Before my daughter was born with Down Syndrome, some people painted a grim and terrible picture of what my life would be like if such a thing happened.
“Your life will never be the same!”
“Your life will revolve around hospitals.”
“You won’t have time for your other kids.”
“You will always be sad and regretful of the things your child cannot do.”
Even after she was born, a geneticist at a specialty clinic upbraided me, using primitive scare tactics.
“I know you like babies, but you will never want to have another baby after this one,” she said in an authoritative voice, towering over me in my daughter’s cardiology office. “You will worry and agonize every moment of another pregnancy. You’re old and your risks are high that this will happen to you again.”
She said this to me as my small, almond-eyed daughter cooed softly in my arm, tightly gripping my finger and my heartstrings.
Despite that doctor’s admonishments and scolding, a couple of years later, my daughter grew into a glorious, curious toddler. And I did get pregnant again. On purpose.
I was 39 years old.
At that ultrasound appointment, the doctor examined my prenatal son’s body closely. He measured limbs, organs, examined bone structure, checking all the typical markers for Down Syndrome.
“You need to have a Triple Screen done,” he said. “I don’t see results in your file. You are considered a geriatric in the ob/gyn world, so you need to have that done. The fetal matter is high risk for abnormalities.”
Wait. He had just told me I was having a son. Why was he now calling my little man fetal matter and wanting tests for abnormalities?
“Look. I’m not afraid,” I said. “I already have a child with Down Syndrome, and she’s not the least bit scary. She’s wonderful and absolutely beloved.”
The doctor looked me in the eye for a moment. He closed his file, stood up, and left the room without another word.
After he was gone, the young ultrasound technician leaned in toward me, with a confiding smile.
“I’m not allowed to say this in the office", she said in a hushed voice. "But I’m so happy for you! My friend has a toddler with Down Syndrome, and he is full of love. He has made their family’s life so rich and happy! I know how much love your daughter brings.”
We chatted about babies and Down Syndrome for a few more minutes, quietly sharing the joy that we both knew well. Babies with Down Syndrome are, like every baby, full of Love.
As an expectant parent, you may feel afraid. You will be tested, and categorized, and railroaded. You will be counseled, scolded, and warned. You may feel inept or not up to the task, or just plain stressed out, because all circumstances are not ideal. But talk is talk. Threats of doom are just threats. You don’t have to go down that path of worry and fear. Especially if your child shows some characteristic that seems unique, or challenging, or just plain scary…
Don’t lose sight of the simple truth.
Your life will change forever, because you will be filled with Love.
When my daughter was about a month old, I was holding her in my arms, speaking to a friend. A man in a suit, a stranger, approached me. He was visiting from out of town, he said. "My own son has Down Syndrome, too. I miss him so much when I travel. May I hold her, please?” he asked. He cradled my baby close to his heart, then kissed her soft, peachy face. Tears dripped down his cheek and into his beard. “You have no idea of the Love that is in store for you,” he said, and walked away.
He was right.
You have no idea of the Love that is in store for you.
That is the truth.