Health News

Harry Potter's Jessie Cave Welcomes 3rd Child After 'Terrifying' Birth

Lavender Brown’s little one! Jessie Cave gave birth to her third child on Wednesday, October 21, only 40 minutes after her water broke.

Celebrity Babies of 2020: See Which Stars Gave Birth

“Abraham ‘Bam’ Benjamin,” the Harry Potter star, 33, captioned a Thursday, October 22, Instagram photo of herself breast-feeding the infant. “Our baby boy was born in the early hours yesterday morning just 40 mins after my waters were broken. Slightly extreme but so were his kicks throughout the pregnancy! This has been a very different experience to my first two births … much more humbling, terrifying and out of my control.”

The actress went on to write that the newborn was in the neonatal unit, explaining, “He’s a strong boy and it’s the safest place for him right now. The midwives (Magda and Daisy) and the doctors and neonatal nurses have been amazing (our first one to welcome us into the ward was named Rosaria and she was extremely comforting). Thank you for all the cosmic well wishes.”

Celeb Moms Share Breast-Feeding Pictures

The “We Can’t Talk About That Right Now” podcast cohost concluded, “Thank you to [my partner], @alfiebrowncomedian for being so wonderful (again) and taking this picture in the seconds after he was born and just moments before he was wheeled away out of our arms, honestly one of the hardest moments of my life. Hopefully he will be with us soon and it will be even more perfect. And BIG LOVE AND RESPECT for all the mothers who’ve experienced the neonatal unit before us, along with us.”

She and Alfie Brown are also the parents of Donnie, 6, and Margot, 4.

The English star announced in June that she was pregnant with baby No. 3, writing via Instagram: “Oops I did it again.”

Cave continued documenting her pregnancy via social media, from her baby bump progress to her self-care routine.

Eniko Parrish and More Celebs Debuting Postpartum Bodies Days After Birth

From 2009 to 2011, the illustrator played Lavender Brown in the final three films in the Harry Potter franchise.

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Health News

FITZ (of Fitz and the Tantrums) on Family Life with Wife Kaylee DeFer and Three 'Little Humanoids'

FITZ (from Fitz & The Tantrums) is gearing up to drop music on his own, but his life at home has been far from tantrum-less.

With the release of his solo debut "Head Up High," the 50-year-old, born Michael Fitzpatrick, talks to PEOPLE about the "crazy ride" of quarantining with his wife Kaylee DeFer and their three boys: Theo, 7, Sebastian Danger, 3 ½, and Rémy, 18 months.

Staying home during the pandemic became the first time that he was able to spend lengthy quality time with his Gossip Girl wife and his three boys.

"It's been stressful," he admits. "We've got a family here at home, so we're 24/7 trying to take care of the little human beings and keep them sane and keep us all happy."

The musician says he's been able to bond with his children in a "way we would have never experienced otherwise."

"They're all so unique and amazing and challenging," he says about his boys. "As any parent knows, you just go through phases with these little humanoids."

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RELATED: FITZ Drops Solo Debut 'Head Up High' Without the Tantrums at Age 50: I Feel ‘Honestly Empowered’

"We try to go on hikes and connect with nature," he says. "And the thing is the world has gotten smaller for all of us, and I think it's also shown us what's really important and what we need."

The Fitzpatricks also have a perfect nightly ritual for the creative family: "We just blast some music to just shake off the stress and the anxiety, and just the constant wear and tear of being in a lockdown scenario."

The "HandClap" star also says that he's been able to see his kids' personalities. His youngest is definitely the "singer" of the three boys.

"My wife always says he's the singer of the band because he never stopped singing and screaming and being loud," he says, laughing. "And he's the third one. He's got to make sure his voice is heard above his two brothers."

Oh, and his 3-year-old is in the "tantrum phase."

"He's an amazing human being, and we're just getting to know his personality more and more as he grows up," he says of their second child, aptly nicknamed Bashy Danger. "But he's definitely been known to throw a tantrum or two."

Fitz adds that his wife is an "amazing chef" and that the family has even spent time making their own sourdough bread.

