LaTaasha Byrd

@lataasha-byrd | contributor
La Taasha Byrd is a supercharged Mom-schooler to a daughter with designer genes.
LaTaasha Byrd

To My Daughter With Down Syndrome on Her 10th Birthday

Dear Little One, It was 4:00 a.m. on a chilly and oddly windy Wednesday morning. I hadn’t slept much the night before, partly because I was a bit overly tired but mostly because I was ready to see your face. Your grandmothers and I had spent the whole day before getting ready for you after leaving the doctor’s office. I thought I had another week, but she said, “Go to the hospital and register. You’re having this baby tomorrow.” No one really brought essentials to your shower the week before. I didn’t have diapers. I didn’t have a car seat carrier. I didn’t know that I would need so much more than just those basic things. What I did have was a lot of cute outfits and wipes…lots of wipes. I didn’t know I would need more items than what the people around me could understand the use for. I thought I had another week. I got to the hospital at dark o’clock and checked in. I wore a navy blue swing dress with gold buttons on the back. The receptionist commented on how pretty it was. I thought it was pretty myself. I needed something pretty to calm my nerves. I didn’t know that my uneasy familiarity with hospitals would start on this day. The grandmas sat in those waiting room chairs with the wooden arms and nervously smiled as I walked through those double doors. I don’t know who was more afraid, me or them. The nurses smiled and I was silently terrified. You were oblivious and oddly still. This was usually party time for you in there. I thought I had another week…I would be calmer in another week. Two epidurals, a warm blanket and a chatty nurse later I was wheeled into surgery. Through my extreme near-sighted astigmatism laden blur I listened to the metal clink symphony of sterilized tools and the shuffle of shoe covers on a tile floor. I glanced the incandescent red glow of a digital wall clock through a squint as I heard, “We’ll have a baby in about five minutes.” I was happy, scared, excited, terrified, anxious and nervous and wanted to tell them to wait because I wasn’t ready. I thought I had another week. It was 7:53 a.m. I met a little punkin of a baby girl swaddled tightly like a tiny burrito. I looked at her and said, “Hi Cairo. I’m your mommy. It’s nice to meet you.” I was so happy to see that little face. You were that little face. I noticed a dimple on your chin. I was glad that I didn’t have another week. Then the shuffling got more intense, and you were gone. There was no light banter from the nurses. I didn’t know that I was having a crisis of my own. I just knew that I couldn’t wait to see you again and kiss that little face and check for that little dimple and be thankful that I didn’t have another week. It was Jan. 20, 2010. One decade ago. Happy Birthday Cairo.  Welcome to double digits. Love, MiMi.    

Community Voices

My daughter has Down Syndrome

I woke from a restless sleep and realized my daughter has #DownSyndrome . All the feelings came back like it was Day One. She's eight years old. Now I'm One Day Past. #ThisIsMyStory

