“She has Down Syndrome.” The words were spoken kindly and calmly by the midwife, but their impact simultaneously demolished the last shred of hope for my failing marriage. How would I support these three children by myself? How would I do full time care of this most precious institutionally needy infant and work to support the four of us? How would I know how to protect this little beauty from a world where I was never permitted to associate with “them” at school when I grew up?
At 40 years old I was a stay at home mom who was confused and terrified. A little child’s prophetic insight led me to embrace joy. Six year old, blonde, dimpled, wise beyond his years, hyperactive Reed tore through the house, blaring, “I’ll take care of her. I’m the big brother.”
Then miraculously he sat down contentedly and affixed on her eyes; while she connected to his for some 7 seconds. The last time I saw this kind of link was on Star Trek with mind melt. I tucked the memory in the pocket of my mother’s heart. I was amazed.
The moment was interrupted when Cherish’s lacey bloomers pressed against my thigh, while her knees gored my tummy, and she crawled in to the bed to snuggle. She was trying to get to her sister for her turn. “I’m the big sister! Let me hold her.” Cherish was ballerinas, dollies, and tea party three. Her dark, brown, long, hair curling around her exquisite, black-lashed eyes, brushed against the baby’s cheek. I reached in time to rescue our five pound pink and blue, tiny angel with the straight line across her palms, curled little finger, flattened nose, and slanting eyes.
Oh how the three of us adored this extraordinary, five pound, mini-babe. Tears, tears and more tears. Would they ever stop? The children were staring with painful wonder. I knew they must be told. “Darlings, you know how momma’s been crying a lot lately?” “Yes,” said Cherish wiping my face with a tissue as Reed nodded and rubbed his hand over the baby’s head so gingerly. “Well, uh, umm” I stammered while biting my lip and searching for the most succinct and tactful words.
“Well, you know I’ve been crying a lot and haven’t really stopped and this is not like me?” Their heads bobbed like two gorgeous springy, China dolls. How did I put all the complexities of the last three days into terms they could understand? I didn’t quite realize that I was crying for our new one’s medical survival and safety. I was crying for my own inadequacy to perform this great task with so few special need skills. How was I to become worthy of this gifted child?
“Well, first, I am so grateful our baby made it to us safely and I love her so very, very much. I don’t cry because of anything you or she has done. Do you understand? You and the baby are terrific. I am so happy to have all of you.” They squeezed in closer. ” I am crying because, uh, because…well…you know our baby is, ah….different. It’s a good difference but she is different and our life will be different too.”
Reed burst out, “I know how she’s different! I know how she’s different!” You do? You know how she’s different? I was thinking of how I would tell them about the twenty-first chromosome, their dad’s leaving, and how we’d have to move with no money or house. Fortunately, I bit my tongue instead and responded, “Well, honey, what do you know? Please share.”
“Momma, I know that she has a lot more love in her than anyone else!”
Somehow, all the loftier scientific and sociological aspects did not matter. “Reed, you are absolutely right. She has lots more love for all of us and we’ll be just fine.” The four of us hugged together. We were so proud of our Destiny Joy.
By Kathilyn Baker Wilcox
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.