You Don’t Have to Be Brave, You Just Have to Be Mommy
The word “Down syndrome” first came into our world a little over two and a half years ago. In “I Didn’t Want Him,” I shared my initial reaction to finding out the baby boy I was carrying would be born with Down syndrome. I know everyone copes in different ways; some do it better than others. I did the best I could, but, despite my best attempts at appearing brave and nonchalant when it came to the number of my son’s chromosomes, there were times my facade failed. One particular event occurred while I was at work, during the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
I’d been caring for a wonderful family who was welcoming a new baby into the world. The mom had shared with me her experiences with her young son, who had Down syndrome. He was 3, and she considered him to be the best thing that had ever happened to her. She eagerly introduced me to him when he arrived to meet his new sibling. I wanted to love her child as much as she did, but all I could see were his almond shaped eyes, his chubby fingers, wobbly walk and ungraceful attempts at signing “hi” and “baby.” I could feel my heart begin to pound and my breaths becoming shorter and more frantic. I excused myself and quickly made my way to the private bathroom on our unit. I murmured to my charge nurse that I would be back and asked her to keep an eye on my patient.
I barely made it to the bathroom before the dam broke and the tears flooded out. I sat on the floor, hyperventilating and sobbing. This was not a brave moment for me, and my resolve was crumbling as every single fear and worry swirled through my head. The thoughts were unending, each one bringing with it an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Can I do this? Can I be the mom he will need me to be? Will I ever get to the place where I can tell a stranger that he is the best thing that ever happened to me? Will there come a time that I only see my son and not Down syndrome? Will the bravery that I appear to have ever be real?
I wish I could travel back in time to huddle there in the floor with my past self. I would take her face in my hands, look her in the eyes and tell her that all the answers were yes. I’d tell her as soon as she holds that little boy in her arms, all her worry and fear would fade away. That the only thing she would see when she looked at her son for the first time would be the blue eyes his daddy gave him and the button nose she gave him. That she would be amazed at how much he looked like his sister. That in one short minute, she would know, without a shadow of a doubt, that she didn’t need to be “brave,” she just needed to be Mommy.
I wish most of all, I could tell her the way she would feel with each of his firsts. How she would have to hide the camera to catch him turning over. How his motivation to belly creep would be a Taco Bell taco. How she would cheer when he signed “eat” and “more.” How loud she would scream, on camera, when he stood and took his first unassisted steps. How the tears would stream down her face when he looked at her and called her Mommy for the first time.
I didn’t get a visit from my future self that day. I did, however, put myself back together and return to my patient’s room. I knelt down near that sweet boy and asked if I could give him a hug; he willingly obliged. Try as I might, his mom could see through my mask of serenity. She squeezed my hand and whispered, “You’ll get there.”
I can’t tell you how because the route is different for everyone. It’s possible that it will take some longer than others. There might also be days that feelings sneak in so quickly and fiercely that they cause you to question where you are and if you will make it. Maybe you’ve made it there already — then again, maybe you haven’t. Regardless of what point the path you’re on, I want to say, you will get there too.
This post originally appeared on Hand Me Downs.
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