has seemed pretty irresponsible. And yet more and more lately I also can't get adoption out of my mind.

I am passionate about pregnancy and birth and women's rights through that process, but I really didn't like pregnancy. I don't really want to be pregnant again (although I will admit I do have a premonition that I will be pregnant again someday that I can't seem to shake - and I do tend to foresee things before they happen, but I also have other premonitions that I try to ignore, so this one is just getting added to a "don't think about it" list).

As I process through all this I feel conflicted. Maybe I just need time to grieve Thad not having another sibling. Or maybe we should start looking into adoption more seriously.

I always thought that if we adopted it wouldn't be right away, but would be something we did when Thad and Sage were a bit older so that they could be involved in it. Now I don't know.

I just know that I'm sad Thad doesn't have a sibling close to his age developmentally. I just know I don't want to go through pregnancy again. I just know that I my heart breaks thinking about children who don't have parents and family. I just know that having more children, either biologically or through adoption is probably not the most responsible thing for us to do right now. I just know that I'm pretty burned out with even just two kids right now.

I don't really know what all these thoughts mean for our future, but for today I will just say yes to the things I can say yes to, the things that Thad and Sage can do together. And hope for more of those things in the future...

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany Stedman