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LaTaasha Byrd

What 'Independence Day' Means for My Daughter With Down Syndrome

Traffic was heavy on the interstate. The fact that I had not left before the 5 o’clock rush to nowhere put me at odds with the inevitable. The hours would be long. The miles would be incessant. The music would be on repeat. Nevertheless, my SUV is loaded with a week’s worth of everything as I trek toward the acres of homestead that lie in wait for me and the precious cargo: flour, eggs, sugar, cream cheese, butter, a fluted pan passed down a few generations and a little girl riding behind me laughing at Scooby Doo. It is the Fourth of July week and I am the baker. In a few days, there will be as many sweets as there is smoke. My little one has requested cupcakes and icing. It seems that this request is a staple in our household. I use measuring, pouring and mixing as extended occupational therapy for my daughter with Down syndrome. The fact that she likes a sweet treat helps reinforce those life skills that she will need later in life. At current, she knows which mixer and utensil to use and, depending on which ingredients are on the counter, which treat is being made. She is 8 years old. She’s going to be able to bake her own Sweet Sixteen cake in a few years, or perhaps she will choose the beloved cupcakes. Either way, the choice will be hers and she’ll be ready. As I prepared for the next day’s ensuing bake-a-thon, I could not help but to take pause and think about the Fourth of July. Independence Day. The day our country exacted the final separation from those we had previously been a part of. A day marked with celebration, family gatherings, plenty of food and fireworks, and a sense of accomplishment to be felt for those who call these United States of America our home. I wondered about my daughter and her future. What would an independence day look like for her? Today it was making her bed. We work hard to establish a routine, and today she was so proud that she called me to the room with a quick, “MiMi… look! ” She had straightened the covers and ever so evenly placed her pillow on the bed. The decorative pillows were arranged in an order unbeknownst to anyone but her, but they were neat and she was beaming. So was I. The evening news was populated with stories of our country at odds on the eve of a day we should celebrate unity, and I continued to think of what independence would mean for her. Will she own a home? Will she get the job she wants and not what a coach thinks is acceptable for her? Will she make a livable wage for her talents and not the standard sub-minimum wage many laws allow for in this country? Will this standard ever be abolished before the time comes that she should begin to build a career? Will she live in a world that accepts her as an equal and not the sum total of her disability? These thoughts race through my mind as the parent of a child with disabilities. We fight daily for things many take for granted. In each instance, those minor miracles add to monumental feats of glory and inch us one step further toward independence for our loved ones. Whatever it will mean for her: graduation, college, a car, a career, a relationship, marriage — it means even more for me. The tireless motherly effort coupled with all the sentences beginning with “why do you” and “I don’t think I could” interspersed with stares and glares would mean that I ran the race set before me with gusto and though we may not finish first, the end goal still yields the gilded prize. We are always striving for next. We compete with no one but the day at hand and what it will bring. Each goal lends itself to a new challenge and another opportunity to start fresh. We never stop learning. We never stop trying. We simply never stop. This is our independence. It is found in our journey. Though it may not look like what tradition dictates that it should, it does not matter. Traditions are to be made and we break a barrier each time she advocates for herself. I watch her work a room with reckless abandon, ever vigilant, and leaving no hug undiscovered in her wake. In these instances, I grieve the future a bit less and embrace the present a bit more. I hear little feet approach the kitchen and soon the treat connoisseur was purveying the countertop contents. She found a box of powdered sugar and asked, “For icing?” I shook my head yes. One megawatt grin gave me all the approval I needed. She would be just fine. This is her independence. This is our independence day. And these will be her cupcakes. There is always room for a celebration.

