I found it easy to get really wound up in trying to take on everything at once when I began this journey. Because of your child's diagnosis, you may feel like you have to use every bit of your time and energy preparing them for their future like I did. I suffered from a lot of self-imposed stress and guilt for a while, and would love to save someone else from doing the same. I've compiled a short list of things I've learned and am sharing them here as my way of telling new parents to chill out. Take a breath. Release the pressure!
1) It is OK to cancel therapy occasionally (but do keep in mind that a lot of therapists get paid by the hour). Have a lot to get done today? Cancel it. Too tired? Cancel it. Want to go to the park instead? Go to the park!!! Skipping a therapy once in a while is not going to mean the difference between your child growing up to be independent or not, but it may mean the difference in you losing your mind or not. Your child has his or her whole life to learn. It is more than ok to take breaks. In fact, I recommend it.
2) Similarly, it is OK if you aren't constantly teaching your child or working with them on something. In the beginning of this process I thought I needed to be intentional with everything we did. I felt like we needed to be incorporating physical/occupational therapy into every moment possible throughout the day. I felt guilty if I needed to do something like go to the grocery because that meant she wouldn't be active for an extended amount of time. Whoa! That caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety for me. Once I realized that it was fine to be in the moment and enjoy our time together without the added pressure, things got a lot happier around here. Your child is learning from you in those moments as well, you know, things like how to have fun, how to love, how to grocery shop :), things that are just as important as crawling or knowing their letters. Of course, we still work on things throughout the day, but it isn't something that dominates every second anymore, and even so, L is doing great!!
3) You don't have to buy every book, and read every blog on Down syndrome immediately (or ever, really). It is great to gather information and to be knowledgeable, and there are a few things I would advise everyone to learn about (mostly health related, like Infantile Spasms, since the earlier they're treated, the better) but this is a learning process (emphasis on process). You will learn as you go.
4) You don't need every developmental toy and tool that everyone recommends, and you most certainly don't need them all right away. There are several things I bought immediately that have been sitting on a shelf for over a year not being used (and going back to #3, there are several unread books on our shelves as well). I have a running list of toys/tools that we have used, but there are most likely plenty of things laying around your house that will do the trick just as well as something you can buy at the store. Time to work on cruising? Take off the cushions and use your couch. Get creative, and save some $$.
5) Last but not least, do what is right for your family, and don't look back. If you want to let your child grow at their own pace without using therapy, then do that. If you want to get your child involved in every therapy and every class you can, then do that. Whatever you decide, just make sure that it is what feels right and that you are confident and happy in the decision.
I know I still get overwhelmed at times so these are things I need to remind myself of from time to time as well. I'll say it again, release the pressure! Your child is their own unique person and will do everything when they are good and ready to, and they are going to amaze you every step of the way.
Now for some pictures of L messing up the kitchen as I was cleaning today.