First and foremost, the best part of having a child with Down syndrome is having the child, or in our case, children. We have three individuals here who call us Mom and Dad and who also happen to have an extra chromosome. If you've ever suffered with infertility, if you've ever lost a child, then you can really understand what I mean when I say that being a parent is such a blessing. Having little ones around for love and hugs and kisses provides sweetness beyond measure. Vera, Emma and Ella are incredible to have around and give me immeasurable joy.
Second, I have found a group of kindred spirits in places I wouldn't have looked before having the Downsie girls--other parents who have children with special needs. Most days, it's easier to look for
Third, I have witnessed so many people responding to my girls with kindness and love. I am all too human when it comes to remembering the hard times, the unkind words, etc. I would be remiss in not mentioning those many people who have gone above and beyond with my girls (with sincere apologies to those I will overlook). The supply manager in Russia who kept an eye on Vera and snuck special treats to her. Ella's foster mother who had to give her up but lovingly made me a scrapbook of her precious girl. Their older cousin who loves to take them for dates and doesn't mind if Vera comes along dressed as a boy, or Emma as a princess. You've already heard from Nini, who doesn't mind being snubbed by the girls but keeps on trying anyway. The many repairmen who have patiently allowed Vera to follow them around as they worked and talked to her without condescension. The O'Hearn family, Emma's Sunday school teachers for two years, who loved her unconditionally and always expected the best from her. The Hea family, Vera's Sunday school teachers one year, who uttered three of the sweetest words to me: We get Vera.
I've already touched on the sibling relationships but it bears repeating. My typical children bless me as they relate to their sibs with Ds. They have learned so much about accepting people as they are. They have learned patience. They have learned kindness. They have learned to help. They have learned responsibility to a great degree and have risen admirably to the challenge. They have learned the value a fallen world places on children with Down syndrome, and they have learned to reject it as untrue and unkind. They have learned that their siblings can be treated as siblings, are not breakable, can be taught to stay out of their stuff and can even be entreated to help with chores! They have learned how nice it can be to have little sisters to carry around, steal kisses from them and love them unreservedly.
I feel like I could make a separate category of "other people" and put myself in it. I'm not who I was before I had my girls. While the change wasn't as dramatic as becoming a Christian, it was nonetheless life-changing. My priorities have shifted; my life focus has changed completely. So many fears have been eradicated and a certain bravery has emerged. God has used them to refine me in so many ways and I believe He will continue to use them in my life.
I made it! 31 days of blogging about Down syndrome. I think I should have called it 31 days of blogging about being the parent of a child with Down syndrome. Thank you for sticking with me, for commenting kindly and more often than usual! Let's stay in touch!
photo by Alyssa Maisano Photography