Happy New Year! Matthew has been so busy over the last couple months that I missed a monthly update. You are in for a treat, because I have SO many pictures to share with you.
Before I get into the normal update content, I would like to take a moment and reflect on how far we have come in a year. On January 6, 2017 we learned, with 99.999% certainty, that our little boy would be born with Down syndrome. I will never forget, as we drove home from the doctor, J.P. said to me "God has been preparing us for this for a long time, we just didn't realize it." His words were so true. Three days later, we learned that he had a heart defect and a diaphragmatic hernia that would require surgery immediately after birth. It felt like the odds were stacked against our baby. We were so filled with fear of what lied ahead. But we knew one thing for sure: we would love this baby and do everything in our power to give him the best shot at life.
I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that everything would turn out fine. That we would get to bring our sweet baby home. That he would be healthy. That he would bring so much love to our family. That he would make us appreciate the little moments more than we ever could have without him. That normal would never again be taken for granted. I wish I could save myself from all the worry, fear and tears. But without all that, we wouldn't be where we are today. I am so grateful for this new year and all the possibilities that lie ahead for Matthew and our entire family.
The past year has been a rollercoaster, and we are happy to be off that ride! Every night that we have all seven Szafranskis under the same roof feels like a gift, one that I won't stop appreciating any time soon. The goal for this year in normalcy! We are hoping for no major life changing events around here (except for maybe winning the lottery or something fabulous like that). We have settled into as much of a routine as you can have with five kids. We get to go to our kids sporting events, and school pickup and work on little projects around the house. We are planning a summer vacation. We are so grateful for all of these little normal moments.
Matthew is now 8 months old! His little personality is really starting to shine, and we just can't get enough of him. Over the last couple weeks he has started to laugh at people (not just when tickled). When he is in a good mood he will just laugh at everything! He is such a happy little baby. He has turned into a bit of a Momma's boy, which is just fine with me! He gives J.P. the biggest whole-body smiles when he gets home from work, they just melt me!
On the developmental front, Matthew is working on sitting unassisted. He can sit for several minutes propped up with his weight on his hands. We work on balance and core strength every day, and I am just waiting for the day he lifts those hands up and doesn't do a faceplant. It could happen tomorrow or not for another month or two. He LOVES sitting up to play, so I am hoping he will get it figured out sooner rather than later.
Matthew started eating baby food shortly after he turned 6 months old. It took some time, but he has gotten really good at eating baby food off a spoon. This seems like something simple, but for may babies with Down syndrome eating is a big challenge. We will soon move on to different textures, but we feel encouraged that he hasn't had any major aversions so far. Our tiny little guy needs every calorie he can get.
At Matthew's six month checkup he had bloodwork done to check his iron levels and thyroid. These are tests that are recommended for all kiddos with Down syndrome at that age. One of his thyroid levels came back slightly elevated, so he was referred to a endocrinologist. Our doctor, who also happens to be our neighbor, went over what we are looking for and how it can be a bit challenging in people with Down syndrome. Many of the common symptoms of hyper or hypothyroidism are also common characteristics in Down syndrome: dry skin, constipation, slow weight gain, etc. He ran a more thorough test and all of Matthew's numbers came back normal. We will continue to see the endocrinologist every three months to keep an eye on his thyroid.
I wish I could say that Matthew had a wonderful and merry first Christmas, but that wasn't really the case. Matthew started feeling bad a couple days before Christmas. He developed a nasty sounding cough and just felt crummy. Our amazing pediatrician met us at his office on Christmas Eve to check on Matthew. I was terrified that we were going to be sent to the hospital with RSV. Thankfully, Dr. Daley put him on some a steroid and sent us home! We ended up back at the doctor for a chest X-ray a few days later, but that came back clear as well. It just took our little guy a long time to fight off his first respiratory infection. We are thankful that he didn't end up back on oxygen or in the hospital. Between his under-developed lung and Down syndrome, he is at an increased risk of complications from respiratory problems. It was so sad to see our usually smiley little guy not even crack a grin for a couple days, but made us so happy when he got his smile back!
Before I sign off with you for this update, I wanted to talk about one more thing that is near and dear to my heart. During one of my October posts I discussed how we received our diagnosis and that is was a relatively positive experience. Unfortunately, only 11% of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis report having a positive experience with their doctor. That is a day that will never be forgotten, and is the first impression of Down syndrome for many parents. If a Down syndrome diagnosis was immediately followed with information and support it could change lives. It could save lives.
The Down syndrome Diagnosis Network is a non-profit online-based network whose mission is to support new and expecting parents of children with Down syndrome by providing information, connections and support. I am a member of one of their parent groups whose members are all parents of kiddos the same age as Matthew. It has been an invaluable network for me to connect with other people who are on a similar journey. Every year the DSDN hosts a retreat just for moms who have small children with Down syndrome. It is a chance for moms to connect, inspire and recharge. This year the retreat is in Phoenix, Arizona in September and I am hoping to go!
I will be fundraising over the next couple months for DSDN. I believe they can make a huge difference in the lives of all families touched by Down syndrome. They also offer incentives for fund raising, so if I meet my goal of raising $5,000 for them then I will be able to go to the retreat free of charge. I would greatly appreciate your support in this amazing cause! Click here to donate to my fundraiser.
Thanks for sticking with me through this long post! Now here is cuteness overload in the form of tons of Matthew pictures from the last couple months. Mighty Matthew now has his own Instagram account, so if you would like more Matthew pics in your daily life follow along! You can find him @mighty.matthew.
Cheers to health and happiness in 2018!!