I get asked a lot about what it’s like to raise a “normal” or “typical” child after having had a child with developmental delays. In a nutshell: vastly different. I try to keep the differences in perspective about personality types since it seems that Baby #2 is always opposite than Baby #1, regardless of medical conditions.
For example, my daughter was much more fussy the first 6 months of her life. She’s much more good-natured and happy, but she was fussy. She wouldn’t take a pacifier, so she wanted a boob in her mouth ALL. THE. TIME. My son on the other hand took a pacifier, so it was pretty easy to just hang out and play with him. Plus he didn’t need a boob to fall back asleep. All I needed to do was toss a dozen pacifiers in his crib at night and he’d figure out how to self-soothe.
Other areas though…so very different.
Dean didn’t roll over until he was 13 months, crawled at 14 months, walked at 18 months. Dahlia started crawling around 9 months and now, at 11 months, can pull herself up to stand and cruise a little when holding on. The other day I saw her squat down to grab something and got back up, easily. Blew my mind.
Because he wasn’t mobile, Dean was fine just being an observer. He still is to this day. At this age I could easily give him a book and he would stare at it for half an hour without needing any interaction from me. It made it impossible to teach him to crawl…if I put him on his belly and put something out of his reach, he’d say “f*ck that” and just start poking at the carpet. Dahlia on the other hand is very Speedy Gonzales, she whips from one toy to another so having multiple toys far away was a huge motivator for her.
It did make things easier with Dean, because I didn’t need to baby-proof. By the time he was mobile, he understood the concept of “no” and I put the fear of God into him about going into the kitchen or bathroom on his own. With Dahlia, she’ll crawl straight into the kitty litter box and she’s pulled herself up to stand at the toilet (which isn’t ultra-clean in the front, since Dean pees standing up and it dribbles at the end). My living room has a massive baby fence dubbed DahliaLand in order to keep her contained when necessary.
I hadn’t noticed when Dean was 11 months that there was a problem with his eating. It became evident at 1 year, when he was presented with a smash cake and he cried hysterically while I hovered near, eagerly awaiting his frosting-covered face for photos. I didn’t get his fear of textures, low tone in his mouth that made chewing hard, his inability to have proper “tongue lateralization” (aka, move your tongue properly to get food smushed up).
Now when I see Dahlia eating, I realize what it should have looked like. Dean would throw up if we gave textures too chunky, he ate purees until he was almost 2. On the other hand, Dahlia is a champ when it comes to trying thicker textures or chewing on my pizza crust (something I never would have done with Baby #1 anyway but meh…). Other than a massive aversion to broccoli, she’ll eat anything. I honestly never cared for the act of eating as a big production but after Dean and all his issues, I’m excited to have a child that maybe I can take out for Mommy and Me lunches, places that serve things other than chicken nuggets. Or at least, that I can order off the kids menu and she won’t freak out because the Mac ‘n Cheese doesn’t look like the boxed Kraft crap.
I’m much more adventurous with the stuff I make for her too, with Dean things stayed relatively bland. With her she gets herbs, onions, cheese, stuff like that in her purees. Other than a willingness to eat samosa filling (which is crazy spicy), Dean just never cared for things that were too flavorful. Or maybe a lot of that is on me, I followed baby puree books to a T and never branched out. Now i make sure to dump a ton of pepper at the very least into anything I make.
This week Dahlia has also taken an interest to feeding herself with a spoon. She’s 11 months. Dean only started using a spoon to feed himself yogurt (has to be the blue Dora the Explorer kind only) this past summer, when he was 4 years old. Partially because spoons are used for wet substances which he hates, but also because his hand motor control is pretty crummy. The kid can barely draw a visible line with a crayon, his hands are so weak.
Dean, by nature, prefers to watch and see how things work and what’s going on. So while that meant he could easily sit for hours while I read him books or while he started at one single block, it also meant that he didn’t interact much with his toys. He took things and threw them. That’s it.
Dahlia on the other hand wants to figure things out, which she does pretty well on her own since she’s ignored while I tend to Dean and his meltdown du jour. I have a baby basketball playset that took Dean forever to figure out how to put the ball in the hoop. I remember Dean did it by accident after the age of 1 and I got SO excited, but it was a fluke. He didn’t grasp the idea of putting a toy in something else to make something happen until he had started therapy, after 15-18 months old. Dahlia figured all his toys by the time she was 9 months old.
When we first got a full assessment for Dean in January 2012, I remember the very first activity was to put some pegs in a pegboard. He was 15 months old. I knew exactly what he would do, which he proceeded to do for the rest of the assessment: he took it, threw it, then yelled. I was shocked to discover that at 15 months, a baby should be able to figure that out. I’m definitely going to test Dahlia on that one when she’s that age.
I do have to mention that reading to Dean has always been easy. Partially from his temperament of being an observer. Dahlia just wants to chew on books. I keep thinking that Dean is book smart whereas she’s street smart. I’ve always been adamant about nighttime story time but it’s quite hard since Dahlia doesn’t care for books. I used to just nurse her while I read to Dean, now we bring his books into her room, I close the door, and let her roam around while I read to him. Sometimes I can get her to sit on my lap for a little bit but i’m hoping that at least hearing the words and the cadence of reading will be better than nothing.
There’s so many things that I wouldn’t even have noticed as a milestone if I didn’t have a million checklists for Dean. For example, pointing is a milestone. That’s just something that’s innate to us humans I guess. So even if you live in a mudhut in Africa, a baby can still point to an elephant running from poachers. Dean didn’t point until he learned to walk (18 months), then for another year he only pointed with his middle finger. He couldn’t get his adorable little brain to function with his hands, no matter how hard he tried, to ball his hands and raise only his index finger. We kept repeating “use your Number One finger!”. I think he mastered it shortly before the age of 3.
Dahlia, age 11.25 months, mastered it this week. I actually got her to sit on my lap for story time and she was genuine efforts to point out things on each page. I was floored. It was subtle, definitely not something I would noticed if she were a First Child.
I also feel like Dean was more fragile than she was. I’ve mentioned in the past how we had a SIDS scare when he was around 3 months old. Back then I bought the Snuza Halo movement monitor because he seemed so dainty. Obviously I’m so glad that my paranoia was worth it. Dahlia on the other hand, while being equally small in size, just seemed…stronger. Since she rolled over and sat up on her own quicker, I had to take the Snuza off her sooner. I had no fears when I co-napped (aka co-sleeping during the day) with her when she was little. When she falls, she might cry for a second, but overall she’s just a happy kid who can fall and get right back up. Dean has always been the type to give up after failing once, which is why we hover so much…many a day at the playground has been cut short because he slipped (which is easy for him with low tone) and couldn’t recover from his subsequent meltdown.
I could probably prattle on and on about this topic but this is just a general list of things that spring to mind when people ask me. Overall I’m much more protective of Dean. I view Dahlia like a bodyguard-in-training for him. I don’t know if he’ll have any more limitations as an adult (hopefully none) but if so, I need her to step up and lay the smackdown if anyone tries to mess with him.