"It's non-stop for us all day, every day," he says about being with the kids (his oldest is dealing with attending school from home). "I think it's really pushed myself and my wife to [go] deeper in terms of having patience and understanding. I think it's really taught me patience and empathy and sensitivity to these kids and to our friends."

"My wife used to be on Gossip Girl and she's finished that show. She's been another amazing example of going from being a TV star to a mother full-time and doing it with such grace and love," he adds.

"And in this pandemic, it's pushed us even to a whole 'nother level of having to be present and being keen together as a family."

RELATED: Pregnant Meghan Trainor Reveals the Sex of Her First Child on the Way with Husband Daryl Sabara

Along with bonding with his family, FITZ says the pandemic has allowed him to relate to other people like never before.

"I talk to anybody on FaceTime, I even just look at somebody standing on the corner of the street and I can feel the weight of everybody around me," he says. "I can look at a stranger on the street and relate to them in a way that I wouldn't before."

"I think it just also reminds us all that we're all in this together and we're going to come out of it together if we all work together," he adds. "There's something really powerful about us all being reminded that we are one species trying to make it through on this planet together."

FITZ’ new song "Head Up High" is out now.

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Health News

Kimberly Van Der Beek Reveals Names She, James Chose After Miscarriages

Sharing her story. Kimberly Van Der Beek opened up about her two most recent miscarriages — and revealed the names she and James Van Der Beek picked out for their unborn sons.

See James Van Der Beek’s Sweetest Moments With His Family

Kimberly, 38, experienced two pregnancy losses in November 2019 and June this year, each at 17 weeks. During an Instagram Live Q&A with fans on Tuesday, October 20, the Washington native described how her family has worked through their two tragedies.

“I don’t know if my miscarriages would be classified as stillbirths, they were both [at] 17 weeks,” she said in response to one viewer’s question. “They were so tough. It’s so interesting that I was able to deliver four children at home without a problem but miscarries at 17 weeks hospitalized me. One of them almost killed me.”

The couple, who tied the knot in 2010, share children Olivia, 10, Joshua, 8, Annabel, 6, Emilia, 4, and Gwendolyn, 2. In September, the Dawson’s Creek alum, 43, announced that he and his family were moving to Austin, Texas, after spending years in Los Angeles. As they settle into their new home, Kimberly is eager to find the perfect place for a passionfruit vine that she got from a store by mistake, which her family has dubbed “the mama plant.”

Rainbow Babies: Stars Who Had Children After Miscarriages

Kimberly felt as though the plant was “destined to come into our house,” and it’s played an important role in her healing process since losing her two pregnancies. Before each of her health scares, Kimberly’s “intuition” let her know that something had taken a turn for the worse.

“I was told I was going to have the miscarriage a few minutes before it happened. I was told I was going to have to go to the hospital a few minutes before they had to make the decision,” she said on Tuesday. “After the fetus came out, I was told exactly where to bury it. … So we have two fetuses in our mama plant. We named them John and Zachariah.”

The former business consultant buried the baby boys under the passionfruit plant and suddenly started to see a change in the vine’s growth. “I had this whole spiritual awakening that happened and the next day, mama plant had her first flower,” she recalled.

A post shared by Kimberly Van Der Beek (@vanderkimberly) on

Earlier this month, Kimberly admitted that she still wasn’t quite ready to consider welcoming another child with the Varsity Blues actor after her two “very harsh” losses.

“I need to feel really good in my body if I’m going to explore that option,” she explained during an interview on “The Make Down” podcast. “Right now, I’m not there. … I’m in very much a healing mode right now. My body is really needing the nourishment and the care right now, and I’ve actually been more hands-off with parenting than I have in the past.”

Big Fans! See Celebrity Kids Watching Their Parents’ Shows and Movies

As she continues her recovery, Kimberly is planning to honor John and Zachariah on November 17, which has become an important day in her family’s story. In November 2019, she was leaving the hospital after her miscarriage with John, and the next year, Zachariah was due on the same day. This November, she wants to host a blood drive on her Texas property.

“That’s something that came to me very clearly to do,” she concluded on Tuesday. “Because people donating blood saved my life … If I’m feeling strong I will also be giving blood.”

