Some things in life just never go as planned, even the expectations we have for the siblings in our family. Growing up with a sister of my own, I am all to familiar with the “we are like night and day” scenario that many siblings speak of when talking about their relationship. Even though my sister and I couldn’t be more different, there has always been comfort and security woven into the fabric of my life knowing that she and I have each other. Naturally, when my husband and I decided to have children, God-willing, we decided to have two in hopes that our children would experience that same thing. Not long after our first-born, Cameron, turned 18 months, we found out we were expecting our second bundle of joy. The excitement, the plans and the visions of my two children playing consumed my every thought.
Brooklyn was born at 33 weeks gestation and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy six months later and our son was just shy of 2-1/2 years of age when we received the diagnosis. The experience of having a premature child and then hearing the news that your child will have life-long challenges is overwhelming and traumatic, at minimum. I remember the constant guilt felt and the overwhelming ache in my heart that developed as a result of feeling as though I was choosing one child over another. Whether I was at the NICU with Brooklyn or at home spending time with Cameron, I thought I needed to be doing the opposite. The task of trying to explain to my toddler why things were happening the way that they were still brings tears to my eyes.
After we “graduated” from the NICU we proceeded to face our biggest challenge. Life with a premature infant was not easy and our world revolved around maintaining Brooklyn’s health and well-being, which left us feeling as though Cameron’s needs were being neglected. When Brooklyn turned six months, our worst fears were confirmed; she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and our journey to re-define who we were as a family,in addition to what the sibling relationship between Brooklyn and Cameron would look like, began.
Along with the task of accepting and learning how to face the new life we had been given with our daughter, my husband and I had this incredible task and requirement as parents to figure out how to best provide support for and maintain balance in our son’s life. Six years later we are still trying to figure that out.
Our journey with Brooklyn has changed my life in so many ways. I have been blessed beyond measure. The moment Brooklyn was diagnosed my life changed. As a former elementary school teacher with no plans of ever doing anything other than teaching, I decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in Family and Child Studies. I want to focus on non-profit work and specifically on the sibling population. My journey is tough, as is every parent who is given the precious gift and responsibility of raising a child with special and unique needs. For those that have additional children in the mix, the task is even more challenging. My passion for sibling support is the direct result of watching my son’s journey over the last six years and my dedication to making sure that he is impacted by his sibling’s disability in the best way possible.