While reading the book Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives (mentioned during an earlier post), I was very moved by all of the mothers' stories, but one in particular stands out in my mind. The story was written by Jennifer Enderlin Blougouras about her son Nicholas, and I loved the analogy she used to describe living with and loving a child with Down Syndrome. I identify with this woman's feelings very much, as her Nicholas and my Jack were both our first born. Her words have touched me so greatly that I really wanted to share her story with you. She compares becoming a new parent to entering a big new swimming pool for the first time and states the following feelings after having found out about her son's diagnosis (which reminds me tremendously of how I felt during the days after Jack's birth):
Suddenly, someone grabbed me from behind and threw me in the deep end of the pool. In the deep end! How unfair! You don't take the person most frightened of the water and throw them in the deep end! Thow another person in the deep end, someone who's used to the pool! Someone who knows how to swim!
How did this happen? Who did this to me? Gagging and coughing and choking and sputtering, I railed against the shock of the cold water, the unfairness of it all. My head went under and panic set in. I'm going to die, I thought. But instinct kicked in and clumsily, I moved my arms and legs. And I did not drown.
Now I was treading water. After a few big breaths I looked around and noticed there were other people in the deep end with me, and they were offering to help. But I didn't want to be in their Deep End Club. And besides, I didn't even think I belonged here. It was only a matter of time before someone told me it was all a mistake and I'd be pulled out of the pool to safety. I should have left well enough alone. I should never have tried to go into the pool, I thought. But since nobody came to my rescue, I continued to tread water. And I did not drown.
Soon I started to float. My panic subsided. I knew I could survive, although it surely wouldn't be pleasant being stuck at this end of the pool. I was able to rest for short periods, suspended on the surfact of the water. I felt pretty much alone. Yet I did not drown.
Then I noticed there was a little boy in the deep end with me, a little boy named Nicholas with eyes that crinkle up like half moons when he smiles. A little boy named Nicholas who loves Bruce Springsteen and Puccini's La Boheme and 1940's Big Band music. And Nicholas could swim.
Looking at him, I began to realize that someday, I might be able to do more than float. I might be able to swim. And I might even enjoy it. Perhaps I'd even love it.
As I watched Nicholas I discovered that the deep end allows for underwater somersaults, and in the deep end, it's possible to dive. You can't do that in the shallow end. And I realized that perhaps someday, with Nicholas at my side, we'd both wave to the parents at the shallow end of the pool and say, "You don't know what you're missing, here in the deep end."
As each day passes by since my Jack's birth, I realize more and more what an honor and privilege it is to be in the "Deep End Club." I know now that with my new understanding of life and love, taught to me by a mere 4 and a half month old little boy, I will not drown. And with Jack, I will do more than just tread water ... I will float, swim, dive, and do underwater somersaults, and I will love it.