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Jeremy Meeks Talks Coparenting With 'Incredible' Chloe Green, Melissa Meeks

Crushing coparenting! Jeremy Meeks opened up about his dynamic with his exes Chloe Green and Melissa Meeks.

Drew Barrymore, Will Kopelman and More Former Couples Crushing Coparenting

“I am single. I am trying to focus on self,” the model, 36, told Extra on Tuesday, October 21. “I have an incredible relationship with Chloe, the mother of my 2-year-old, [Jayden.] And now I have a relationship with the mother of my oldest son, [Jeremy Jr., 11] … We’re all coparenting. They are incredible mothers.”

The California native, who was dubbed “Hot Felon” in 2014 after his mugshot went viral, finalized his divorce from Melissa, 40, in June 2018. The former couple agreed to share joint legal custody in court documents obtained by Us Weekly at the time.

Jeremy Meeks and Chloe Green: A Timeline of Their Relationship

That same month, Green, 29, announced the birth of her and Jeremy’s son. “We are pleased to announce the birth of our beautiful baby boy Jayden Meeks-Green,” the Topshop heiress captioned the infant’s Instagram debut. “Born May 29th 2018. Mommy and Baby both doing well. We kindly ask to respect our privacy please. Much love Chloe & Jeremy.”

The Made in Chelsea alum hinted at an upcoming engagement to Us in October 2018, but split rumors circulated within the year. Jeremy shut down May 2019 speculation, writing via Instagram that he and Green were still “very much in love.”

A source exclusively told Us in August 2019 that Jayden’s parents had split “about two months” prior. “[They] are off and on but still speaking,” the insider explained at the time.

While coparenting his kids, Jeremy is dealing with virtual learning “like the rest of the [parents in] the United States,” he told Extra on Tuesday. “I am not smarter than a fourth-grader.”

Celebrity Stepparents: Jada Pinkett Smith, LeAnn Rimes and More

The Trigger star went on to say that he would “definitely consider” competing on The Bachelor. “If you guys want to reach out, I would love to have a sit-down,” he told the outlet.

Green has seemingly moved on with Manuele Thiella. The England native has been spotted kissing the yacht broker, 34, on her father Sir Philip Green‘s yacht this summer.

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The reason you should never put your underwear in the dryer

When it comes to laundry, some people are the sort-by-color, use-the-right-settings type, while others are the toss-it-all-in-and-press-start type. But whichever category you fall into, you may be making a huge laundry faux pas at drying time. If you typically put your underwear into the dryer, you might enjoy the short-lived pleasure of having all your wash done at the same time. But this could quickly be canceled out by the annoyance of ending up with panties that you wouldn’t want to wear even on your grungiest days. 

There’s a reason why dryers have all those different settings: Each one is designed to dry specific types and weights of clothes and linens in the most efficient, least damaging way possible. As Real Simple explains, most dryers have settings such as “heavy duty,” a high-heat option for items like jeans and towels that absorb a lot of moisture and take longer to dry, and “permanent press,” a lower-heat setting that helps prevent wrinkles in both synthetic-fabric clothes and natural-fabric clothing that wrinkles easily (per Whirlpool). 

But when it comes to your lacy undergarments, the rules are totally different. 

Fresh-air drying is best for underwear

The same machines that keep the rest of your clothing clean and dry can do a major number on your most intimate items. Dryers, in particular, wreak havoc on the elastic of underwear and bras. “Not only does the heat shrink things, it literally breaks down the fabrics and bends wires out of shape,” Wolford brand expert Jenny Altman tells Women’s Health. The last thing you want is to have your thong sliding down your hips because the elastic waistband is shot. 

If you absolutely have to dry your panties in a hurry, it’s okay to occasionally toss them in the dryer on the cool or “dry fluff” setting, according to Underwear Expert. In general, though, it’s best to let underwear air-dry. If you don’t have an outdoor clothesline, the next best thing is a drying rack (like this one, available for $20 on Amazon).

