I am one of five children, Rod is one of two. Initially we contemplated having three children, that was quickly revised when a friend of ours had their third, upgraded their car to what appeared to be a small mini bus and said "when we travel now we have to get two rooms and two taxis." So long before Leo was born we decided we would be happy with two.
We both like to travel, I'm old school and still love to read the Sunday papers and daydream through the travel section. After Emmy was born we ventured to Hawaii, not quite as adventurous as quad biking through Cambodia or driving across the US Southern States, but it was our first trip as parents and it was an easy trip to start.
A few months before Leo was born, we found out that our friends, who live in rural NSW were also expecting their first bub. A group of us the year prior went out to visit them and hearing this exciting news took the opportunity to organise another road trip and surprise them with a baby shower.
After eagerly booking accommodation just before Christmas I recall saying to Rod "We will have a six-to-seven week old, you reckon we will be able to go?"... he said "Too late it's booked we are going, we will be fine!".
Fast forward and Leo is born three weeks early and with the surprise extra chromosome and I'm thinking "We have a 10 week old baby with Ds reckon we can go?", I mentally contemplate this trip, we are travelling to Mudgee, it's only a 3.5 hour drive and I watch the TV show "Doctor Doctor", which is filmed in Mudgee so I know there is hospital and airport there... yes I actually thought this first, and then double checked via google later!
We have said from day one that we are just going to get on with life (as long as the kids were healthy) so we packed the car, well over packed really, and we were off! We aren't really the "road trip" holiday family, my nickname at work is "Chucky" due to an unfortunate vehicular motion sickness event on my first day, so I avoid long stints in the car, but I can handle a few hours and our kids are little, they'll sleep, it would be easy right?!
One hour in I mention to Rod for the tenth time "I hate the car", when Emmy decides to anoint herself with the nickname "Chucky Junior". It's 7am, ten degrees and we are pulled over in a stopping bay at Leura changing her clothes and wiping down the car seat, and this was the first of two such events. So the 3.5 hour trip turns into a 5 hour trip, Leo happily sleeps through only waking for a feed once, while we enjoy the smell of regurgitated strawberry yogurt.
We had booked a homestead and four families (seventeen people in total) pile into the house, we have said it before and probably will continue to say it but our friends are great, there is no judgement and plenty of support and the kids ranging in age from nine weeks to nine years, all really get on and of course there is plenty of "dobbing" when one steps out of line, so based on this we know that Leo will be well looked after and as he gets older won't dare to step out of line.
Over the past few weeks, Leo has met plenty of people, most comment after a long inquisitive look "I don't see it", referring to the Ds characteristics. The kids affectionately give Leo the nickname "Baby Leo" and throughout the stay the poor little dude was constantly surrounded by the other children, talking, playing touching and ensuring he was happy, as we'd come to expect from our friends he was treated no different to any other child and not surprisingly and unlike adults, children don't notice the Ds characteristics, he's just "Baby Leo".
Our friends are all done having kids (I think ?!), so lucky for us they are all keen to cuddle and help and get their maternal fix, giving Rod & I a break and also Leo a chance to get to know his extended Aunty and Uncles. At one stage I yell out Rod "are you with Leo?" and a mate yells back no Tom has him, I carry on doing what I was doing only think about that response and stop to actually go check, Leo is in rocker happily, Tom is sitting next to him on guard, Tom is 3 years old and tells me " he's ok", he is also thankfully under the watchful eyes of an adult.
One afternoon, the girls sat on the back deck enjoying some not so horrible champagne discussing a random topic while Leo slept, we hear this faint crying and all the mums sigh and hope it's not their kid crying when I jumped up clapping and excited looking at the the baby monitor I say "Listen! That's Leo crying!" I was so proud to share that moment, and he was crying for no other reason than to be picked up!
Leo got to meet the expectant parents at a not so shabby winery for the baby shower, during the event a friend comments "Leo has long fingernails", I tell them that he was born with what looked like a bad 80's manicure, Rod referred to his nails looking like a Sydney cabbie who leaves that one nail on his little finger for cleaning his ear. Before I'd had a chance to finish the story another friend whips out her mini nail clippers, while snipping away says "netball mum!", referring to why she had clippers, she finishes off Leo's mani and goes back to her glass of wine. A simple "manicure" made me think at that point "we're ok", Leo doesn't have an illness, it's just Ds, he is healthy, my friends have more kids than me and if they still travel, so can I!
Initially when he was diagnosed I thought that I would never travel again, well no time soon anyway, but after just ten short weeks we have, our first trip away might have only been a short road trip, surrounded by the support of experienced parents and close friends, but we survived and enjoyed it. Oh and "Chucky Junior" made the journey home event free, I now understand why there is DVDs in cars, as after an hour singing "Old MacDonald" followed by Emmy saying "more" it gets a bit much...and to date we're still trying to work out what noise a giraffe makes?!