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Having a Second Child When Your Oldest Has Autism

Having a Second Child

Dear Hubby and I enjoyed our time as newlyweds together.  We traveled, we were spontaneous, and we had all of the time in the world for each other.  As a matter of fact, we were having so much fun that the years flew by quickly for us.  We were knocking on our 30s before the realization came that we should probably consider settling down soon to expand our family.

Our plan was to have at least two children, maybe even three. We decided that we would have them about 2-3 years apart in hopes that they would be really close, maybe even best friends. The names of our children to be were already picked out.

When Big Brother was born, we were overjoyed! We welcomed parenthood with open arms. Our first year with him was wonderful!  He was such a good baby. But when Big Brother turned two, he stopped meeting his developmental milestones and things started to change. If you’re unfamiliar with our story, click here to catch up.

Big Brother started seeing several different therapists throughout the week to help him in the areas that he was behind in.  Our primary goal was to get Big Brother back on track with his milestones, so we decided to hold off on expanding our family at that time.  We soon discovered that therapy wasn’t a quick fix.  And truthfully, once the autism diagnosis came, all of our desire to have more children went out the window.

I couldn’t possibly see how I could take care of Big Brother the way he needed to be taken care of AND have another child too. Dear Hubby was on deployment rotations and I couldn’t imagine being alone with Big Brother and a baby with no family around.

The autism diagnosis threw us for a loop.  We had no idea how far Big Brother would progress because autism is a spectrum. We just had to trust God.

Not too long after the diagnosis, we received orders to move again.  Big Brother actually did great with the move! He loves to travel, so it was like a big vacation to him.  Once we got settled,  I enrolled Big Brother into pre-K at his new school, fully informing them of his issues. There didn’t seem to be a problem. But after only a few days into the school year, I quickly learned the that the best school isn’t always the best school for children with special needs.

The principal and/or teacher called me almost every day to report something about Big Brother.

• “He wouldn’t keep his shoes on.”
• “He’s crying.”
• “He threw his shoes.”
• “He wouldn’t sit in his designated area.”

After weeks of phone calls, meetings, and record level stress, we all realized that this school wasn’t the best fit for Big Brother. The principal and school staff assisted us in getting the ball rolling for Big Brother to transfer to another school in the district that had a pre-K inclusion class. This means that the class had both regular education students and a small number of special needs students in one class together.

Thankfully, this turned out to be a good fit! Big Brother started progressing again and he actually liked going to school. Things were going well, with only a few minor issues. With the school issue resolved, Dear Hubby and I felt like we could revisit the topic of having another child.

It wasn’t an easy decision. We went back and forth about it for a long time.

I had a hard time getting over the genetics issue. Studies have shown that parents of a child with autism are 2%-18% more likely to have a second child with autism. The thought of having another child with autism seemed to be too much to handle, especially with my husband’s work schedule.

On the other hand, we didn’t want Big Brother to be an only child. We wanted him to experience the joy of having a sibling, just like we did growing up. In addition to that, our new base was closer to our parents, which meant that we would have more access to help than what we were used to having. After much prayer and a little apprehension, we decided to start trying for another child.

Six months later, we received the good news that I was pregnant! We were so excited! But this wasn’t a typical pregnancy.

First, the doctors thought I was having an ectopic pregnancy. I was monitored over several weeks. Once it was confirmed that the pregnancy was progressing normally, another problem came. I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

What is that, you might ask?

Well, the short answer is that it’s extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that can result in malnutrition. I was sick during the entire pregnancy and had several hospital stays. This was a huge challenge for our family.

On days that I felt too sick to get out of bed, Big Brother would climb up on the bed with a few of his toys and sit beside me quietly. He knew I wasn’t feeling well, but he wasn’t able to verbally express his feelings about it. His sweet presence helped me to get through the rough days. I felt so bad that I couldn’t be there for him like I wanted to be, but everything was out of my control and in God’s hands.

Dear Hubby and I did our best to actively prepare Big Brother for Baby Brother’s arrival. We took him with us whenever we shopped for Baby Brother. We let him touch my tummy. We talked to him about babies. We even showed him the VeggieTales video, Duke and the Great Pie War, which included a story called, “Babysitter in De-Nile.” The story was about Moses’s birth according to Miriam’s perspective. Big Brother really enjoyed it and I think it helped him understand what was to come.

When Baby Brother was born, Big Brother seemed to think that he was a baby doll. He laughed whenever Baby Brother cried.  He was very curious about Baby Brother and soon became very protective of him. He made it his mission to make sure that I never left Baby Brother in the house or in the car alone. If he thought we were leaving, he would sweetly remind me by saying, “Baby Brother?”

And while Big Brother is a gentle giant, he has shown aggression not once, but TWICE when he felt like a stranger was a threat to his brother. That really surprised me!

Having Baby Brother turned out to produce completely opposite results from what I imagined. As a matter of fact, Big Brother has actually IMPROVED since Baby Brother was born.

How so?  Well, for one thing, Big Brother is more willing to try new foods. I guess he feels like Baby Brother can’t show him up!

Also, Big Brother has become more social and is talking more! He tells on Baby Brother whenever he is getting into something that he shouldn’t. Once again, he’s being a little protector.

Whenever we go to the park, Big Brother likes to push Baby Brother in the swing. He often takes Baby Brother by the hand and walks him around. It’s the cutest thing to see!

I’m so thankful for the relationship my boys are developing!  They adore each other and enjoy being in each other’s presence. I’m thankful because God has worked this thing out better than what I could have imagined!

On tomorrow, I’ll be discussing how Autism has affected my faith.  You don’t want to miss it! Be sure to come back and join me!

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