LaTaasha Byrd

What 'Independence Day' Means for My Daughter With Down Syndrome

Traffic was heavy on the interstate. The fact that I had not left before the 5 o’clock rush to nowhere put me at odds with the inevitable. The hours would be long. The miles would be incessant. The music would be on repeat. Nevertheless, my SUV is loaded with a week’s worth of everything as I trek toward the acres of homestead that lie in wait for me and the precious cargo: flour, eggs, sugar, cream cheese, butter, a fluted pan passed down a few generations and a little girl riding behind me laughing at Scooby Doo. It is the Fourth of July week and I am the baker. In a few days, there will be as many sweets as there is smoke. My little one has requested cupcakes and icing. It seems that this request is a staple in our household. I use measuring, pouring and mixing as extended occupational therapy for my daughter with Down syndrome. The fact that she likes a sweet treat helps reinforce those life skills that she will need later in life. At current, she knows which mixer and utensil to use and, depending on which ingredients are on the counter, which treat is being made. She is 8 years old. She’s going to be able to bake her own Sweet Sixteen cake in a few years, or perhaps she will choose the beloved cupcakes. Either way, the choice will be hers and she’ll be ready. As I prepared for the next day’s ensuing bake-a-thon, I could not help but to take pause and think about the Fourth of July. Independence Day. The day our country exacted the final separation from those we had previously been a part of. A day marked with celebration, family gatherings, plenty of food and fireworks, and a sense of accomplishment to be felt for those who call these United States of America our home. I wondered about my daughter and her future. What would an independence day look like for her? Today it was making her bed. We work hard to establish a routine, and today she was so proud that she called me to the room with a quick, “MiMi… look! ” She had straightened the covers and ever so evenly placed her pillow on the bed. The decorative pillows were arranged in an order unbeknownst to anyone but her, but they were neat and she was beaming. So was I. The evening news was populated with stories of our country at odds on the eve of a day we should celebrate unity, and I continued to think of what independence would mean for her. Will she own a home? Will she get the job she wants and not what a coach thinks is acceptable for her? Will she make a livable wage for her talents and not the standard sub-minimum wage many laws allow for in this country? Will this standard ever be abolished before the time comes that she should begin to build a career? Will she live in a world that accepts her as an equal and not the sum total of her disability? These thoughts race through my mind as the parent of a child with disabilities. We fight daily for things many take for granted. In each instance, those minor miracles add to monumental feats of glory and inch us one step further toward independence for our loved ones. Whatever it will mean for her: graduation, college, a car, a career, a relationship, marriage — it means even more for me. The tireless motherly effort coupled with all the sentences beginning with “why do you” and “I don’t think I could” interspersed with stares and glares would mean that I ran the race set before me with gusto and though we may not finish first, the end goal still yields the gilded prize. We are always striving for next. We compete with no one but the day at hand and what it will bring. Each goal lends itself to a new challenge and another opportunity to start fresh. We never stop learning. We never stop trying. We simply never stop. This is our independence. It is found in our journey. Though it may not look like what tradition dictates that it should, it does not matter. Traditions are to be made and we break a barrier each time she advocates for herself. I watch her work a room with reckless abandon, ever vigilant, and leaving no hug undiscovered in her wake. In these instances, I grieve the future a bit less and embrace the present a bit more. I hear little feet approach the kitchen and soon the treat connoisseur was purveying the countertop contents. She found a box of powdered sugar and asked, “For icing?” I shook my head yes. One megawatt grin gave me all the approval I needed. She would be just fine. This is her independence. This is our independence day. And these will be her cupcakes. There is always room for a celebration.

