Adjustment in Progress: Big Brother, Baby Brother

The nights are the toughest when I’m alone with my boys while my husband is at work.

Just now, putting my autistic son to sleep, my almost three-month-old baby boy cries.

Gabe, who is six, is instantly anxious. He starts covering his ears, starts humming and whistling loudly.

I wait a bit to see if the baby will stop, but he doesn’t. I explain to Gabe that mommy will have to check on the baby.

He follows me to the room where the baby is, all the while whistling and babbling. The moment I pick the baby up, Gabe has a full-on meltdown.

He screams at the top of his lungs so loudly you’d think he’ll grow up to be a singer.

He’s laying down on the floor kicking and stomping his feet.

This is not unusual in our household, so it isn’t surprising that the baby is asleep in my arms.

I try to talk to Gabe, calm him down while I’m holding the baby. But like most kids on the spectrum, nothing goes through during a meltdown.

Sometimes you just have to let it run its course. Gabe continues to cry and after a while goes into another room, slamming the door three times.

This is how it’s been since the baby came home from the hospital.

Gabe has a diagnosis of autism, an intellectual disability and speech impairment. I am positive he has anxiety.

I think he may have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). What do they mean?

These diagnoses are all very individual. Gabe can talk, yes.

It’s harder to understand his speech and he has the vocabulary of a three-year-old at best, but he can talk.

He is so smart in which he knows how to get his way at home and I know he has his cognitive ability, but he has not made any academic progress during his kindergarten year for many reasons including his anxiety.

He had a rough school year for more than half of it that we’ve constantly thought of pulling him out– daily meltdowns in the morning when getting ready, disruptive behaviors in his regular and ASD classroom. I could go on.

But at home when all is calm with his mom and dad, he is the sweetest, happiest boy.

It was years of back and forth discussion before we decided yes, let’s have another baby.

Family planning is different for parents of kids with special needs – there are simply more things to consider on top of the usual list.

So, here we are now. We knew it would be hard, but we didn’t expect it to be this hard.

To say that the adjustment has been difficult is an understatement. Gabe’s one consistent trigger is noise.

First it was the vacuum, then the hairdryer, coughing, sneezing, crying, etc. It was always something.

So now, every time the baby cries, stretches, strains, coughs, even coos, Gabe gets anxious and upset.

Gabe has expressed his feelings vocally and at rare times, has also acted out. It is no one’s fault.

You can’t blame him for his anxiety and noise sensitivity any more than you can blame the baby for crying.

We have yet to figure out how to manage his impulse control when he is upset and frustrated.

These past couple of months, my husband and I have made an unspoken arrangement that he takes care of Gabe, and I take care of the baby.

It’s like we are both single parents to separate kids. It’s not the answer, especially since I have a week left in my maternity leave, but that is what works now.

At night my husband and I sleep in separate rooms. I sleep with the baby, and he sleeps with Gabe.

When I’m alone with my boys and both are crying, I prioritize Gabe. But I can’t always wait for him to finish with his meltdown.

I have to get the baby.

When I do this, you see his face transform – not only is he upset, he is sad and jealous. And it truly breaks my heart.

If he could say how he feels, I imagine him saying, “how can you pick him over me?” I cry when I see that expression on his face.

I want to tell him I how much I love him, I want to hug him forever and take all his worries and anxiety away.

I want to tell him that when he is with his dad and I’m with the baby, I miss him so much.

Though Gabe is having a tough time adjusting, I know he loves his brother. You catch these moments of love and adoration that he has for his baby brother.

You see it during the quiet moments – when the baby is asleep, or awake but calm. Gabe kisses his brother all over.

He goes from his cheeks, to the thighs, to the knees, to the feet. He’ll lean his cheek on the baby’s head. He holds his belly like he wants to hug him.

We live for those moments.

We look ahead. This too will pass, just like with the vacuum, the hairdryer and everything else after.

Gabe will adjust, and we’ll get there.

I cannot wait for the day when he starts playing with his brother, when he feels protective of him when he is crying instead of being anxious, maybe even share a room.

I cannot wait for us to be able to go out as a family, to be all in the same place for more than a few minutes. It will take time and that’s okay.

We have a lot to work on, a lot to learn and figure out. It’s hard work in progress. But we’ll get there.

And when we do, it will all have been worth it because at the end of the day they will have each other.

We just look ahead and wait for that moment to come.

Written by, An Anonymous Mother

Finding Cooper’s Voice accepts guest posts from writers who choose to stay anonymous. I do this because so many of these topics are hard to talk about. The writers are worried about being shamed. They are worried about being judged. As a writer and mother I totally get it. But I also understand the importance of telling our stories. And this will ALWAYS be a safe place to do it.

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  • colorado mom

    March 12, 2019 at 11:01 am

    I so feel you on this! When we brought our second son home, he had terrible reflux and cried all the time. I was constantly […] Read MoreI so feel you on this! When we brought our second son home, he had terrible reflux and cried all the time. I was constantly torn between our oldest son with autism and the new baby with reflux. It was a really hard time! We were also separated in our house one of us constantly attending to one child. I had to grieve the relationship with my oldest child and he was doing the same in the only way he knew how- acting out with behaviors, tantrums and just difficult in general. In order to survive, I had to circle the wagons and called on every support system I have. We had to go back to home visits with our behavior team and we had to go back to the basics with visual schedules, emotion cards, constant first... then.. language and a lot of patience both for our child and for ourselves as parents. We had a constant stream of grandparents and special people coming over to help our oldest child feel loved and frankly to give me a break. I cried a lot! I also had to circle the wagons around myself and get myself some trusted support to just have a release. I walked as much as I could without either child, even 15 minutes gave me enough to recharge. I relied on my trusted girlfriends to just talk honestly about how difficult it was and I journaled to release some of the worry that I was carrying. I let go of any commitments that were not absolutely necessary and frankly I was so grateful to go back to work so I had space. Over time, our new normal emerged and we found the tricks that worked for that stage. Then the baby would hit a different developmental milestone that caused a whole different set of learning. Be gentle with yourself and know that you are doing your best with a very hard situation. I promise it gets easier! Read Less

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!


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