Strength in Siblings

When we found out that we were going to have HG, one of the first concerns that came to mind after all the excitement and happiness was when and how to tell the kids. There was a ton of emotional pressure with the prospect of a new sibling. Reactions could go many ways. Thankfully, the kids took the news in stride. I feel like a bit of excitement crept in once they found out they were going to have a little brother. They kept up with things, wanted the baby shower to be on a weekend when they could be there. Despite being teased that they’d have to learn how to change diapers, I feel like they were not only getting accustomed to the idea of having a little brother but were already getting attached to him.

I feel like that’s a best-case scenario with two siblings that are both over a decade older than a new sibling that will live at home while they have to go back and forth every other weekend.

So, once the reality of our new reality set in, I was heartbroken for them. I felt like I had failed them, as their Dad, to give them the sibling I promised them.

Because of having a c-section scheduled earlier than expected, it threw a lot of plans out the window. I wanted to wait to tell the kids about their brother’s condition. I wanted to wait until they could see him, until we were in person and could control the conditions and reassure them in any way we needed to.

As with all things HG-related, those plans went out the window quicker than I had conjured them up. With us being in the NICU for a few days, meant we couldn’t hide it, so we had to tell them at least something. I tried my best, telling them that their brother was born. He was ok but that we would be in the hospital a few days. I even sent a photo of his face/head to let them see what their new baby brother looked like.

Knowing that both Jenna and HG were alive, were breathing, and there was no immediate fear of death satisfied her. She was happy to wait until she could see us. I could not say the same for Canaan. Despite attempts to sidestep him, we eventually FaceTime from our NICU room, so he could fully see his baby brother. He handled it, probably better than he should have. Of course he Googled Arthrogryposis immediately after the call, but he had seen him. He knew his baby brother was alive and that while things were unexpected, that we’d be ok and figure things out.

All that didn’t help my worries, fears, and heartache. I sat in that NICU room after the call, still scared of the kids’ first meeting with their brother. No longer was it going to be happiness and joy, but now it was going to be a time of explanations, reassurance, and potentially consoling.

I hated it.

I hated sitting there, feeling like I had failed everyone.

And that’s exactly how I felt. I had failed my kids, my wife, had failed my parents and my in-laws, all the aunts and uncles, everyone. I alone had failed them all.

I was nervous to the point of being sick, picking up the kids and introducing them to their little brother. Having to explain everything to Abby, including letting her know that Canaan already knew. Then explaining to them both about his joints, letting them see how his legs pull up against his body, and how his arms don’t move. I know his little twisted body had to scare them. I know how scared it made me the first time I saw it. They hid it better than I did; I know that. I couldn’t isolate one reaction they had towards their little brother, that they wouldn’t have had if he didn’t have his condition.

Once he was swaddled up, he was just like any other newborn. Just a baby burrito and they reacted appropriately awkwardly.

Thankfully HG has two siblings that like to prove their Dad is an overthinker. For all my fear, my worry, my guilt, I’m not sure the kids have ever flinched once with their little brother and his condition. He is their baby brother, and it begins and ends there. I’m thankful for that. Thankful beyond words.

Their relationships will never be typical sibling relationships. Despite that, I feel like their strength as a group and their strength in showing their Dad up will only continue to grow and strengthen. Clearly, that sibling bond goes beyond anything AMC could waiver.

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