18 months ago yesterday our son came into the world and turned our lives upside down for good. 18 months! How has that happened? It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that we were coming home from the hospital with ours heads spinning from the newness of it all.
A lot has happened in the inexcusably long time since I’ve last posted on this blog. Our little man turned one in April with a party themed after his favourite toy, Mr Raffa the Giraffa (post of the party and his first birthday coming soon).
Ten days later Caleb and I then flew solo to Israel for three weeks for a family reunion for my mother’s surprise 60th birthday party and the wedding of dear friends of ours, Yosef & Kristi (a stunningly beautiful Scottish/Israeli wedding in the Judean hills overlooking Jerusalem). Will wasn’t able to come for all of it because of not being able to get time off work, although he was able to fly over for four days for the wedding. He then needed to fly back before us so flying solo with Caleb again on the way back it was!
We then came back to the news that our rental home we were living in had been sold by our landlords while we were gone, and that we needed to find a new place to live in the next few weeks. A few weeks of frenzied house hunting followed, along with some soul searching about where we should live and put roots down for the next few years. While we’ve loved living in England the last 6 (nearly 7!) years and in Frome for the last year and a half of those, our hearts still see Jerusalem as home and we would love to move back someday. We did push on some doors to see if that could happen visa-wise but it didn’t work out, so we know that now is not the time. Someday, but for now our home is here and we’ve been loving this community-filled, creative, boho market town we’ve been living in and the people in it. We thought through some options but soon realised that this does feel like the place we’re meant to be in now, and seems to be the perfect place to begin raising our family. So, we decided to take the inheritance we had recently been given by Will’s grandmother and put it on a deposit for a house! Hard to believe we’re now home owners, still feels like we’re kids playing house. We bought a house that we’re currently in the process of redecorating and changing to suit us, and we’re loving having a place of our own that’s warm and perfect to raise a family in.
After finally deciding to stay and put some roots down, we decided to go hunting for a church closer to us as logistically going to Bath every week was proving more difficult than we thought. We soon found an amazing one in nearby Trowbridge that we’re loving being a part of. Full of life, down to earth, very real with no pretentiousness, filled with genuine people who welcomed us with open arms (especially Caleb!) and oriented towards families. Win.
Will and I also both got new jobs during this time – me as the photographer for the big Frome Independent Market that happens once a month and is an event that people come from all over the country for (including celebrities – my first one I was working at I accidentally got a photo of Russell Brand doing some casual shopping!) and Will retraining in the finance department of the company he was working before at as a management consultant. His new job means more normal hours, no more 70 hour work weeks and much more time to spend with the family at home. I never see Caleb more excited now than when Will walks through the door when he gets home from work. They’ve become best buds and Caleb is definitely a daddy’s boy now. Will now has time to take Caleb to the park a few mornings a week before work and spend an hour playing with Caleb when he gets home. He also now does bath time, story time and bed time and their bond has grown so much stronger because of it.
We moved into our new house in the summer, followed by a week of non-stop unpacking and decorating to make the place liveable before my family all came to visit. My sister, brother-in-law and their 8 (!!!) children all arrived a week from the day we moved in and stayed for two beautiful, hectic, fun-filled, harrowing at times and gloriously mad two weeks. The time they were here included a trip to the accident and emergency room for my three-year-old niece who had a cup of hot tea spilled over her, who then had to be rushed in an ambulance to Bristol to a special burns unit as it looked like she had over 12% of her body covered in severe burns. Thankfully by the time they got to Bristol the redness had gone down and they said only 2% of her body had been affected and that the burns weren’t as severe as originally thought. She was discharged that night and we went ahead to Devon to stay at Will’s family’s house the next day as planned.
Two days later, she came down with a high fever and went back to Bristol, where they said she had contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome (common in young children with the type of burns she had) and needed a blood plasma transfusion and to be on an antibiotic IV drip for 4 days. Needless to say, this was a terrible time for all of us and we prayed non-stop for her recovery during that time. My sister stayed with her in the hospital, which meant that my brother-in-law, Will and I had the other 8 children to look after. Will thankfully had taken a few days off work, but soon had to go back, leaving my brother-in-law and I to hold the fort with Caleb and seven of his cousins, ranging from 12 years old to a few weeks younger than Caleb. My respect for my sister shot through the roof during this time, seeing how she lives every day looking after 8 children – all with big, outgoing personalities and constantly full of energy! Despite all this, we had an amazing time together. A week later when my niece had been discharged, nurses came to check on her burns and were amazed at how quickly her burns were healing – they said that they were healing twice as fast as they would have expected and she was soon back to herself.
