After getting in the car today after "Mom and Baby Yoga" with Jack, I had an interesting message on my cell phone voicemail. My sister, Kelly, who lives outside of Atlanta, left me a message saying that she had a neighbor who had a new nephew born just this morning, and the doctors think he might have Down Syndrome. (The family did not know of any possibility of DS during pregnancy, like us.) My initial reaction to this message was an overwhelming feeling of getting to "pay it forward" to all of those individuals who helped me during Jack's diagnosis during the first days after his birth. A feeling of "If I knew then what I know now" washed over me, and I felt the sudden urge to share my story with this family.
I quickly called my sister back, anxious to hurry up and somehow help this family adapt to it's "new normal." Surprisingly, at the end of my message to my sister, I found myself in tears ... not because I felt sorry for this family, not because I feared for how their life would be now, but simply because this news brought all of those feelings that I had in the hospital rushing back through me. I cry today only because I remember the helplessness, the fear over potential health problems with DS babies, the lack of control over my labor, delivery and his diagnosis. I cry because, as this special little boy, a complete stranger to me, was brought into the world early this morning, he brought with him a whole new realm of possiblities for his family, although they might not realize it yet. This baby boy may have had a special little "secret" he'd been keeping, and he chose a very appropriate time to make his debut and share it with the world, I might say! (October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.)
So today I choose to dedicate this post to a special family who I have never met and may never actually meet in person and also to my former self, that young broken woman who sat in the hospital on May 28th, holding her baby boy in her arms and asking "Why?" Over the past few months, I have several times wished that I could have gone back in time to talk to that young mother to tell her that everything is going to be okay; in fact, I would tell her that some days will be better than she could ever imagine. This letter is for you, and for my new "friend" miles away, whom I don't even know:
Today is the the most wonderful and frightening day of your life. You have breathed life into a special little person who will teach you more about life and about love than even God could teach you. Some people will tell you that God picks special people to be parents to special children. On some days you will believe this; on others, you won't. Sometimes, you will get angry at God for allowing this to happen, for having "picked" you for this challenging task for which you do not feel equipped. Other times, you may rejoice that you're going to live a different, but more meaningful life now than you ever knew was possible. You might hear the quote, "You don't pick your children, your children pick you." While you might even feel resentful at times for this child having picked you, you will more often feel empowered and proud to have the strength to endure this wonderful and unique challenge. At first, you will get angry at others who don't have special needs children for even trying to understand what you're going through; but you will also savor the sweet moments during which they let you just cry on their shoulders or rejoice with you in your child's smiles and laughter. In the beginning, you may look at your baby's face searching for features of Down Syndrome; but one day, sooner than later (I promise), you will gaze upon his face with wonder because it will be the most beautiful vision you have ever laid eyes on. You will soon no longer see your baby as a child with Down Syndrome, you will just see him as "just Jack." Everytime your baby does something for the first time, it will be as it he has moved mountains simply because people tell you "he will be delayed." You will work harder than you ever expected to as a mother in order to give your child every opportunity he can have to shine in this judging world; and this will make you very, very proud.
While you fear the unknown now, your fear will soon surrender to nothing but overwhelming love and amazement over this unique person you have created. Your baby will bring your family closer together, and they will be better for having this baby in their lives. This experience will draw your real friends closer, and others further away, which, you will find, will be their loss in the long run. You WILL look back on this day, even sooner than you expect, and say, "Why was I crying?" But know now that crying now is okay. It is a normal and expected reaction to what you are experiencing. It doesn't mean that you don't love your baby or that you are a bad mother. It just means that you didn't get quite what you were expecting, and you need some time to adjust. Take all the time you need. You need time to adjust, but you also need time to grieve. Having the baby you weren't expecting to have means that you are experiencing a type of loss, and with every loss comes grief. You must allow yourself now to go through these stages of emotions fully in order to round the curve to your new and better life.
Everything is going to be okay .... actually, everything is going to be more than okay; it's going to be great! Again, this may be the most frightening moment of your life, but it is also the most wonderful. Welcome to Holland! It's going to be an exciting new world!
Your ever faithful friend,