August 4, 2003 was the day I learned I was pregnant with my son, Emir. My period was more than two weeks late, which wasn´t normal at all, since I have always been as regular as a clock. I was nervous by my second late day, but I got even more nervous when my body started looking and acting kind of different, you know… big boobs, nice butt and the typical morning sickness.
That Sunday morning I woke up at 6 a.m. Actually, I don’t think I slept at all the night before since I spent the whole night thinking about running to the 24-hour pharmacy. I was finally ready to buy that pregnancy test and get it over with. The anxiety was killing me.
Finally when the sun came up, I took the test. The first line immediately appeared; the second one took a couple of minutes to show up. I felt my pupils dilate. I have never been very romantic, so I always made fun of the soap operas where the woman runs repeatedly to the pharmacy to buy another pregnancy test, just to convince herself that the result is accurate. But it happened to me. I went more than five times to the same store, just to watch the second pink line came up again every time.
Now when I think about it, I laugh. I’m not sure what I wanted, maybe to be less pregnant, or to pee the pregnancy out!
I woke up my boyfriend – the other responsible party in this pregnancy – and I told him in tears that I had spent more than $50 on pregnancy tests and that all of them came positive. He smiled and gave me a hug. “Come back to sleep,” he told me, “tomorrow we´ll go check with the doctor.”
The next day we went to the doctor, he took some blood and of course, I was super pregnant. I was on The Pill, so I was still in denial. But the doctor called me “lucky” for being one of the less than 1 percent women who get pregnant while taking The Pill.
And since that day, my life changed forever. The next weeks the only thing that I did was cry about everything. I remember crying when I opened my closet, thinking that all those beautiful clothes would never fit me again. You see, I was one of those women who are always working out and counting calories. And as I’d never thought about becoming a mom, I was scared and confused.
Eventually my tummy started to get round and everything changed. I was still crying, but this time it was with excitement every time that little boy kicked or jumped inside me. I fell in love with him and rubbed every part of his body through my skin. I asked God to help me be a better person for him.
When he was finally born, he looked weak and helpless. Because of his diagnosis of Down syndrome, the nursing specialist told me that he would not be able to breastfeed. That was the first time that I trusted his love over logic, and I disregarded the advice of the specialist. I placed him on my breast and he did it! He was fed by my love.
It has been years and years of doctors, specialists, therapists and individual education plans. All that drama made me feel that he would forever be my baby and he would always be attached to me.
But not anymore.
Yesterday at a regular visit to the dentist, he asked to use the restroom: “Mom I need to pee.” I closed the magazine I was reading and got ready to take him with me to the ladies’ room, but he stopped me: “I can do it by myself.”
I was surprised, but I followed him to the ladies’ room, thinking I’d wait outside. Then I got surprised again. He didn´t want to go to the ladies’ room anymore; he wanted to go to the men´s room.
“I don´t know Emir, we don´t know who´s there inside,” but he insisted. I opened the door, slowly asking God to not let me find a man peeing inside. I looked around and the bathroom was empty, so I said: “Okay Emir, go!” When I pronounced those words I felt goose bumps all over, and while he was opening the door I felt like he was opening a big door to the future and to independence.
I´m scared! I don´t want to let my 8 year old child with Down syndrome go pee in a men´s bathroom! I want to keep him close to me; I still want to still wipe his butt and protect him from the world. But he´s growing up and I´m getting older and older. He needs to grow, and I need to let him!
After all, he was prepared to be there. I’ve been coaching him for this moment by telling him things like:
- You don´t let anyone other than Mom or Dad help you when you go to the bathroom. I will always let you know if someone else is allowed.
- Mom or Daddy will be always waiting for you at the door
- You can do it, you are a big boy.
Yet while I stood at that door for less than 5 minutes, all these thought raced through my mind. Is this right? Can he go by himself to the men´s bathroom now? When did he grow up this much? Do “typical” children ask for this stuff at the same age? How do their parents react? I don´t want him to pee in a urinal! What happens if he doesn´t wipe his butt right?
Moments later, Emir emerged from the bathroom acting nonchalant, as if going by himself for the first time was no big deal.
So my last question was: Am I going nuts, God, or is he growing up too fast?
P.S. I’ve since learned that most boys show interest in using the men´s bathroom on their own between 6 and 8 years old. Children with Down syndrome seems to be in the same range. So Emir, we are doing great!