Words of Advice for the Future Dad About to Receive a Bewildering Diagnosis
Hey, you. Yeah you, the one there in the waiting room getting ready to go in to see your child’s ultrasound. You don’t know this yet, but you are about to get some news that will change your life forever. Something’s not right in there. They won’t know what, exactly, until your child is 6 months old, but that’s OK. It won’t sink in right away, and you will deny it. But it’s true, and it’s going to be OK.
The doctors don’t have the answers you desperately need to make this situation OK. You’ll have to be patient and find them yourself. In the end, your daughter is the one who will give them to you. Yes, she’s a girl. She will be Daddy’s little angel. You will name her that, and time will demonstrate that the name is perfect and has more meaning than you expected when you thought of it.
You and her mom will deal with this in different ways. It won’t be the only reason, but it won’t help, and your relationship won’t survive. It’ll hurt, but time will show that that’s OK, too.
You know that saying you always use, the one that comes out without you even thinking? Almost like it’s a reflex? “Dude, that’s retarded!” You will realize it isn’t as funny and harmless as you thought. That realization will creep up on you. It will seed itself into you as you frantically try to understand what the doctors are saying about Angel and you keep hearing the words “mild to moderate mental retardation.” The realization will bloom the first time you hear someone else say the R-word and you cringe as you realize what they are saying — they’re using the word to describe something innocent and stupid. Be patient with them. They won’t get it, just like you don’t now.
The doctors will tell you, “your child will never _______.” (Walk, talk and many other milestones.) You won’t know it, but that’s the best thing they can tell you. It will hit you hard, stick like a lump in your throat and sit in your gut. There it will fester, and that little voice in your head, you know, the one reading this to you right now, will repeat those words back to you a million times until you stop it and vow to prove them wrong. A determination to do so will grow, and you will prove them wrong. When you do, it will give you more pride than you ever thought possible. In hindsight, could that have been their intentions all along? Did they know your determination would be the reason you made it there, and without it they may have been right? Did they intentionally light that fire to help you through?
You’re probably thinking, “I’m not strong enough for this.” And you’re right. You’re not, but that’s OK because your baby girl has enough strength for you both. She’ll get you there. She will be fine — not by your current definition of the word, but your definition of “fine” will change along with your definitions for almost everything you think you know about life. You are prepared to begin your role as a teacher and teach Angel all about life, but you are preparing for the wrong role. You are the student, and Angel is coming to teach you what life is all about. She will teach you so many things and will do so without ever saying a single word. Make sure you take notes, because she will be the best teacher you ever had.
At first it will seem like she’s not making any progress on anything. She’s stubborn, and no matter how hard you push her, she won’t do things on your or anyone else’s timeline. She has her own timeline. Just be patient and keep offering the opportunities. Remember, even though it’s hard to tell sometimes, there is a child her age inside there.
Now get up out of that waiting room chair, go meet Angelina and start the most important journey you’ll ever take. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth every minute and every tear. In a few short months, you will witness the birth of an Angel with your last name.