LaTaasha Byrd

Wishing for an Understanding Date as Mom to a Child With Down Syndrome

Being a stylist by profession for a number of years afforded me the opportunity to have a myriad of conversations with some interesting characters.  I’ve listened to shop talk big and small, and engaged in quite a few lively banters myself.  I would stand behind my chair and listen to clients give the 411 on whatever life event was happening with them and offer my advice if I had any to give.  Often I was a leaning post for their cares and worries, and much obliged to do so. I always prided myself on having a different view on things and being truthful, honest, and unbiased.  Well…maybe a little biased.  I’m only human. So this particular day was not unlike many other days when a longtime client and friend asked me for advice on New Year’s Eve activities.  Being removed from the salon to become a stay-at-home-mom has had its pros and cons. Mostly pro because I can stem my focus to my daughter and her care, but on a day like today, I sure missed being in the salon to find out about the happenings around town. “Why is it so expensive to go out on New Year’s Eve? And we don’t even drink!” she asked me. “I have no idea, but you’d best be ready to shell out a couple hundred dollars.” I replied. The focus of our talk was centered around the holiday season: travel, families, activities. We had a wonderful discussion about the funny things that happen when families get together.  And then there was that question again, only with a twist, “What do you want for Christmas?” Without a second thought I replied, “Nothing.  As long as my baby is well, I’m good.” But in all actuality I wasn’t good. I just told a bold-faced lie.  I just stood square-toed and told a bold-faced lie to my friend. And I’m usually the truthful and honest and unbiased one.  Well…maybe a little biased. You want to know what I want for Christmas?  I want to go on a date. I want to go on a real date with a real gentleman who brings me flowers in a box. I want to go on a date with a real gentleman who opens my door and is interested in what I have to say. I want to go to a restaurant that requires reservations and a dinner jacket.  I want to wear a dress that I have been holding in my closet for just such an occasion. I want to wear those Gucci shoes I have abandoned because at any moment I may have to sprint after my daughter.  I want to eat by soft light, sip a bold red, and order from the dessert tray.  But most of all I want to go on a date with someone who doesn’t define my daughter by her disability. In my experience, dating as a single parent of a child with Down syndrome can be a rare though sought-after occurrence. Without a steady sitter it is not unusual that where I go, she goes and having her with me often dictates the venue. In my early days of being a single parent, I struggled with whether to tell the guy immediately that I had a child with Down syndrome. I hated watching their faces go from interest to pity, and then stop all communication. One guy even told me, “Good luck.”  I have come to realize that some people just don’t think they can handle the responsibility of being involved with a parent whose child has a disability. In this instance, I feel it is much better to know where they stand in the beginning than farther down the line. It’s their loss, though.  We are people above all else. I love my daughter and I wish a potential suitor for me would see what I see: a little girl, first. Down syndrome is only a small aspect of who she is. Sadly though, there are many who see the disability…  and then her.  The disability is not the issue — it’s the attitudes people form around what they think disability is. That doesn’t make it any easier to try to date in an Insta-filter obsessed world that cannot see the beauty in our differences.   So since I have no gentleman, no flowers in a box or reservations at Chet Somewhere, me and my munchkin will make our own dinner dates.  Party of Two.  Dressed to the nines. Just me and my little one.  She’s the best date anyway.  And that’s the honest, unbiased truth.  Well…maybe a little biased.  I’m only human. Follow this journey on Countdown to K. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor  here .

