My wife and I had always planned on having three kids. We thought that 3 was the right number for us. We had our second son only 18 months after our first because we wanted them to be close in age so they’d have a close relationship.
But our second son made us pause our plans.
Our second son has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy from a congenital CMV infection. His first few months were spent figuring out just what the heck was going on––and then trying to get into the groove of therapy, doctors’ appointments, and schedule management. We told ourselves that having a third child might no longer be an option —but that we’d talk when “things got easier.” I don’t really know what we meant by that—perhaps when our son became more mobile or started feeding himself. We had this vague idea that we’d decide later down the road.
We got a second opinion on our son about two years after his original diagnosis and it was the same as the first. It was at that moment that my wife and I realized that perhaps things weren’t going to get easier, and that we just needed to get tougher. We’d never let our son’s disability define him or our family, and we weren’t going to let it stop us from having our “ideal” family.
The decision to have another child can be really difficult. Obvious things like finances, possible genetic causes of disabilities, and available time have to be considered. But at the same time, I think it’s important not to let a disability define the entire family. It can influence the decision-making process, but it doesn’t need to define it.
Our daughter was born last fall. We thank our lucky stars every day that we redefined what “life getting easier” meant. We see her interact with her older brother and know that both lives are much better for having the other as a sibling.
Long story short: Having a child diagnosed with a disability or chronic illness certainly changes family dynamics, but it doesn’t have to mean getting rid of the vision you might have for your family. Surrounding your child with love––from family and from siblings––can be a wonderful thing for everyone involved.
For additional information and a video on siblings, go to Siblings of Children with Disabilities.