Down Syndrome at the Dog Park

There is a dad who comes to the dog park with his large golden doodle and his young son.  I’ve interacted with them before, like many other dog park regulars. We usually talk about our dogs- asking their names, ages, where they are from.  On this one day, though, I felt moved to say more.

When the three of them came into the park, the dog took off leaving dad and son to walk up the path.  I yelled an excited “Hi, Pete!” to the blur of a dog as it ran by.  The dad heard my greeting and walked over.  “I’m sorry. I don’t remember your dog’s name,” he said apologetically.  When I named Muppet. He responded, “and what’s your name?” shaking the small fist of the baby strapped to my chest.

“Felix,” I said smiling.

As he asked me about Felix’s age, his son came over and simply put his head up against Felix’s belly.  I smiled an decided to do something a little courageous.

“Does your son have down syndrome?” I asked.

“Yes,” he responded, hesitantly, almost protective.

“My daughter had Down Syndrome,” I could see his expression soften, “but she died after birth. It makes me happy seeing your son interact with Felix because it let’s me picture what it might have been like if she lived.”

We then proceeded to exchange diagnosis stories- him at birth, after normal testing. Me, in pregnancy after very abnormal testing.  Both of us “young” in the obstetrical world- without risk factors (though most babies with Down Syndrome are born to mothers who are medically “young.”) Both of us shocked. We talked about our connection to the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress. He told me how is his native country, Russia, Down Syndrome is almost something to be ashamed of, giving me insight to his initial protectiveness, when I asked about his son.  It also made me thankful that I live in a country where the two words that make up Down Syndrome are not a cause for shame. There is still a long journey towards inclusion and acceptance, but it’s progress.

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Hi from the silence

Hi, I say meekly.

I’ve fallen off the map.  Everyday I want to write, I want to connect with the community that has held my hand through the past year and a half, I want to tell you all what’s in my head.

I’m ok.  I just wanted you to know that.

I”m just swamped!  I’ve taken on a second job, which I”ll write more about as soon as I can rightfully.  I feel like I have so little time- most of it I try to stay on top of reading other’s blogs so I feel more connected.  But the longer I stay away from writing, the harder it seems to restart.

So for now, I’ll write just a snippet.

Today I was at the dog park and there was a woman there with a teenage girl with Down Syndrome.  She had dark hair and glasses, very high functioning with good conversation skills from what i could overhear.  I so so badly wanted to tell both her and her mother about Mabel.  I wanted to talk to the girl- get to know her.  We exchanged a few words- about our dogs and about a lady who was holding her tiny dog in the pouch pocket of her sweatshirt.  I hung out close to them, trying to figure out how to start more conversation, but then it was time for them to go.  That sweet little interaction made my day.

Unmastered question

Muppet and I preformed a rescue mission last week. It was my day off and a particularly warm day for those of us in the northeast. My car thermometer hit the 50s as we drove to a local hiking venue. The snow on the main and easiest path is usually packed down enough for hiking up to the top in just hiking boots and the day was no exception. There were several other hikers, many with dogs, out that day too. We had just turned the first few bends of the path when we stopped in front of a lady crouching down, two dogs at her side.

“Is this your dog?” she asked somewhat confused. I then realized that one of the dogs was leashed and the other she had by the collar alone. When I spoke my no, she then asked “did you see anyone looking for a dog?” Apparently she found this dog walking down the trail unaccompanied. I took a turn holding the dog, calm and content sitting with us, as we investigated his collar for tags. His name was Max and we found some phone numbers. The other woman tried one, but had no service. After a few attempts I was able to get someone on my phone. Before I had a chance to speak, a woman’s voice asked “do you have a little brown dog?” She wasn’t far downt he trail and Max apparently was a little hard of hearing, but we held on to him until his owner appeared and leashed him up.

Pretty content withourselves, Muppet and I continued up the trail with the original woman who found Max. We chatted for quite a bit- mostly small talk, about things like our dogs and the weather. I remarked how it has been frustrating taking a puppy out so much in the freezing temperatures, always on a leash. I went on to say how the past weeked was really rough because it was cold, but I was also super sick and had to take care of the puppy alone, because my husband was out of town.

“Oh, do you have kids then?”

Such a benign question in most other scenarios. I sighed mentally as I tried to decide how to answer. I still hate denying Mabel’s existence with a simple “no.” And the “none living” doesn’t sit well with me either. But this woman was a complete stranger- we hadn’t even learned each other’s names. I knew far more about her dog and her previous one than I did about her and here I was debating how to tell her such an intimate detail of my life.

“Not in the house…” I mumbled awkwardly. Ugh. I didn’t want that to be my answer. I just needed more time to think about it and craft the words that I really wanted to say. The conversation continued, but my response was still on my mind. But another opportunity presented. I can’t remember what exactly brought us to it, but I found myself saying, “Well, I had a daughter last year, but she died after birth. I got Muppet as a puppy not long after, so she could help fill that space. She’s my baby now.” My tone was cheerful and loving and her response was the appropriate “Oh, I’m sorry.” I was able to transition the conversation back to the dogs, talking about how protective I am of my puppy and the small talk flowed.