For maximum longevity, wash your bras and panties by hand, preferably in a sink with a detergent formulated for delicate fabrics. The energetic soaking and spinning produced by a washing machine can bend bra hooks and snag lace (per underwear manufacturer Lively). Don’t have time for a sink dunk? Then a mesh lingerie bag is a must, according to experts who spoke to New York Magazine. They also recommend not washing underwear along with heavy denim or terrycloth items, which can rub against the flimsier fabric and wear it down. 

A little extra time and effort will keep your underwear looking great.

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Health News

Kanye West Smiles Singing With Daughter North During Sunday Service

Like father, like daughter! Kanye West adorably sang a debut with his and Kim Kardashian’s 7-year-old daughter, North, during a Sunday Service.

North West’s Fabulous Life: See Kim Kardashian, Kanye West’s Eldest Daughter

“OUR BEAUTIFUL LIGHT CLEAR REALITY,” the rapper, 43, captioned the Monday, October 19, Instagram video.

In the social media upload, the little one sat on her dad’s shoulders and reached for the camera while they sang. The Grammy winner, who also shares Saint, 4, Chicago, 2, and Psalm, 17 months, with Kardashian, 39, smiled while showing a blue room with walls covered in chalk. Someone played the piano dressed in a blue outfit.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Sweetest Moments With Their Kids

In March, North sang during her dad’s Paris Fashion Week show debuting his Yeezy season 8 collection. She took the stage to perform a special rap song as models walked the runway, starting with: “Yeah, you know my name, it’s Northie!”

Kardashian said that her eldest hadn’t “practiced” before her performance in a Keeping Up With the Kardashians episode last month.

“I almost start crying because I’m just … I’m happy for her, but I’m so nervous for her,” the KKW Beauty creator said in a confessional. “She obviously gets that from her dad, and it just makes me so happy that she’s not afraid to try anything. That to me was just so fun to see. You know, she’s just fearless and I love that about her, and I’m such a proud mom.”

Later in the episode, the makeup mogul told West that she was “crying like a stage mom.”

Kim Kardashian’s Greatest Quotes About Motherhood

She went on to praise her husband, gushing, “I think the fashion show was amazing. When Kanye says he wants to do something, he makes it happen, and he’s wanted to come back and do a fashion show, and he did it in a big way, and we’ll always have these memories. They’ll never forget it and that means a lot to me.”

While she and West have experienced many ups and downs in recent months, Kardashian is “taking care of the kids” and focusing on “healing” their marriage, a source exclusively told Us Weekly in August. “[She is] committed to holding it together for their kids.”

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Casey Goode Opens Up About the Hardest Part of Son's COVID Treatment and His 'Emotional' Homecoming

Casey Goode was just adjusting to life as a new mom when she learned that her newborn son had contracted the novel coronavirus.

The American Idol alum tells PEOPLE it had only been days since Maximilian "Max" Vaughn arrived home from the neonatal intensive care unit — where he was staying after he was born just 37 weeks into the singer's pregnancy — when her baby boy came down with a fever of 101 degrees late one night.

Her child tested positive for COVID-19 after she rushed him to the emergency room under doctor's advice.

"I was in just complete and utter shock," Casey, best known as Quigley, recalls of learning her 1-month-old's diagnosis. "But the craziest thing is, your maternal instincts kick in and you don't have any choice but to be really strong for your baby. It's so bizarre. I felt this total calm, confident energy wave over my body that he would need that from me."

"There was a part of me that was worried, but the overwhelming sense of me would not let myself go to a dark place," she says. "I just kept wanting to maintain my energy level to calm and secure, rather than panicked, because I knew that wouldn't have made the situation any better."

Casey's husband, Alex Goode, was not able to be at the hospital when Max was admitted due to coronavirus restrictions. Instead, the new dad had to learn of the COVID-19 diagnosis on the phone — a moment he tells PEOPLE was "just such a shock to hear."

"All I could do at that point was to be a rock for my wife," he remembers. "I knew she was doing her absolute damndest to be the rock that Max needed."

After the diagnosis, Casey and Max were whisked away to the pediatric intensive care unit to begin quarantine.