LaTaasha Byrd

Reflecting on My Parenting Journey for Down Syndrome Awareness Month

“ Every round goes higher and higher…” ~Baptist song There are pink ribbons everywhere. Men wear pink ties and runners pink tutus. The car in front of me at the red light has a pink license plate holder. The beauty supply store has a pink blow dryer and flat iron set that benefits a national foundation.  I feel a cooler breeze on my skin and there are more leaves adorning the once green grass that is my back lawn. It is October. The beginning of fall. The season of pumpkin this and spiced that. Amidst the rustic autumn colors and a vast sea of pink, I see a festive splash of yellow and blue from a familiar face on my Facebook timeline with a moniker I have grown accustomed to seeing: More alike than different. As I scroll, I see another stating, “I rock an extra chromosome. What’s your superpower?” The advocates are out in full force spreading facts in attempts to bring awareness and shatter stereotypes. But this time it’s not about pink. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. I became a mother on a windy Wednesday morning in January of 2010. I became an advocate some time later. I became a “supermom” and channeled my hurt and despair for the unknown into advocacy and work for my dear daughter (DD). The last two years have been a whirlwind, and I have powered through them with all the strength I could find left in my reserves. I am a special needs mom. That’s my superpower. I have become sensitive and insensitive, afraid and courageous, strong and uncontrollably inconsolable, all while embracing this journey less traveled by those who seldom choose this path yet are chosen just the same. I scroll and see another post from a friend whose daughter just got accepted to college. The fact that she has Down syndrome is just a sweet addition to the news. Barriers are being chiseled away.  It does my heart proud to see this, because when DD is able to apply for college a decade or so from now, the foundation will have already been laid. We are on the verge of our second IEP meeting for kindergarten. The pangs of inclusion tug fiercely at my heart, and I go to bat for her with no holds barred. She can and she will — not just in October, but every day. Each year I reflect on how far we have come. I also am sorely aware that we have farthings to go.  Awareness comes at a price — sometimes steep, sometimes amicable, sometimes steady and sometimes fluctuating. Yet we are thoroughbreds. We attack the curves just as we breeze the straightaways. October brings about a chance for me to assess my own journey. I revel in the days that are light and airy and I feel as though my course is plain, and in the next instant I am engulfed in fog. It is a non-stop bullet train with the highest peaks and the lowest valleys, and we hold on for our non-stop lives. I am a special needs mom. It’s what I do. I hold on, and then I hold on somemore. In these short six years I have become more aware than I ever thought I could be. Self-aware. Aware of my surroundings. Aware of those looks, those stares, those eerie moments when a complete stranger looks for the right way to approach you. I am also aware that there are great people who understand what you feel without saying a word. I know now that family is not just formed by blood ties, but a collection of venerable souls who love you for the familiarity you bring.  So rather than post for others, I remember a few mantras that help me get through the rough patches. Curiosity can lead to advocacy. Take a moment to remind someone that we are all people first. Conditions are simply the extra that makes us human. So if you can stare, you should be able to share. Say “Hi” to someone and they may say “Hi” back. Embrace your inner velociraptor. Don’t be afraid to take a note from these seemingly unassuming creatures. Sometimes you just have to tap your claw to let a naysayer know you mean business. Some people can be downright mean, on purpose. Others can try to sugarcoat an insult with, “But I didn’t mean it that way.” These are the times you may have to go Jurassic Park on them — and then put your claws away for another day. Let them know you can be fierce if need be and kind the next, but all the while gaining the respect that is due. Your new life is for the living. I have come to realize that the life I once led is no more.  I still have my memories, but I don’t long for those days. I have found a new sense of self in the life I have now. I do not tread on rose petals most days, but when I do the fragrance they emit is the most sweet and savory that I have ever smelled. The road I travel has narrow alleys, but they are lined with interesting nuances I would have never seen on a wide open path. I am well aware that I must trust my instincts and parent in the present. I kiss her little face, she kisses me back and I’m alive inside. I am a special needs mom. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. It’s October again. I think I’ll hold on to this new life and live it up. Then I’ll hold on some more. This story was previously published on the blog, Countdown To K, and in “Inclusion Is for the Included: A Collection of Stories from A Special Needs Mom” available direct via blog and on Amazon.com. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

