(31 for 21: 9)
Yesterday, I was talking with a mom who has a teenage daughter with Down Syndrome. I was explaining how we found out about Tiana and the process of bringing her home. During the conversation, I realized something. Our experience and our emotions when finding out that Tiana has Down Syndrome is different than the mom who found out at birth (or during pregnancy) that her baby has Down Syndrome. I am not saying one way is better or worst but I do recognize that it is somewhat different, at least initially.
When we found out about Tiana, we knew she had Down Syndrome right away. We educated ourselves about Down Syndrome (through books, doctors, workers, friends and blogs) and felt comfortable/excited about beginning the process of adopting Tiana. We knew it would be challenging at times but we also knew that it would be challenging with any child we bring home. Adoption is not all roses and we are realistic about challenges we will go through with each child. Loving our children trumps all and we knew Down Syndrome would not change how we love Tiana. This is our experience at the beginning.
Then of course, actually raising Tiana brings a whole lot of excitement and new set of challenges. I feel we share many same feelings and thoughts as other parents with children who have Down Syndrome. We feel sad at times. We feel joy at times. We feel frustrated at times. We feel excited at times. And we feel love at all times.
It might've started out differently for us but eventually, we all walk together in this journey. Thank you for welcoming us into the community and we look forward to making many more friends!
(31 for 21: 8)
I just got out of a meeting with Tiana's home visiting teacher and a parent representative from the Down Syndrome Association. During the meeting, I realize that I've somehow found myself on the other side of the fence when learning about something that is new to me, which is raising a child with Down Syndrome.
As a Deaf person, I've always felt strongly about how my Deaf child should be raised, in which language and in what environment. This comes from experience and from observing many different situations within and outside the community. I know there are two different approaches that people often argue that is best for the Deaf child. ASL as the primary language or following the Auditory-Verbal approach. Often, people who are not Deaf themselves will tell parents what is best for their Deaf child. There are some consequences to that because not every Deaf child can succeed at the AVT method (meaning full speech ability and high level of confidence in speaking environment), and the few that did become the "example" for rest of children to follow. Oftentimes, this is very frustrating because in doing this, the child who do not succeed at speech will spend most of his or her life working towards something that will just not happen (becoming a person with full hearing and speech ability). The point of this blog is not to argue which method/approach is the best but I'm sharing this perspective to explain why I suddenly "get it" from this other side of the fence.
As result of Tiana having Down Syndrome, there are many specialists and therapists involved in her life. Many of them have a very medical view of Down Syndrome and only see Down Syndrome through textbooks or at work. Not many of them actually lived with someone who had Down Syndrome. As a result, doctors will spend a majority of their time with me listing the negatives, things I need to watch for, or point out in what area Tiana is delayed in. This can be quite frustrating for me because I would leave the appointment feeling I did not do enough for Tiana or that no matter how Tiana is progressing, it would never be enough for them. But...
Today, a parent representative came from the Down Syndrome association to share resources available in my area and to just offer support. I couldn't believe how good the meeting felt, how refreshing it was to talk so positively about Tiana's progress and her future. Throughout the meeting, she played with Tiana, pointed out things she thought was amazing about Tiana, excitedly shared what she experienced with her own daughter at this age, and just really made sure I knew how welcome I was in this new community. She was so excited for us, she explained why having a child with Down Syndrome is special and she shared resources that were positive, refreshing and realistic.
Now, I get it when hearing parents of Deaf children share with me about how they felt after leaving AVT and meeting an Deaf adult, introducing ASL to their child and sending their child to a Deaf school or a Deaf program. I get it. It is so refreshing to just accept your child exactly as who s/he is and celebrating your child.
Acceptance. The word of the day.
(31 for 21:5)
Time really flies and this weekend, I've been really feeling nostalgic, so I looked at some old pictures from back when we first brought Jada home. I thought it would be neat to show what she looked like the first day we met her and what she looks like today! Same goes for Tiana, of course!
