“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”
In my younger years, I was never really the type of woman that wanted to have children. I was never good with babies and I sure as heck didn’t like to baby sit! They cried too much! They made me nervous. But, when we had our son, things changed. He became my world… and my world became brighter. God never surprises me; He knows exactly what we need… and when we need it. I cannot thank him enough.
I’ll never forget – after 17 hours of labor and three hours of pushing – our perfect little baby boy entered the world. They placed him on my chest and what happened next, my husband and I will never forget. He actually lifted his head, looked at his daddy, looked at me, and then snuggled back down and fell asleep. I will never forget that moment as long as I live. It was so perfect and so special. I wouldn’t say he was the easiest of babies. In fact, we pretty much didn’t sleep for a full year! Maybe more! Who am I kidding…he still sleeps with me! (I secretly love it). We actually thought he was colicky. I can remember being up late researching sleep experts and buying anything and everything that promised to work for a sleepless child! I remember talking to my boss’s wife one night- she was talking about how she missed the infant stage. She then said something that completely changed my perspective. I was telling her how we pretty much have a baby that hates sleeping at night. She then said, “Yeah, but isn’t it so amazing at the same time? The whole world is quiet and it’s just you and him. One day you will wish you had those moments back. It’s such a short time in the whole big scheme of things. Take it all in and enjoy it. Those are moments you will never get back.” And she was absolutely right. I had been thinking about it all wrong. Yes, I was tired, but so what… I was up with my beautiful baby boy… who needed me. I was his whole world. I started to look forward to our little late night sessions. I think as I got more relaxed, he did too. Him waking up every two hours eventually spread to 3, 4, 5… and she was right, as Cristi got older, I missed the time when it was just him and I – while the whole world slept.
Turns out – he wasn’t colicky- he was just being Cristiano. He is smart, he is observant, he is difficult at times, and he’s not scared to tear up a room in protest. He loves cookies, hotdogs, pizza and chicken “tenders.” He knows the name of every Thomas train that exists! He is loving, thoughtful, and so silly. He’s my “mini me.” I’d have to say one of the most heart-breaking things today with Ashlynn’s diagnosis is how this will affect Cristiano. I know some people might stop upon hearing that and think, “well aren’t you being a little silly thinking so much about your older child??” And the answer is no. I don’t think I am. Just in the (almost) seven months of constant physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, it is so easy to look past your “typical” child and put all your energy and effort into your “special” child. (I still hate those terms… ) I praise her for the simplest things and yet get frustrated with him when he does certain things that almost every toddler does! The realization that, as a mommy, I could inadvertently be devoting more time or attention to one child over the other, is devastating. It’s something I am still working out. The guilt that comes along with trying to figure it all out is daunting. But, would I feel much differently if we weren’t in our specific situation? I would still have to balance between a new baby and my toddler… For some reason, it’s not this moment that bothers me… it’s the future. We still don’t know the severity of Ashlynn’s diagnosis. So it’s another “wait-and-see” type of situation… my favorite. “Have patience” has never had a more important meaning in my life.
We are so lucky to have family that helps me with Cristiano on days when I have to be in class with Ashlynn. Is it ideal for me to be away from one of my kids – absolutely not. But, I equate it to being a working mom. It’s just that now my job has become “mommy PT!” It’s also the way you choose to look at it. Ashlynn’s play session would be no different than the “mommy and me” classes I used to take Cristiano to when he was 4 months old. One of the training facilities we visit is great because I can bring Cristiano along and he can play while we work. It’s like one big playground for him. The other one, unfortunately is for therapy children only. He doesn’t quite understand the reason for the division yet. I kind of love that. He sees absolutely nothing different about the kids in Ashlynn’s class. When we were in the NICU, they had a family play center for children that were admitted to the children’s hospital.
One day, daddy somehow worked his magic and the next thing I know Cristiano was part of the playroom festivities. It made my heart feel so much better knowing that while I was upstairs with Ashlynn, he was downstairs being occupied, engaged, and just having fun. He absolutely loved it. In fact, he still asks to go there! They started calling him the “mayor of the playroom.” You had to ring a door bell to enter, so every time he heard that bell, he would instantly drop whatever he was doing, and go answer the door to say Hello, introduce himself, and greet everyone with a big smile. He loved the kids that came in to play. He knew their names. Some were very sick- some couldn’t walk, or talk, some scooted around. He didn’t care; he played with them all. He even would pick out toys and bring them to the kids that couldn’t get out of their wagons or chairs. He showed signs of empathy I never knew a three year old could have. He would tell the staff that he was going to be a doctor and would proudly tell everyone about “Baby Ashlynn” upstairs (whom he still hadn’t been allowed to meet yet). Even then, seeing how happy he was in that hospital playroom, my heart still broke for him. I was sad we weren’t at a park or outside taking a walk. Or that he wasn’t in a fun play class. As we received the diagnosis for Ashlynn, my thoughts quickly raced to our future and what this meant for Cristiano.
I made a promise to myself right then and there, that no matter how tired I was, or no matter what was going on in our lives, Cristiano would also have the life he deserves. Both of my children will get the very best of me . Always. That is something I have control over. I promise to always find ways to make them both feel special. To show I love them and that each of the milestones they meet are equally important. I promise to not overlook anything big or small. I promise to make life fun even when it gets heavy. I want them to know that when we have each other, we have it all… and when we have faith in God and His plan, we will never be left behind.
To my Cristiano:
I am proud of you every single day. You give me so many reasons to smile. It is because of you I have become the person I am today. You are too young to understand any of this, but one day, when you read this please know how “special” you are to me. How you made me want to be the very best version I possibly could be. On days when I wanted to cry, seeing you was my only refuge. Or how I hold your little hand when you are asleep.
You are so unbelievably loved. I thank God every single day for you and the blessing you are to my life. I will never get tired of being there for you. Things may not always be easy, but know that I always love you with all that I am… and that I loved you first.
Nikki, It’s Amanda (Wakulich) Patano,
I absolutely LOVE THIS!
Feeling those feelings of guilt after having my second child, I can relate to so much of what you said in “I loved you first… “And I love reading your other blog posts your beautiful family. You are such a wonderful mom and role model to your children! Your kids are very lucky to have you as their mommy! I look forward to following the journey…
Amanda Wakulich Patano
Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for your kind message- it really means a lot to me that you took time to write that… xo