LaTaasha Byrd

Being a Special Needs Mom on Super Tuesday

I checked the clock: 8:07 a.m. I have roughly 20 minutes to get the little girl who lives in my house dressed, hair done and out the door. Will I make it? Heaven only knows. I have everything laid out next to me on the couch: lotion, underwear, outfit, shoes and socks, hair bows, brush, comb, spray bottle. My oh my, this little girl has a glam squad getting her ready for kindergarten. It’s a good thing her mommy is a stylist because this level of suitin’ and bootin’ is usually reserved for those who regularly walk a red carpet. You couldn’t tell her that, though. The world is her stage, and she rips the runway with much ‘tude. The television is on and Scooby Doo is helping solve the latest mystery along with his meddlesome compadres while DD, my little girl, finishes her breakfast. As I maneuvered behind her, I could hear another television just behind the wall. The presidential candidates are in a fierce war of words, trying desperately to outdo each other with clever witticisms. Pundits are all so eager to opine and sip on airtime. “Humph,” I thought to myself. “The campaign trail has nothing on our household. Forget the race to the White House. The real race is getting out of my house.” I checked the time again: 8:15 a.m. I picked up the spray bottle and aimed it at her hair. A few quick sprays of water and like magic her curls reform. I pick up a brush and smooth one puff, then two, then one double-ponytail, then two. A few twists and barrettes on the ends and we are done. 8:23 a.m. I tap her on the shoulder and she turns to look at me. “Let’s go, Toot,” I say. She picked up the remaining bacon on her orange sectioned plate and heads to the kitchen with plate in hand as I headed to that place behind the wall where I hear the candidates’ voices. I glance at the television as I put on my shoes and shake my head again. I can still hear them as I walk away from the room and toward the front door. I picked up the previous night’s homework from the cubicle by the door along with the backpack she refused to acknowledge this morning: 8:30 a.m. I am now officially running late. “Time to go to school, Toot.” “No,” she said as she dances with her shadow outside the SUV, oblivious that the clock is ticking and her mother is, too. “Toot, let’s go !” I shout as I walk toward her. She spins on a dime, hand on her hips as she bops toward the SUV and stops again at the open door. “Get in, Sweet. We’re late for school,” I say. Once we’re both finally buckled in, I look at the clock: 8:36 a.m. The morning bell rings at 8:45 a.m. Late isn’t even the word. As a matter of fact, this is what can be called “normal” on any given day in our household. A short mile later, I stop at a stop sign and hear, “ding ding ding!” I look at the digital dashboard. Fuel Level Low. At this point all I can do is laugh. I chuckled to myself and thought about all the things I needed to do after I dropped DD at school that did not include a trip to the gas station. Nonetheless, a quick jaunt around the next corner and the entrance gate was in full view. Following the circular road, I bypassed the parking lot and pulled up to the curb right near the yellow “no parking” line. I checked the time again: 8:42 a.m. I’ve got three minutes to make it happen. I helped her arms through her backpack. I handed her the homework and grabbed my phone. We headed toward the gate. A short walk past two opened doors and we were at her classroom. She walked in and looked around. After a quick greeting from one of her classmates, she took her backpack off and hung it on the hook under her personal cubby. The teacher walked towards me as I watched DD. “Good morning,” I said. “She’s having quite a day.” The teacher replied with a smile saying, “It’s OK. We all have those mornings.” DD had joined her classmates on the carpet for morning story time. I looked at her smiling face as she found her assigned space and sat between the children who were already seated. It makes me proud to see her assimilate herself into the classroom culture. With all of the problems we have had to get to this point, seeing her happy in this space makes me feel confident about keeping her in public school. It’s a daily struggle, though. For as much as I am happy about her school days, the reservations I have are just as numerous. I took a deep breath in and waved goodbye as I exhaled and turned to walk away. I checked my phone as I sat in the drivers’ seat and turned on the engine. The radio station has gone to commercial break and the morning anchor is urging all who listen to exercise their right to vote. I listen and reply to the voice I hear through those Bose speakers, “I’m already with ya, sister.” Today is Super Tuesday. It is 8:50 a.m. and this super mom is already super tired. At least I didn’t have to travel far to cast my ballot. Let’s get this show on the road… if I don’t run out of gas first. I headed to the church in my neighborhood where I had voted before. There were no sign-wielding, flag-waving, honk-your-horn-for-us volunteers on the road. If I didn’t already know it was an election day, I wouldn’t have even realized it. I entered the polling place, which also doubled as the main sanctuary, and walked over to the poller who took my driver license and proceeded to search for me in the system. The poll worker quietly gave me my license back and directed me to another worker who gave me a ballot and directions to enter it to be counted. I did so. As I exited I could feel their eyes on me as I walked away with my “I Voted” sticker. I am the primary caregiver to a child with special needs. I listen to the candidates degrade each other. I watch the candidates’ actions toward each other. I watch the candidates exploit each other’s differences. They throw rocks and hide their hands. They craft words to puff themselves up even at the expense of someone who they campaign to govern. I hear them in the morning. I see them at noon. I see them at night. I see them, but they do not see me. I belong to a specific subset of the population you rarely see on the campaign trail. They don’t see the hurt these words cause daily in our lives. They don’t see the fight we undertake just to be included. They can’t possibly understand the effect the programs they cut have on families who depend on them to give our disabled loved ones a decent quality of life. They talk about education but likely cannot fathom the struggle we face in getting an individualized education program (IEP) written effectively to give our children the support they need. And they talk about “No Child Left Behind.” They bicker over submitting tax returns and how much someone was paid to speak at a convention. I wish they could see my tax returns, or those of any other mom who had to end her career to take care of a child with special needs. Our children aren’t left behind for sure — but they aren’t readily seen. You may not see us, but we are here. We are not lazy by any means. We are strong beyond measure. We are advocates and caregivers and tired and frustrated and courageous and invisible. We are not on any stage behind a mic. We are not included in campaign slogans. We are not in memes circulated on social media. We are not a superset of any platform. We may not be primary monetary contributors. It’s Super Tuesday, and I haven’t heard one super word that would help our population. I watch the commercials. I search the Internet. I have found nothing that will make me favor any candidate over another as it concerns my family. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Yet in some respect, everything they say affects my family in some way. If I could have, I would have voted “Kindness” for president. It wasn’t on the ballot. Perhaps it should have been. I wonder if it would get the nomination uncontested. We’ll never know. I’m a Mighty mom. I’m a super mom. It’s Super Tuesday, and if you look real hard you’ll see my cape blowing in the wind. Image via Thinkstock. A version of this post originally appeared in LaTaasha’s book, “Inclusion Is for the Included.” We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