"To just jump into an isolation room without having any preparation was terrifying," Casey says. "But I was not, for the life of me, going to be separated from him for one moment."

Though the mom was not tested for COVID-19 during her quarantine, she was treated as if she had the virus — meaning she would not be able to see her son again if she were to leave PICU.

"The hardest part is just seeing your son … with all of the cords. He was hooked up to oxygen," she says. "It was really hard to see how uncomfortable he probably was. I’m a person who always looks for a silver lining and I just kept telling myself, 'Okay, we’re in isolation, but this is a precious time for me and him to bond.' "

As the primary caretaker of Max while in isolation, Casey barely had time to sleep, let alone update family and friends on her son's condition.

"It was like I was either on baby duty or I was napping. I didn’t have time to talk to anyone," she says. "It was very lonely, but I had Max and I was still riding on such a high from getting to meet him and to be around him. I was just trying to focus on those moments."

Casey adds that it was also "hard to be away from Alex."

"I wanted him to be able to enjoy those moments with us as a family and from the comfort of our home, but I knew those moments were coming." she says. "The stronger I stayed for Max, the faster I can get him home."

"Casey’s spirit never dropped," Alex says. "I can’t imagine what she was going through in isolation, being there with him, but she was an absolute rock star. I couldn’t have been more proud of how she handled the situation and how much she must’ve helped Max."

The mother-son duo were discharged from the hospital on Oct. 7. Heading home, Casey says she was "on another planet ecstatic."

"I felt so free," she recalls. "I’m pretty sure I went into my backyard and threw my hands to my sides and took a big, deep breath of air. You don’t realize or appreciate how beautiful the sky is after not looking at it for a week."

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Second times a charm, welcome home Max. ❤️🙌🏻

A post shared by Quigley Goode (@officiallyquigley) on

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"I was just so relieved to have Max in the comfort of our own home," Casey adds. "It was extremely emotional taking him home. One of the most bizarre days of my life. I never would’ve anticipated anything like this happening to us. It was a wonderful moment because it was just a massive relief. It felt like we were finally on the other side of it."

Coronavirus cases among newborns are uncommon. However, children are not at a higher risk than adults, and the majority of COVID-19 cases to date are adults, according to the CDC.

Casey and Alex believe their child may have contracted COVID-19 during a visit to a pediatrician, who had informed the couple that he tested positive for the virus shortly before Max fell ill.

"We definitely were really cautious. We didn’t have any visitors or anything like that, but we did see multiple medical professionals just because [Max] was in the NICU," Casey says. "We kind of knew to keep an eye out for any symptoms."

Since the hospitalization, Max has almost fully recovered from his symptoms.

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We survived our first month as parents!!!!!! Tomorrow, we are celebrating Max’s one month with us! It’s been messy, it’s been chaotic, it’s been glorious, it’s been tiring, it’s been magical and it’s been the most insanely UNIQUE experience of my life. Nothing I’ve ever experience is quite like it. It has felt like one giant never ending day. The moments of peace are utter bliss, and then there are hours of baby screams where you’ve tried everything and your back hurts and you’re hungry and you just wanna pee quick but u can’t. You treasure every moment with your baby, but showering and the rare few minutes of “alone time” take on a whole new meaning. I’m so in love. It’s goode to be home. X, Quigs

A post shared by Quigley Goode (@officiallyquigley) on

As for Casey, who tested negative for COVID-19 after coming out of quarantine with Max, she is baffled but grateful not to have contracted the disease.

"Every day that went by that I wasn’t showing symptoms, I was so thankful," the mom says. "It was just mind-boggling to me that I didn’t contract it. Who knows what could have happened?"

These days, Casey and Alex are spending their time bonding with their baby boy.

"There are a lot of horror stories from parents that caution you about how hard it is to have a newborn. But after going through what we went through in the last two weeks, damn, being home with a newborn is pretty easy!" she remarks. "We’ve been enjoying it and trying to stay positive, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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Why Ali Fedotowsky-Manno and Husband Are Back to 'Maybe' Having a Third Baby After Miscarriage

Is a family of five on the horizon for Ali Fedotowsky-Manno?

