Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World Down Syndrome Day

Today is World Down Syndrome Day.  Last year this day wasn't even a blip on my radar.  Sure, I have friends who have loved ones with Down syndrome, but it wasn't something that affected me personally.  Not until May 8, 2011.  Then my whole world was turned upside down =)

There is a poem that many parents of children with Down syndrome have read.  It's called Welcome to Holland. It talks about how planning for your baby is like planning a trip to Italy, but that you suddenly find yourself in Holland instead- completely unprepared for the change, but that you eventually learn to love the culture and everything Holland has to offer.  

I want to offer a little different take on it =)  My view is a bit different, probably because Sweet Pea was our 4th and not our 1st.

Planning for another baby is a bit like planning a trip to the in- laws house.  You're pretty familiar with the way there and with the house.  You feel comfortable there.  And you're surrounded by people who love you.  So you start out on your journey to spend a few days with your in- laws...  Only a few days, because just like having a baby, your schedule is interrupted for a little while, but then you return home and return to what you were use to.

Except when you hear that your new baby has Down syndrome.  Suddenly, instead of heading north to visit the in- laws, you suddenly find yourself with orders to move across the country.  Within a couple weeks, you've packed up everything you own, sold your house and moved into a new house having never stepped foot in it before.  You feel lost, not knowing anyone.  You feel like you're floundering around trying to find something, anything, that will make this new place seem like home.  You're a thousand miles away from everyone you know and love, from any support system that you had in place...

But then something amazing happens.  You start to meet people.  You start building relationships with people.  You get all the boxes unpacked.  You're surrounded by all the familiar pictures, furniture, toys.  Sure, things are in different places, furniture has different uses now, but it's familiar.  You look around and see the smiling faces of your family and realize it doesn't matter where you live as long as you're surrounded by family.

And so it goes with finding out your baby has Down syndrome.  You feel completely throw for a loop and like your life will never be the same.  The bumps in the road are be a bit harder (who wants to see their baby go in for open heart surgery at 5 months?), but the rewards are so much bigger.  You find yourself celebrating things you took for granted with your other children (like pooping on a regular schedule!).  Milestones being reached are so much sweeter because you realize how much more work went into it.

And while you know you're not going to return to your first house, you know that things will still be the same.  Trips to the in- laws will still happen, they'll just take a bit longer.  Friends will still be there.  And most importantly, family will still be there.  And someday, you'll come to realize that this is home and you wouldn't change it for anything =)

And what could be cuter than this face?

This is what I posted on my facebook page this morning.  It sums it up about perfectly.

Today is World Down syndrome day. And today I'm celebrating the surprise we received with the birth of Sweet Pea. The road hasn't been easy the last 10 (almost 11!) months, but I know I wouldn't change her for anything =) She's taught me more about unconditional love than I thought possible. She's brought joy to our lives that we couldn't have imagined. She's changed hearts that we thought were unchangeable. Amazing how God works when we get out of the way, isn't it?