LaTaasha Byrd

5 Essential Tips for a Soon-to-Be Special Needs Mom

I walked into the conference hall and stopped at the welcome desk.  After getting my packet and name tag I headed into the main lobby. I saw familiar faces and we exchanged hellos. DD (my nickname for my dear daughter) was with me and was working the crowd already. I made my way to the hors d’oeuvres, made a plate for DD and looked for a place to sit. I spotted an empty seat and another familiar face. I sat there… and then I saw you. You were making your way over to the same seating area. Suddenly I didn’t feel so tired.  I smiled at you and asked, “Are you feeling okay?”  You said, “Yes. About three weeks to go,” with a smile and a rub to your stomach. “Is this your first child?” I asked. “No,” you said. “I have two others. This child has Down syndrome and we came to the conference to get a little information. Trying to prepare, you know?” You smiled at me. I smiled back and nodded my head in agreement. I knew very well. I knew very well. After talking for a bit you told me you were a speech therapist and you knew sign language as well. My heart smiled more than my face ever could. “You will need these skills,” I thought to myself. I told you you were doing a great thing in trying to learn as much as possible beforehand. “The best bit of advice I can give you is to live for each moment because they will change,” I said. Perhaps you knew what I meant. You will certainly find out very soon. I looked up and DD had yet again abandoned her chicken wings because there was music nearby. Before I knew it DD had hijacked the opening reception. You smiled and laughed with me. These moments are the ones I speak of. Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom I have gathered over the years. 1. Don’t be afraid to cry. There will be times when you cannot turn the faucet off. Don’t try. Let those tears flow freely. They will give you strength you didn’t think you had. These will not always be tears of sadness or of the unknown. They will change as your little one grows. Your tears are nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve all been there.  Sometimes, I’m still there. Know it’s OK and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 2. Parent in the present. I noticed your name tag was pre-printed. You registered beforehand. There will be times when your best laid plans will be thwarted due to some unforeseen opponent you may never discover. That’s OK, too. Give your little one what he needs at the moment. Follow his lead. Be a hug ambassador. Make the rules as you go along. This journey will be more like your previous parenting experiences than not. The small nuances that set them apart may seem vast, but remember your efforts will always pay off in some way. You will doubt yourself at times. Know it’s OK and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 3. Family doesn’t always mean family. There may be times you feel misunderstood by blood relatives and friends alike. They may not understand why you cancel plans at the last minute or can’t return a phone call promptly or couldn’t go to a specific restaurant for dinner. Or why your phone has twelve specialists on speed dial. Or why you may get to a function late. Trust you have a new family of people who get it.  We understand everything and more without a word being said. Know it’s OK and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 4. Accept help. Your husband offered to take a photo of me and DD. Instinctively I said no at first, never wanting to “bother” someone. I’m a culprit of this myself, but it’s important to know you can’t do it alone. There are angels dispatched among us to help. Let them. They may not be in the form you think, but let them. You will need them. Know it’s OK and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 5. Enjoy the ride. I sat next to you again the next day in one of the workshops. You seemed tired. Get ready because it’s just beginning. Just know this is the best tired you will ever feel. You’ll be great. Know it’s OK and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Welcome to the family, RK.  Nice to meet you. A version of this post originally appeared on Countdown to K. Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .