I love this picture. John Michael is going to truly be one great brother to his new baby brother, who is about to make his grand entrance into the world next week (or the next...) I can't say enough how much John Michael, in his 2 1/2 years, has changed me (and our whole family, school and church community) for the better. He has opened my heart and mind to regard everyone, not just those whom society views as "perfect", as truly gifts from God. It's not that I didn't believe it before. I truly do believe all life is a gift from God, from conception to natural death. However, I didn't act like it. I felt uncomfortable around people who didn't fit the "norm" and would choose to avoid them and look away. I prided myself on the fact that my first 3 children are bright and dare I say... attractive to society's standards... Then, wham-o, I turn 40 and have a child that 90% + women will choose to abort because they're not "perfect". Well, I didn't know I would be so blessed! I didn't know when I heard those distressing words, "It looks like your baby has Down syndrome," that it would change us, and those around us, in a positive way. I never imagined the tears I'd shed and the pleas I'd made with God to take away John Michael's Down syndrome, would instead bring me an amazing local group of friends who also have a child (or two) with Ds. And that I would connect to hundreds of other parents through blogging, facebook and the NDSC Convention. All because we're linked to an extra chromosome through our children. Simply amazing.
I know it won't always be peaches and cream for us. People do stare at us and I used to wonder what they were thinking. I'd almost obsess over whether they were looking down at us or feeling sorry for us, etc. Now I just smile and let them think what they will and not care. The smiles and waves John Michael gets when we're out and about warm my heart, so I do believe that most people truly think he's cute and love to get a smile or wave back from him. If you're lucky, he might even "knuckle you" and say "doooooo" for Dude while doing it. At church last week, another mom held out her arms for him and before I knew it, there was John Michael going through the Communion line in the arms of another mom who just adores him. As I said, it won't always be that way. There are plenty of people who don't think he should have been born; but fortunately, I don't have to deal with them at this point.
After my OB appointment this morning, I was driving down a busy street and saw two young men with Down syndrome approaching the bus stop. They could've been twins, brothers close in age, or just best buddies who really looked a lot alike. I stopped at the light and couldn't help but stare, but in a good way. I felt a smile stretch across my face, the first all morning for me, and I watched as they playfully wrestled at the stop. I know people with Ds aren't happy all the time and have a wide range of emotions. Of course they do! But in my observation of adults with Ds in public, I see more joy than anything else. The light turned green and I continued to watch them in my rear view mirror until they were out of sight. There was something sweet and childlike about them and I pray that John Michael will continue to put a smile on peoples' faces as he gets older and is "less cute". I do wonder... will people stare in a good way and smile? Will they stare and have unkind thoughts? Or will they turn their heads away and not want to look because they, like I used to be, were too uncomfortable? Time will tell. I hope they stare in a good way and that a smile will stretch across their face, too, like it did mine this morning.
I've been married for 20 years to my wonderful husband, Doug. I'm a Catholic SAHM to 5 children. Our 4th child, John Michael, was born in November 2007, and has opened us up to the amazing world of Down syndrome. We are grateful to God for the blessings He's given us and the journey He's put us on. When I'm not spending time with my family, I sing with RSVP, an amazing vocal group, educate on Down syndrome, have my own health and wellness business, and blog about our life.