I feel the strongest urge right now to write this to you, someone I have never met and may never know, in the hopes that you have found us in your quest for information. Whether you have just found out that your child has Down's Syndrome prenatally and are trying to make a decision whether to continue the pregnancy or to cut your losses, whether you have already made the decision to stay the course, or whether you have already held your sweet newborn in your arms and heard the words that strike fear into the hearts of all parents, I sincerely want to tell you...you are not alone.
You are not alone in feeling the way that you do. You are not alone in your mourning, in your crying out to God, in your fear. We, the parents who have come before, have all stood in your shoes. There are thousands of us out here in this great big world and we stand united, with our arms open wide, to welcome you to our little club. The one none of us asked to join, the one none of us would have chosen, but the one that, quite honestly, is a VERY awesome one to belong to.
I can't speak for everyone who has walked this road, but I feel that it is vitally important that I tell you that although you are afraid, do not let fear be your guide. Don't think that the life of you or your child will be less because of DS, because, oh. I'm here to tell you that couldn't be further from the truth. Your life (and their life as well) will be overflowing with more. More smiles, more laughter, more pride, more strength, more beauty. More love than you ever imagined possible. Sometimes this winding road brings a little more rain, but I can also promise that you will have more than your share of sunshine too.
When I found out that I was pregnant with Lydia, I was overjoyed. The timing sucked. We were dead broke, living in a two bedroom house with two kids already in it, in the middle of a custody battle for my then 12 year old son and I was one semester away from finishing 2 years of prerequisites for nursing school. Yet, I had been told that I couldn't have another child and here we were, pregnant. The very grateful, ecstatic recipients of a miracle. However, it didn't take long for that elation to come crashing down around us. Those five little words, "Your baby has Down's Syndrome", brought my world to a screeching halt. I cried, I screamed at God, I wracked my brain for anything that I could have done to deserve this. Things like this couldn't happen to me. I deeply mourned the loss of all of my hopes and dreams and prepared myself for a life forever changed.
What I didn't know then that I know now is that yes, my world WAS changed. But not for the worse. For the better. I was changed for the better. My entire family was changed in awe inspiring ways.
Being Lydia's mother has been the greatest gift I have ever been given. Honestly. I worried in the beginning that I wasn't strong enough, patient enough, good enough to be the mommy that she needed. I was concerned that I wasn't cut out for this job. I worried that my other kids wouldn't accept her, wouldn't love her the same way they would have a "normal" baby. I worried that it would be too hard, too exhausting, too sad. I was wrong on all accounts.
God has amazing faith in me as a mom.....some days, more faith than I have in myself. And every single thing in my life so far (every struggle, every heart ache, every tear, every prayer, and every moment of sheer joy) was preparation for her, even though I never could have forseen it. She was the piece of my heart that was missing without me even knowing.
Your child WILL be a normal child. They may have struggles. It may be more difficult at times for them to do things that other kids do without any effort. But the same could be said for any child without an extra chromosome as well. They WILL learn. They WILL keep trying, sometimes over and over and over again, until they just get it...and then you get to see the accomplishment written all over their face. It's possible for your child to do the things that every child does...live on their own, go to college, get married, even maybe have babies. Your other kids will adore this precious baby, not in spite of DS or because of it, but because this child is their brother or their sister. This child will teach your other children real, honest love, compassion, and patience.
You will find yourself celebrating every tiny accomplishment, not because they weren't expected, but because you KNOW how hard they worked to get there. You will learn about life, you will make wonderful friends, and you will know joy more intense than you have ever known.
A very dear friend of mine likened this road to planning a trip to Italy and ending up in Holland. No, it's not filled with the beautiful scenery that you expected, but it is breathtakingly beautiful in itself. Once you get over the disappointment of not making it to Italy, I think you'll find that Holland is a pretty wonderful place to be.
Welcome to Holland, friend. I really think you'll like it here. :)