This interaction has sat with me though, now days later. I thought I was good at answering that dreaded question, especially when I’m in my office, where I hear variations of it most often. But I suppose I was unprepared on the trail. I guess I need to learn to be prepared all the time. I think I would have been happier if I answered “Yes- a daughter” or “I had a daughter” and see where the conversation went. Perhaps next time.

Has this happened to you? Thought you had mastered something in your babyloss world, only to be caught off guard and stumble?

The Muppet Puppy, dog rescuer.

The Muppet Puppy, dog rescuer.

Sunday Synopsis

After a few days with no internet, it’s back and I’m finally re-connected to the world!

Should we get a dog? I loved this article! I feel like I went through the same ups and downs in deciding to get Muppet, but ultimately glad I did.  really interesting how mother’s brains react similarly to photos of their kids and photos of their dogs.

In my grief I have found a lot of support through certain online boards.  It’s amazing the kinship I feel with women I have never met and might only know by monikers and not even their real names.  One woman in my online community wants so badly to start a family through adoption.  I’m sharing her adoption profile here in case anyone knows someone who knows someone.  I hope if I am ever choosing the same path, others would share for me too.  I dare you not to feel tenderness for this couple when you read their site.

Grief and Getting a Good Night’s Sleep– I’ve always been really nit-picky about my sleep.  I need the room cold and dark with lots of white noise.  I blamed it on a profession that caused me to sleep at weird hours, but now that I’ve been living a more normal schedule and my needs are the same, I recognize it’s just who I am.  I’m a vivid dreamer and a difficult sleeper.  Grief certainly didnt (doesnt) help.  In the beginning I trial different sleep meds until I found one that could get me past 4 hours without waking up.  But what really helped reset my sleep clock after Mabel died was a weekend of camping. I’m going to throw that into suggestions as well.

Have you come across any articles that spoke to you recently?  Please post in comments!

Day 4: Now

Day 4: Now

Now…I hold puppies.  Before… I held babies.  Now, after my baby died.  Before, before my baby died.

My little pup is becoming my new world and a lifeline to the old world to which I belonged.  In The Before, I was very social and outgoing; I would talk to strangers easily.  In my Now, I’ve come a long way.  At first I was that pariah like lump sitting in the corner at social gatherings, ready to burst into tears at any minute.  Now I can socialize, being present in conversation, but I am far from the social butterfly I once was.  Muppet, however, is the socialite I once was.  Today, while at a cyclocross race, Muppet would walk up unabashedly to a group of people and stare up at them saying with her eyes “hi there! look at me!” So I was forced to interact with many more  people than I would have.  I practiced smiling and pleasantries with strangers, something I used to be good at.  Now… I hold puppies and am slowly re-entering the world I used to be so comfortable in.

#CaptureYourGrief

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Day 4: Now

Fur Babies

I always said I wasn’t responsible enough for a dog until I proved myself with a baby- coming straight home everyday after work, arranging daycare, having a small creature totally reliant on me. When Mabel died and I made connections in the babyloss world, especially with those who had no living children, I learned many of them had “fur babies.” They poured their built up love and caring into an animal that they had or brought home after they lost their babies. At first I didn’t want one- my baby died and replacing her with an animal was not going to make it any better.  In fact, getting a dog would make her death more real. I wouldn’t have minded it as a temporary thing- caring for a snuggly puppy in the first months of my grief, while home alone, but I would want to give it up when I returned to work.  The idea of doing all I should have been doing (rushing home from work, middle of the night awakenings) for a dog instead of a baby seemed too painful.  But as the months rolled by and the house remained empty and quiet, I started to have second thoughts.

Chris has always been a dog lover. He’ll the get on the floor and wrestle with your dog. He knows how to talk to them and make them stay or sit. It’s almost as fun watching him play with dogs as it is watching him play with kids (he’s a natural there too). He would have been happy getting a dog a long time ago- I was the hold up. So he was thrilled when I suggested we start looking.

I was picky. The biggest requirement was that we get a dog that didn’t shed. I shed plenty of hair and have trouble keeping the house clean with just me- I didn’t want to have to be vacuuming every day or find stray dog hair in my food. I also was partial to smaller dogs, but Chris preferred bigger dogs, so we agreed on medium sized. Plus we want one that’s friendly, active and good with kids (I do hope to have more in the future). I loved the idea of a rescue dog (I feel almost morally dictated to get one) but with all my pickiness, a rescue was seeming less likely. Chris researched and found a local breeder of Golden Doodles and I was completely won over by their teddy bear appearance (if you want to be distracted by cuteness, look up golden doodles on pinterest). We began the process.

The breeder had a litter of medium sized dogs due in the end of July and so we signed ourselves up. A month of waiting for the pups to be born, then another month of waiting to meet and pick out our pup and a last month of waiting to take her home. Our Muppet has been three months in the making. In the last few weeks I would often comment “this must be what it’s like to be excitedly waiting for a baby to be born,” rather than wanting to stay pregnant and avoid the inevitable day, learning whether your baby would live or die.

Now we have a newborn pup at home and are living the lifestyle of newborn pup parents- frequent potty trips, sleeping poorly at night awoken by the cries of a pup in the crate next to our bed and showing her off proudly to anyone who will look.

Do you have a fur baby? Where have you put all your pent up love after your loss?