We first met Jada on August 31st of 2009. She was 3.5 year old and FULL OF SPUNK! She's still very vibrant today and I cannot believe how much we've gotten through in past four years to reach to this point! I am fully in love with who she has become and am looking forward to see what she does with her life. She is my firstborn, my first love as a mom.
We first met Tiana on May 28th of 2013. She was 6 months old and a total heart breaker! Look at her face! We just totally melt when we first saw her and held her in our arms. She is very mellow, very "go with the flow" type of person and continues to be today! She makes so many cute faces and she does things that just makes us laugh! She's definitely the one who really made us slow down, appreciate what we have and enjoy each single moment as a family. She is my second born, and I am amazed at how much I can love another child but she fully captured my heart!
How did I get so blessed? I would not trade them both for anything in the world and look forward to see what the future brings for all of us! <3
(31 for 21 Challenge: Entry #4. This blog is for my family and friends, near and far!)
Few people asked me, "so, what does it mean for you, Tiana and your family?" when talking about Down Syndrome. I understand why people ask me this and I feel no offense as long it is asked out of genuine curiosity. I share a lot about my family because I see many things about my family that should be celebrated and life will be better for my children if there is more awareness about adoption, Down Syndrome and so on. Down Syndrome is something many people know about at glance but do not understand at depth. Many know what people with Down Syndrome might look like. But do many people truly understand the daily lives of people with Down Syndrome and their families? Not really.
So, what does Down Syndrome mean for Tiana and us? Although James and I have had the honour of befriending with several people who have Down Syndrome, living with and loving someone who have Down Syndrome brings us to a whole new level. Before I even go further, I want to make an important point for you to keep in mind. Tiana is Tiana first. Tiana is a baby girl who has her own personality, likes, dislikes, temperament, appearance and so on. Down Syndrome is most definitely a part of Tiana but Tiana is still Tiana first. Now, I can begin! :)
Tiana in the Present
* Tiana is more "floppy" due to low muscle tone. The bonus? Her cuddles are the best! You'll only understand if you hold her!
* Tiana is small in stature and looks younger than her actual age.
* Tiana will reach many milestones as any other baby. It only might take a bit longer. We use OT/PT and other services to help Tiana develop from one skill to other.
* There are several health issues associated with Down Syndrome. As preventive measures, Tiana is being monitored by several specialists.
* As her parents, we are learning to be patient, to celebrate each milestone and to just enjoy her as a baby. It can be tough watching other babies meet milestones quickly but as long we remind ourselves that she WILL get there, we let it go and enjoy being with her.
Tiana in the Future
* Tiana may or may not speak. We do not know as of yet just how much she does hear but we are giving her the tools now to help her develop in this area if it is something that she can do. (She does have severe hearing loss in one ear but we do not know if she has any hearing loss in other ear. For sure, she does hear some.) If she DOES hear quite a bit, there is also a question of whether she would be "non-verbal" or not. (This is a whole other blog.)
* Tiana will communicate in ASL, regardless of how much she hears. James, Jada and I are all deaf and use ASL as our first language. Tiana will be part of that.
* Tiana will continue to reach various milestones but again, it'll take some more time. With time, we will learn more about her talents, her interests and what we can do to encourage her in those areas. There will be some struggles in other areas and we will have to advocate for her to ensure she gets services she needs.
* Again, we will make sure her health is closely watched by specialists.
* She may or may not be living independently when she turns into an adult. We cannot know this for sure at this point. Regardless of what happens, she will have a full life doing what she loves and being with people who loves her.
This is pretty broad but it touches on some things that people often wonder about. Of course, Tiana is only 10 months old and it is too soon to really know what the future looks like. The most important thing I can tell you is that we KNOW she will thrive. We just don't know which path she will be on but regardless of which path, I know we will be proud of her!
(This is entry # 3 of 31 for 21 Challenge)
It's Tiana's morning nap time! So, I have approximately an hour to blog, read, reply, and so on! :) This morning, I'll like to talk about people's comments about our family. This was inspired by a conversation I had with someone yesterday. Even though we cannot really be bothered by how people feel or think about our family (unless it's positive, of course!), I think it is important to share a little bit of our experience and what it sounded like from our perspective. You might've said some of those things and did not realize how insensitive it may be but everybody could learn something new everyday.