The Bachelorette season 6 star, 36, answered some fan questions on her Instagram Story Sunday, including one from a user who asked whether she and husband Kevin Manno were planning to expand their family that already includes son Riley Doran, 2, and daughter Molly Sullivan, 4.

"We did want more kids and then we didn't because some things happened," wrote Fedotowsky-Manno, who revealed this summer that she had suffered a miscarriage.

"But now that we're moving closer to grandparents. Maybe!" she added.

The Manno family is currently set to relocate from Los Angeles closer to the east coast. Last month, the lifestyle blogger revealed that they were "officially in escrow" on their L.A. home and "so ready to move onto the next chapter."

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Ali Fedotowsky-Manno Celebrates Breastfeeding: My "Body Nourishes and Comforts My Child"

Fedotowsky-Manno also answered a fan who asked, with "no judgment," whether she breastfed her children or gave them formula as babies.

"[We] did not give Molly formula," said the mom of two. "I breast-fed her for a year and put myself through way too much stress when I should've just given her formula."

"With Riley I breast-fed for maybe eight months and then he was biting me so hard and I was bleeding so much that my milk started looking like strawberry milk and then he got formula!" she added.

At the end of the day, "Fed is best!" Fedotowsky-Manno noted.

In an exclusive chat with PEOPLE this past August, Fedotowsky-Manno opened up about the complicated feelings she had while seeking support from outside sources following her pregnancy loss, saying, "I think a lot of the reasons women don't share about miscarriages is because there is shame involved. I always thought the shame was because your body couldn't carry a baby in that moment."

"But for me, where the shame came was not feeling that I deserved any sort of support after — feeling that what I went through wasn't the same as someone who goes through it when they'd been trying for years or they were 20 weeks pregnant," she continued. "I have two beautiful children. So my experience didn't begin to compare to those, so I felt shame in being supported."

Fedotowsky-Manno admitted she "did not want to post" the news initially, as it "felt wrong" and she had gotten "a lot of [grieving] out" and "processed" her loss beforehand. "I didn't want people feeling sorry for me," she added. "It's too personal almost. But I know that what happened was very emotional for me and it was difficult to go through."

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Parents Working from Home Say Kids Have Interrupted at Least 25 Zoom Meetings, Survey Finds

The average American kid has crashed 25 of their parents' work meetings each week since the beginning of the school year.

With many parents working from home and attempting to help with remote learning simultaneously, a new study pinpointed the frequency of the potentially embarrassing disruptions.

Results showed kids come stumbling into digital boardrooms, client calls and other work videos or calls as many as five times a day.

But parents are also far from perfect as the challenges of families living, working, and studying shoulder to shoulder become increasingly apparent.

In fact, the average parent has disturbed their child's lesson an average of six times since the beginning of the school year.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Sittercity, the survey of 2,000 American parents of school-aged children took a by-the-numbers approach to assessing both the challenges and the opportunities unique to this school year.

Six wifi resets per week, and four "in-class" snack requests per day are now the norm for families with members who are both working and schooling from home.

“Pajama day,” happens an average of five times during each week among those families who are both working and schooling from home.

The survey also looked at families’ childcare plans in the event that remote schooling should continue for the rest of the year.

The average parent says their child’s school has already cycled through four different plans for the school year, making planning for childcare a difficult if not impossible task.

It’s no surprise, then, that more than half of those whose child is schooling from home say that virtual schooling has sent their family into a childcare crisis.

Sixty-nine percent of parents say they would usually rely on an older relative for help, but no longer feel comfortable doing so.

Among those whose child is schooling from home part-time or full-time this semester, 26 percent say they’ve yet to solidify their childcare plans for the school year.

And while 47 percent of the same group say their spouse is home and can cover childcare, and 30 percent are receiving help from a friend or relative, 24 percent have hired a part-time or full-time babysitter.

