The first thing parents need to do when expecting the possibility of a special-needs child is to prepare the siblings. But who can ever REALLY be prepared?
Mom heaves one of those sighs I’ve gotten used to since spring. “Debbie, I know you’re happy about the new baby, but I need to tell you something.”
Something tells me I’m not going to be happy for long. This serious talk is scaring me. I don’t think she wants to warn me about stinky diapers and losing sleep when the baby cries at night. She sighs again and strokes the raised paisley pattern on the couch while I wait for her to continue.
“There might be something wrong with the baby.” She stares at her finger as it follows the lines of green and blue swirls.
I frown, not understanding, and she continues to talk to the couch cushion.
“Honey, this baby might not be normal. In fact, we’re pretty sure it won’t be.”
Her words don’t make sense. No one can even see the baby yet.
“How can you say she’s not normal? Did the doctor say that?”
Mom needs a different doctor if he told her something so awful. I glare at her. “How can anybody know if there’s something wrong with a baby before it’s born?”
Mom’s dark brown eyes fill with tears. I hadn’t meant to make her cry.
In a softer voice, I ask, “Why does he say the baby won’t be normal?”
“Do you remember when your brothers had German Measles back in March? And then I got it, too?”
“And we weren’t sure if I ever got them or not.”
“Well, that’s why we know something’s wrong.” Mom dabs at her eyes with a tissue and wads it into a ball. “Because I had German Measles when the baby was first beginning to grow inside of me.”
“But German Measles was nothing,” I protest. “The boys were hardly sick at all. You weren’t either.”
“It may not seem like much when you catch it, but rubella – German Measles – damages babies who aren’t born yet.” She brushes a few strands of hair out of my eyes. “I want you to be ready. This baby could be blind or deaf or retarded. Other things could be wrong too. We won’t know until after it’s born.”
Her words swirl around me like a swarm of butterflies, nearly weightless, alighting on my brain and immediately lifting off. It’s like we’re characters in a book. Problems like this happen to other people, heroes in stories, not to regular people like us. Besides, God wouldn’t let awful things happen to our family. Maybe there will be a miracle.