FIVE THINGS DOWN SYNDROME HAS TAUGHT ME
As we are nearing the end of Down syndrome awareness month, I've been reflecting on our life before Welles and how humbling it's been to learn from him. I was laying in bed thinking of how to write this post and my eyes literally filled with tears. So many days I wonder why we were chosen to be so abundantly blessed to get to learn from this boy. He is such a beautiful and cherished blessing. Below I've listed five things that Down syndrome, and Welles, have taught me.
First-- To change fear of the unknown, to faith in the unknown. The unknown... Such a terrifying thing to think of when Welles was born. In those early days I thought of everything... What if he isn't accepted by his peers? What if he wants to have children of his own someday? What if he has a lot of health issues? What if Scott and I are never empty nesters and tied down because of this diagnosis? Fear, fear and fear. That was a feeling I let consume me in those first weeks. I recently saw an image that said "Fear is a liar!" and it made me smile. So true. Most of those fears that I dwelled on, have completely faded away. And many of them are things that I think of, but don't worry me at all any more. At one point in his first year of life, we thought he may be predisposed to leukemia. We had some blood tests that came back and his doctor was very concerned. I remember hysterically calling my dear friend who is also on a similar path with her own son who has Down syndrome. She said something along the lines of... "These ups and downs are part of the journey. Have a little faith in process and know that he's yours because you can handle it". Isn't that true for every child? Typical and Down syndrome. Typical kids are not exempt from ups and downs, that is FOR SURE! So his trials might be different and a bit more unknown. But it's nothing that a some prayer, borrowed strength and faith can't handle. I still work to let faith replace fear and now and then fear wins a situation. But to be honest, more so with my other kids than Welles! It's a work in progress and we're doing good. How grateful I am to be learning this lesson early on in motherhood.
Second-- Thick skin. I used to get so hurt and even offended when people felt bad for me or made stupid comments. And yes, there were a lot of well-intended, but stupid comments. We still get them from time to time. I used to cry to Scott about the things people would say or the way a mom would leave Welles out of an activity, assuming he couldn't keep up with the other kids. It hurt then and it still stings now. But learning to understand that people mean well (most of the time) and haven't taken the non-existent "Down syndrome 101" course, I have really thickened up my skin. I choose to let things roll off when I could choose to call my husband and sob about something silly. Or not silly, even. This thick skill is now spilling over into the parenting of a girl who is drawn to drama. Sometimes drama that involves an occasional call from mama bears. Hashtag iknowmykidisntperfect. Hashtag iwonttakeyourventingaboutherpersonally. ;)
Third-- Seeing beauty in everyone. Not just inner beauty (which is obviously much more important), but physical beauty. This is just me being more honest than I am comfortable with... Please don't think me vain or shallow, but my perspective on people with unique differences is now so beautiful, where as I used to, at times, feel sympathetic to "flaws". I realize that sounds horrible, but society teaches us that looking perfect is of the utmost importance and should play into our self worth. When Welles was a newborn, I remember feeling a little sad that he wouldn't look like our family. I never would have admitted this back then, but now I am comfortable with the confession. Not only was I wrong (to me he looks very similar to his sister), but those "flaws" from that extra 21st chromosome are some of my favorite things to stroke and gaze at, as he lays on my lap. His almond shaped eyes are the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. I see immense amounts of beauty in people with special needs or even those with unique features. I love that we are all made, differently.
Fourth-- Patience. Patience. Patience. While my nieces and nephews were running circles around Welles, I was still trying to get him up on all fours! His younger cousins have passed him up on speech, motor skills and fine motor. This can be discouraging at times but I have chosen to roll with it. He'll do it when he's ready and I won't stress what I can't control. We continue to work on these things but I don't get impatient about it. Though the other day it took everything in me to stay patient as he threw himself on the floor in a fit of rage because he couldn't communicate what he wanted to eat. He pointed at every item in the fridge and cupboard and as soon as I would prepare it he would throw it and cry. He was so frustrated that I couldn't understand what he wanted. The frustration rubbed off on me and I was almost in tears trying to help him communicate. When I felt myself about to throw a tantrum of my own, I decided to pause, then scoop him up and let him cry over spilled milk in my arms. We eventually came to an agreement with oatmeal. But man, this boy is teaching me to slow down and be patient.
Fifth-- To advocate and stand up for what/who I believe in. I believe in Welles and I believe his worth is that of any other child. I think it's clear to everyone how he taught me that. ;) But because of him, I will always root for those who can't root for themselves and believe in everyone's individual worth.
Thank you Welles, for teaching our family these lessons and so many more. How you've helped us grow!
Had fun taking these pics with the fam before church the other day.