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‘When my newborn daughter clasped my little finger, I realised it was she who was holding me, and not vice versa’

Down Syndrome Awareness Month: A father shares a heartwarming tale of raising a daughter with special needs, and what he wants for all parents to know

By Vishnu Karthik

I vividly remember the moment in all its mundane details. It was the early hours of March 2018, and I was at my room at the Marriott Times Square, New York. I was running through the talking points for the workshop I was to facilitate when I received a call from my wife, Deepa. Usually, I try to be curt during such moments of deep work. But not this time, for I was eager to hear my 31-day-old daughter back home who had just come home after two weeks in a neonatal ICU due to her premature birth. But all is well now, and we were looking forward to getting back to the ‘business’ of bringing up a baby. “Vish….I need to tell you something” said Deepa in a sombre voice which was quite unusual for her as she belongs to the category of people who are ‘irritatingly always happy’ for no cause. “We have a challenge in our lives. I met the doctor yesterday, and he said that Meera has Down Syndrome…”. I don’t remember anything that Deepa said after that; my mind was racing to identify the category of the ‘disability’.

I vaguely remember Deepa oscillating between sobbing and sounding brave. I cut the call saying that I will cut short my visit and return as soon as possible. I work in an inclusive school, and it was quotidian for me to meet children with varying intellectual disabilities. Still, I wasn’t sure of Down Syndrome’s specific category of disability. I quickly Googled it only to confirm the fears I had in my mind. The images of children with mongoloid faces, the intellectual impairment and other congenital health issues crushed my lungs. I was gasping for breath and was sweating in the otherwise-cold room. I let the tears burst out, but couldn’t indulge myself for more than a few minutes as my colleague was waiting down in the lobby. I composed myself and walked down to meet her and got on with the workshop. I was cursing as to why I should know this bad news just before this critical workshop. But it dawned on me that Deepa had met the doctor over 14 hours prior, and had resisted calling me so that my sleep was not ruined.

I finished the workshop, got my tickets preponed and was desperate to get back home. Deepa and I have been married for over a decade. We choose not to have children as we were too individualistic about our freedom. It was only in the 11th year of our marriage that we got around the idea of having a child (actually it was Bliss, our Indie pup we had adopted, who had convinced us). The recurring thought in my head was that a special needs daughter was nature’s sweet revenge on two selfish individuals. I was angry at ourselves, angry at the doctors for not diagnosing at the time of pregnancy. The 18-hour flight to India was excruciating. I wanted to embrace Deepa and Meera and assure them that all will be well. I used the flight time to read three books on Down Syndrome to get a lay of the land and have all the answers ready for Deepa. I reached home at 2 am, and fortunately, both Deepa and Meera were awake for the night feeding. I held Meera delicately and assuringly. Meera made a fleeting eye contact and clasped my left little finger tightly. And with that came the realisation that it was not me who was holding Meera. It was she who was holding me.

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It has been two years since Meera has been with us, but it has been a lifetime of learnings, reconditioning and acceptance. We still are dealing with the medical emergencies, including an open heart surgery and a multitude of therapies to get Meera close to even the basics of developmental milestones. But life, for Deepa and myself, has been lighter, joyful and extraordinarily beautiful. We feel younger, purposeful, and we sweat the small stuff way too less. A lot of parents of children with special needs struggle in the first few years to find their new equilibrium and often with a heavy personal toll. We were lucky, but I wish someone had told us a few things at the outset about this extraordinary journey. So here is our listicle on things we wished we knew two years ago.

Discover new relationships. Build your tribe

The one thing that helped us sail through the uncharted path was the extraordinary support extended by people around us. You will also discover new bonds and new champions for your child with special needs. A deeper meaning enters some of your family relationships which have otherwise been transactional. The first person we reached out to when learnt of our daughter’s condition was not our parents or siblings but my sister-in-law. She was the first one who dropped everything and provided the holding space of love and acceptance. We found strangers across geographies who gave their time, opened their homes, shared their intimate personal struggles with us and supported Meera as a close family would do. We realised many parents had walked the path before and they have cleared the way for many to follow. There was some pain in recalibrating our social networks and relationships. Still, we surely did come out richer, wiser and more grateful. This newly formed tribe will reassure you that all is not bad and in time, all will be well.