We then all went camping at a worship festival called David’s Tent and had the most incredible, restful much-needed time being together as family along with our closest friends. After another week spent with them partly in Devon and partly in our new house when we had a beautiful time being able to relax and enjoy being together, they flew out – and my parents arrived the next day! They stayed for a week and we had a great time together, but it was non-stop for a long, long time.
All this to say – with moving house, new jobs, new church, meeting new friends and catching up with old ones and seeing family our lives have been a little busy! I’ve also started volunteering for our local branch of the NCT parenting charity and am writing an article for their magazine which I’ll soon post on here about how to cope when things don’t go to plan. Not to use all of that as an excuse, but writing on the blog kept getting pushed back until now. Now we’re finally feeling more settled in to our new home and new lives, I’m hoping to start updating this blog more regularly.
The main reason I wanted to write another post today was to celebrate our little man and the impact he’s had on our lives and many, many others. On the day where everywhere you look, all things to do with death is being celebrated, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate the life of our world changer. Today is also the last day of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As Down Syndrome is the condition caused by an extra 21st chromosome and is also known as Trisomy 21, I did a challenge to post a photo or video every day for the last 21 days of October to share some of the messy, beautiful reality of what it is to live life with someone who has that extra chromosome. What I’ve learned from doing it is how many people Caleb is impacting just through being the awesome little rock star that he naturally is. I’ve realised again how much more alike than different he is, and how the differences that he does have are what make him beautifully unique and individual.
The last few months have had difficult times as well as the joy-filled ones. There have been times when all I have been able to focus on are how behind he is on his walking, standing and crawling. Times when I’ve taken him to the park or play groups and see how every other child his age is walking, running and climbing while he happily sits and stays where he is. Times when it feels when I’m walking down the street that every person we pass stares and wonders about our child, when all I can feel are the stares and the (perhaps imagined, perhaps not) judgments of people we see.
But then there are other times (most days, to be honest) that we walk down the street and everyone we pass seems to melt when they see him. Many times the faces of people who were walking down the street scowling or in their own world change when they see our boy smiling and waving at everyone he sees. Their faces light up and they smile back, troubles seemingly forgotten. There are times when he seems to make strangers’ days by smiling and waving the way he does with his entire body getting involved. Times when he seems to instinctively know who is having a bad day or is feeling down and impulsively launches himself into their arms, hugging them tightly and changing their mood and atmosphere of the room with his gorgeous smile and infectious laugh. He seems to have a gift for wholeheartedly loving people who need it most and unreservedly giving his affection to whoever he meets. And – he crawled for the first time yesterday, on his 18 month birthday! Reaching milestones seem all the sweeter when you’ve been fighting for them as long as he has. We couldn’t be more proud of him.
I have learned so much from our boy. He has made our lives over the last 18 months so much richer and fuller than they ever were before he turned our world upside down. It’s funny how the unplanned for and unexpected can so often be so much better than our original plans for our lives are. I’ve found this with our boy – he is not what we expected or planned for. But he has made our lives more full and rich than they ever would have been if our lives had gone as we had originally planned.
Heather Avis, blogger at The Lucky Few and mother of three adopted children (two of which have Down Syndrome) puts it perfectly when talking about her oldest daughter: ‘I know now it was not the Down syndrome, or the heart defect, or the serious lung disease that terrified me, it was the unknown and the unplanned for those things represented. I thought I knew what my life should look like in order for it to be the best it could, and this was not it…or so I foolishly believed. Then [my daughter] rammed into me, shattering my plans and in so doing, revealing just how narrow and shallow they were. I was hoping for a pond. She brought me the ocean.’
Thank you, Caleb, for turning our lives inside out and making them so much fuller than they would have been if our lives had gone the way we originally planned them to. You are changing the world for the better just by being who you are. Never change who you are – the world needs more people like you. Thank you for bringing us the ocean.
To see the photos from the 21 day challenge and more of Caleb since I’ve decided to keep posting as much as possible, you can follow me here on Instagram.