Raising awareness about Down syndrome gives me the opportunity to shed some light on my unexpected guest, who is forever a part of my life and the lives of my children.
I first met him in person eight years ago. I knew a little about him, but not enough to accept him into my life without prejudice. I felt my world falling apart when I recognized this unwanted guest in the eyes of my son. I hated him, and I used to cry every time I would find him reflected in photos of my boy, photos I wanted to treasure as happy memories.
Today I don’t feel the need to lie. The first months living with the guest were terrible. I blamed him for my depression and for limiting the life of my child. I asked God to take the guest out of my house, but that didn’t happen.
Eventually he started losing his power to make me mad or upset. He was still there, doing funny or unexpected things to get my attention, but I didn’t care anymore. I was busy enjoying my child and celebrating his every step. Down syndrome wasn’t important anymore.
I learned to be selective in what I packed in my bag of tools for living. I learned to always pack a smile, lots of hope and the knowledge that wherever I went, the guest was at my side. But I learned to put him at the bottom of the bag, and I replaced his influence with the power of love for my child.
And the time came: One day I woke up and saw only my child, and not the guest. I saw only a perfect little guy whose smiles fill my heart with love. I saw a perfect baby whose cuddles on my chest made me feel a perfect mom. Down syndrome was still there, but he wasn’t important anymore.
But once again the guest made himself known when he unexpectedly tripled my daughter’s chromosome 21. I learned that he would be a partner for life, and at that moment I stopped hating or avoiding him. I faced him and accepted him.
How can I hate this unexpected guest if he’s not worse than anything else, but rather just kind of different? He has shown me new ways to smile, and I have learned to look at him without prejudice, without blaming him, without hating him. He’s part of my life.
He’s as funny as he can be, and he’ll be with us for the rest of our lives. I have learned a lot from him and now I understand him. I know how to treat him and how to get the best of him.
My children are still my children, yes, they have Down syndrome. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
In defense of my guest, I can tell you that Down syndrome has taught me that an extra chromosome doesn’t dictate our futures. That no matter how much he challenges us; we’ll always find the way to get the best of every challenge and grow from it.
A child with Down syndrome will:
- Be loving if you give him love
- Be joyful if you accept him without prejudice
- Have a future if you give him the chance
- Learn and succeed if you believe in him
- Surprise you every day if you teach him to be independent
- Bring you invaluable lessons of determination if you have faith in his personal abilities
- Find his personal satisfaction if you let him follow his dreams
As you can see, this doesn’t sound any different than the love and opportunity you’d give to any other child.
And what about Down syndrome? He’s always going to be there. But one day, you’ll be able to tell him: I don’t hate. I don’t love you. I just accept you.