My youngest daughter has Down syndrome, and when I say she has blessed my life I’m not simply using a cliche, the significance of those words flow through me along with the blood that runs through my body, giving me life. She has been an agent of change in my heart, she has transformed me. Completely. I cannot imagine my life without her. And sometimes I wish I could go back to the day my daughter was born, because instead of receiving her with fear, her birth would have truly been a celebration. Yet deep down I know that’s not what would happen. No matter how much I wish I could go back in time and whisper the love, wonder, and transforming beauty that was coming into my life, I still wouldn’t get it, I would still be that same scared mom. Why? Because at that time, I was not who I am today, I still had not become the me I am now.
I was terrified of what the diagnosis meant.
I cannot erase the tears, the fear, the pain, the sadness. I could not have grasped what life impacted by disability was going to be like. And the truth is, I wanted the easy life, the comfortable life. The life that people refer to as “normal” or “typical” and although we all say that normal is only a setting in a washing machine, when you’re thrown into the world of different, suddenly normal and average are not just a setting in an appliance.
And I wrestled through the mud of fear, and therapists, and early intervention, and missed milestones, and of developmental delays. And I cried and I sobbed and I shook my fist at God and I wondered if there was a way out. But this baby girl, with her almond shaped eyes reached out and grabbed my heart. So tight. So fiercely. And my heart was broken with fear and selfishness and the ugliness of a life so focused on me. And she wouldn’t let go.
And God used this baby girl to transform this simple minded young lady that was me.
And I changed.
My world expanded.
I understood unconditional love and allowed myself to receive it, and then learned how to give it.
And we dance the dance of learning and changing, of being molded and letting go. This dance of transformation with the twists and leaps and fluidity of life as the days go by.
I was so ignorant once upon a time, I should have celebrated my daughter’s birth, but I suppose we never know when the most significant things in our life are happening until we look back.
Who we are today is a result of our experiences, I guess it’s hard to understand something we haven’t lived yet.
I cannot go back, but I have today. So today I will celebrate, today I will love, today I will cherish, today I will look at my child and be filled with immeasurable love and joy. What a gift she is to me!
And someday I will look at my daughter in the eyes – those beautiful hazel eyes, almond shaped – the tell-tell sign she has Down syndrome, and I will say to her:
“Thank you. Because of you, I am a better person. Because of your life God stepped into mine in the most real and tangible way I have ever experienced. Because of you, I know what unconditional love is all about. Because of you I have a passion for life that extends beyond me. Because of you, so much of me is different. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be your mom. I love you more than you will ever know.”
And she will probably tell me she loves me too, and she will wrap her arms around me and pull me tight in a hug, because she is already in the business of showing me affection and making me feel like the luckiest mom in the world.
I cannot go back, but I have today.