Our Multicultural Family
I love my family. I truly do. I love them because of who each of them are. Each one of them are amazing. Our culture, our history, our race are all big parts of who we are and we all celebrate each other in many different ways. That is extremely important. But what is also extremely important is who we are as individuals, to our core, our unique personalities and identities that make us uniquely us. That is important for people to understand, that although we are seen as this and that, we are a family and we love each other because we are James, Rose, Jada and Tiana.
"Oh! Your husband is black? Wow..."
"Once you go black, you don't go back! Ha!" (Stupid.)
"I think it is nice that Jada looks like James, so people won't think she is adopted."
"Tiana looks sorta white, so that's nice for you!" (What?!?!?!)
"You should adopt a white child to even things out!"
We adopt because this is how we want to create our family. If we could get pregnant naturally, we would be thrilled but this does not change the fact that we would continue to adopt children. This is the natural choice for us. Adopting our children has been nothing but a blessing and we would never choose to build our family any other way. We want children and we have two. This is really what is the most important.
"Aw, why not get your own?" (Jada and Tiana are my own, thankyouverymuch.)
"So, you can't get pregnant?" (This is assuming adoption is our second choice. Regardless if we can or can't get pregnant is none of your business. Be happy for us regardless.)
"I couldn't do it. It is so nice you could but I prefer to have my own." (Insensitive.)
"I heard they usually end up with this or that."
"Poor James, I bet he would've loved to have his own?" (Um. Yeah, blame it on the mom.)
Our beautiful Jada Rose. She's an extremely strong survivor who beat many odds and proven many people wrong. She's spunky, full of life, has a big heart and whoever met her, fell in love with her. She is truly special and I am not just saying this because she is mine. She truly is. We adopted her when she was almost 4 years old. Past four years has been nothing but a wonderful adventure with her!
"Couldn't you find a baby? That'll be easier."
"You missed four years. You couldn't possibly bond in the same way with a baby."
"Couldn't you just find a child who is only Deaf. Not with all those problems?"
"Wow, I don't know anybody who could do it. Kudos to you." (IN FRONT OF JADA!)
"If you had her earlier, she wouldn't have this or that."
Our beautiful Tiana Joy. She is the newest bundle of joy and we are still learning more about her every single day. She's very laid back, very joyful, loves to be cuddled and she would never say no to any attention! She brings so much gentleness to our family and she really taught us to slow down, enjoy each single moment and just be together as a family. We've only had her for two months now but it's been nothing but amazing and we look forward to more!
"Finally, a baby! Aww, this is so special for you!" (Jada is very special too.)
"Down Syndrome? I guess this means you'll never have an empty nest!" (Hello? In what century do you live in?)
"Native and Korean? She doesn't look like it!" (Disrespectful to her and her people.)
"Why would you make your life harder? She'll be so much work."
"Her birth parents must be evil." (You do not know the story. And come on?)
So this wraps the long blog! I know this probably is a hot button topic for some of you but I thought it was important to share so you can understand it from the other perspective. I promise there will be more happy blogs coming up! :) Til then!
(This is the second blog of 31 for 21 Challenge!)
I've not blogged for two months and I wish I did because how do I explain in one blog how amazing past two months have been?! But let me tell you... It has been amazingly wonderful and I could not imagine it being any other way. Sure, there were few bumps down the road but that's to be expected for any family who have a new little one in the household!
Highlights and lowlights of past two months.
* The first couple of weeks flew faster than any other weeks in past two months! We quickly learned that we would not be getting full night of sleep for a while, that getting two girls ready to go takes more time, and that it is hard to get anything done when Tiana smiles and coos to you! First two weeks was definitely an immersion course on all things Tiana!
*We were all able to form a strong bond between four of us. It is so special to see just how much Jada and Tiana loves each other. Tiana's face lights up when Jada gets home from school and when daddy comes home from work. It is always the special time of the day.
