A Texas Vacation Brings 2 New Babies Into My Daughter’s Life

Meagan Cheney avatar

by Meagan Cheney |

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If you ever meet my 5-year-old daughter, Austen, who has Dravet syndrome, there are two things you will come to know about her.

First, she loves animals. You can find evidence of this in the fact that our dog, Milo, is her best friend. She also can be found shuttling one of our cats around in her baby stroller.

Second, Austen easily obsesses over things. It’s because of her autism. Sometimes she will go days wearing her pink dinosaur costume. When she’s obsessing over something, nothing I do will turn her brain off from that subject. I just have to play it out.

As I wrote in last week’s column, we are currently visiting family in Texas. Austen was so happy to finally meet her new baby cousin, Grace. Grace was born in January, and Austen has been talking about meeting her ever since. 

In fact, Austen has been so obsessed with Grace that she hid Grace’s birth announcement. According to Austen, no one else was allowed to look at pictures of Grace. She called her cousin “Baby Grace,” and insisted she belonged to no one else but her.

For those wondering, Austen has now met Baby Grace. Austen’s aunt and uncle are very understanding and accommodating. They let Austen hold Grace (with help, of course), and even allowed her to help with Grace’s bottle. It might not have been the experience Austen had expected, but it still made her day.

Luckily for Grace, Austen had another surprise waiting for her when we arrived in Texas, and Austen is just as excited about that as she is about her baby cousin. 

The surprise was a puppy — a tiny, 2-month-old puppy that Austen fell in love with immediately.

But Daddy says Austen can’t keep the puppy, because it will have to remain in Texas with our family — the puppy’s owners. That hasn’t stopped Austen from falling in love, however. And to add another level of obsession to the situation, Austen named the puppy “Baby Grace.” (But she’s OK with us calling it “Baby” for short.)

Austen takes Baby with her everywhere. The moment she wakes up each morning, she brings Baby inside, and we have to fight her to let the puppy out at night.

Baby, for her part, seems to love Austen just as much. I’m not sure if she senses something is different about Austen, or if she’s just enjoying the attention, but Baby lets Austen do whatever she wants with her. Austen swings her around, holds her upside down, and cuddles with her all day long.

Milo even tags along on some of the excursions, although I think he might be grateful for the break that Baby allows him.

Sometimes parenting a child with Dravet syndrome and autism is tiring. OK, it’s tiring most of the time. One thing I guarantee, though, is that life with Austen is never boring. I know she will miss both Baby and Grace like crazy when we return home to Colorado, just as I know she will talk about them continuously until we make it back to Texas again.

I’ll take her obsessions over constant seizures any day. But I do hope I’ll one day find that birth announcement again.

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