Assume positive intentions

Many of our friends and family genuinely didn’t know how to respond to Meera’s condition. Their response at times seemed like apathy or worse judgmental. But we quickly realised it is unfair to expect understanding and empathy from all our loved ones. As much as Meera needs support, our families also need support on how to deal with her. We developed a communication strategy, vocabulary list and a FAQ list on Meera’s condition. We also learnt not to over-interpret what our loved ones say or didn’t say. Above all, we assumed positive intentions in everything people said or did.

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Don’t judge yourself by your thoughts

Our mind has a mind of its own. Especially when it is confronted with existential fears of the foggy future of our child. In the initial few months when Meera was diagnosed with congenital heart issues, thoughts about death kept coming to us. I was ashamed and felt guilty about such thoughts, but I soon realised these are just random ramblings of any mind, and they don’t reflect on what I genuinely feel for Meera. These thoughts are also more about me and my loss and not about her. I also learnt that many parents go through these feelings and thus, it is crucial that we permit ourselves to be human.

Have high expectations. Even if you are the only person

Theologists define faith as having an unflinching belief in something you can’t see. Parents of special needs children will experience faith more than any spiritual seeker. Most doctors, largely coloured by their past experience, may have an insipid vision of your child. Your therapists and teachers may give up. But the only North Star that will help your child realise her potential is your faith in her. Your belief that one day, irrespective of her natural limitations, she will triumph over nature. You are the only champion for her, and no one else will have the sense of urgency and depth of patience.

Contracted perspective of time. Be in the now

One of the unintended gifts of parenting a child with special needs is that you are forced to be in the now — something even the best of meditators would take lifetimes to experience. Best-selling author and psychologist Jordan Peterson talks about this in his book ’12 Rules of Life’ when he meditates on his daughter’s debilitating health issue. It is difficult to think into the future when you have a child dealing with issues every day. The only way you move into the future is by doing what can be done today and getting rooted in the now. You don’t think of 3 months or 6 months, you just think about the therapies and interventions you need to do today.

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Relax if you don’t have all the answers 

One of the most trying times for us was when Meera underwent an open heart surgery. Naturally so, we were unduly worried about the outcome of the procedure and its side effects on her brain — and a myriad other problems my mind projected. Two days after the surgery, I walked into the ICU to see Meera for the first time after she was off the ventilator. Only to witness one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. Sedated but seated like an emperor on an elevated pillow, with arms spread out like a saviour of the world, with near-perfect full moon roundness of the face, and a glowing skin only to be faded by the utterly cute pinkish lips. Not sure if it is the focus lights to keep her warm, or the divinity inside expressing herself — she looked like the life-giving goddess in the otherwise insipid ICU room. Maybe it was the sedation or the inherent wisdom in her — she looked like she knows much more than us. Experientially I felt for the first time that I didn’t have answers. And when we are gripped by fear, Meera is the light that will guide us.

Even the most prepared minds can’t deal with your infant struggling with pain. Like Arun Shourie expounds in his book ‘Does He Know a Mother’s Heart?’ on his son with cerebral palsy, one cannot rationalise why a baby has to go through horrors like a painful surgery or a life-debilitating disease. But often, the solution just lies in surrendering to the wisdom of your child to guide you.

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Recognise your true loss: The loss of ‘our idea’ of perfection

Emily Perl Kingsley, the co-creator of Sesame Street, wrote an inspiring essay after she mothered a son with Down Syndrome. Titled, ‘Welcome to Holland’, the essay became a guiding light to generations of parents of children with disabilities. The essay talks about how you prepared for a holiday in Rome and boarded a flight for Rome. And when the flight landed, you were told that you are in Holland. She reminds us that Holland may not be Rome, but it is still beautiful with tulips, windmills and even Rembrandt! Often, the pain of parenting a child with special needs is not about the child, but about the loss of our idea of perfection. Letting go of this idea is not just pragmatic, but also being fair to the uniqueness of our children. My child will never be like another typical child, may never do things other children may do. But she will do what she is meant to do, what she likes to do and what she finds meaningful. It may not fit into a societal peg, but will stand out in her own right.

(The writer is the CEO and Director of Xperiential Learning Systems)

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