*Tiana got to meet most of her new family and friends. They are very much in love and Tiana really enjoyed the attention!
*Tiana got pneumonia. :( This was scary for us and we did have to go to the ER. It took her a while to get better but she is feeling 100% these days!
* We were able to meet some of her birth family members and it's just a blessing to know them, to get some pictures and to develop life-long relationships.
* We learned that Tiana LOVES the swing, swimming, toys that vibrate or make noises, playing with her toys on the floor, being held, Mozart, Beethoven, and baths!
* We learned that Tiana does not like the sun, waiting for her bottle, being in the bumper seat for too long, long days away from home, sudden loud noises, and socks!
* It has been extremely busy juggling 20 specialists between two girls and I learned that this require super-organization skills! 90% of the time, I enjoy it. Other 10% of time, when the day is too long or we weren't organized, it is ehhhhh....
* In the span of two months, Tiana reached few milestones. Holding her head up, sitting with assistance, understand "milk", "bath", "eat", "play", began to eat solids (still in the exploring phase), recognize faces, say "dadada, aaaaa, doo doo doo", hold items from one hand to other hand, sleep longer, and the list goes on!
* We've been working daily on rolling (she can go from back to front then gets stuck), sitting up without assistance and signing as well making more vocal noises.
So that's been our two months with Baby T! <3
I will try to blog once every single day of this month to raise awareness about Down Syndrome and at the same time, to introduce you to our newest addition, Tiana Joy! I know I've already announced her arrival but now that we've had her home for two months, we know so much more about her and would love to share what we know! (This is for you, family and friends faraway! And of course, for everybody else who is curious too! :))
This year, the 31 for 21 challenge is celebrating its' 7th birthday and I'm so thrilled to be able to participate this year! You can find out more information from http://mdbeau.blogspot.ca/2013/09/7th-annual-31-for-21-blog-challenge.html?showComment=1380593464115. I only found out today, so I will blog twice today to get caught up! :)
So... Two beautiful months with Tiana flew by so quickly! We actually met her at end of May but were not able to start visiting her on regular basis til July. Before July, we only had her "stats". Girl. 6 months old (at the time). Deaf in one ear. Inconclusive hearing test from other ear. Down Syndrome. Native and Korean. Birth name (we cannot share). Born early. Heart condition. Nygastamus. Low muscle tone. etc etc... It was frustrating for us because we really wanted to know more about her. What was her personality? What was her likes and dislikes? What facial expressions does she make? What is her disposition? How does she really look like in real life? What would it be like to take care of her, to raise her every hour of the day for rest of her childhood?
Finally, in July, we had the opportunity to do just that! We were able to stay in a hotel nearby and visit her at her foster home. We were able to take her out for the day and return her to the foster home at end of the day. Most weekends, we were there. Sometimes through the week, we would make a day trip. We really gobbled up every moment with her, we spent each single second getting to know her, enjoying her, and showering her with love. Throughout the month of July, we were able to introduce her to her new big sister, Jada. They were instantly in love and their faces just glow when they see each other! Jada really enjoyed playing with her, feeding with her, cuddling with her and just looking at her. It was a match made in heaven! For James and I, of course, we were immediately in love! We knew it would be so natural, just as it was with Jada four years ago. It was no different this time, we knew in our hearts, souls and minds that Tiana is our daughter in every way.
Then finally, finally, finally! On August 1st of 2013, we finally went to pick her up and bring her home! Driving away from the town she was from, James and I looked at each other and said "wow, they are letting us just take her home?!". It was surreal, just three of us (Jada was at camp) driving together on way home and nobody driving by us would ever know that the baby in back was only "few minutes old" to our family!
Two months with her at home is just a joy. Simply, purely, amazingly a joy. I'll blog more about that today! :)
Finally, finally, finally, she is here!
Meet the newest addition to our clan! Our new daughter, Tiana Joy is 8 months old, Anishinaabe, Korean, Deaf and has Down Syndrome. She is the cutest, the cuddliest and the happiest baby we have ever known! We couldn't be more thrilled and look forward to creating memories as family of four!