Michelle Odland

@michelle-odland | contributor

Letter to Mother Who Lost Her Daughter With Down Syndrome

I have a distant memory of you. I know it was a cold winter day where the temperature was too frigid to bundle up my toddler and let him play in the yard, but he needed activity to keep from running laps down the small outlets of our hallway. Neither my carpet nor my patience could handle the jumping off furniture. I remember standing in the middle of the mall by the play area, holding my baby girl close as she was still so fragile, tiny and ill pre-heart surgery days and only a few months old. I can picture her on my shoulder, petite frame and giant blue eyes watching the world as I watched my son run on the gym mats and climb on foam-filled play equipment. I already had a container of disinfecting wet wipes open by the stroller, already considering how to clean his hands and mine after his sister was strapped back in her stroller. I remember the faint rainbow pattern from the stained-glass on the ceiling windows of the mall, the sound of the elevator music over the speakers and the murmur of costumers walking and running their errands. But I don’t remember your face. I remember you coming to me with tear-filled eyes, your gaze barely moving from my daughter’s soft and beautiful face to meet mine. I’m sure I tucked her closer then, because I always did with her. I was always anxious and fearful of an illness that could take away my daughter before we allowed her heart to grow big enough for the surgeons to repair the hole in it. I’m sure I was still contemplating whether the fun of the play area was worth the exposure to those germs. You paused before you spoke. As a mother, I could feel the heartache when you shakily told me this was the day you had lost your daughter. You told me her name and that she had been beautiful and loving and kind. And you were struggling today with the pain, the heartache, the loss. I saw you had a small support system that was quietly waiting behind you. And as my own eyes filled with tears, you shared that our daughters both had an extra chromosome. And that you knew seeing my dark-haired, blue-eyed girl was your daughter telling her that she was OK. And you smiled, even though you hurt. I no longer remember what I replied. Again, I no longer remember your face. But I remember holding your heartache in my heart as I kissed the soft hair of my baby girl. You left then, and even though I know I had been terrified to bring my daughter to that play area that day, I never regretted it. Because I believe we were meant to be there. To you, dear mom who lost your daughter with Down syndrome, I have never forgotten you in the last nine years. I have never forgotten how you admired my little girl as I always view her myself — seeing and loving her extra quirks, her flat face and small nose, her beautiful blue eyes. I think of you nearly daily. I can only imagine what your girl looked like, but I know how much you love her. And I’m thankful you gave me that moment to remind this young, scared mother that sometimes you just need to stop and be grateful for the moments you have. I can only wish that time eased your pain, but a mother should never lose someone that was literally a piece of themselves at one time. Image via Thinkstock. If you or a loved one is affected by infant loss, you can find grieving resources at The Grief Toolbox. Follow this journey on My Life With Three. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Advice for Parents of Children Just Diagnosed With Type 1 Diabetes

First of all, you need hugs. Please cry, get upset, grieve. I will cry with you as I spent many days crying over type 1 diabetes as well. But don’t cry in front of your child. Be strong. Be brave. Be matter of fact. Save the crying for later. No, it’s not easy. At all. But those shots that your child has to take is now life. Checking their blood sugar every few hours is your child’s life. And as a parent, it is now yours, too. And the best way to help your child is to take a deep breath, tell them it stings for a second, then it’s over. And do it. Quickly. Even with the tears. Get your child a new toy. Get them Band-Aids with characters on them. You know, the cool ones with Disney princesses or Pokemon. Better yet, let your child pick them out. Take them to a movie or buy a new Blu-ray. Because the fact is, this stinks and if you can make it a tiny bit more fun, make it fun! Because you will forget it, buy an extra diabetes kit. And then buy an extra one after that for school. Just make sure the test strips work in all of them. Keep one on you and the other at home, in your car, anywhere you need it often. Did I mention lots of test strips and alcohol swabs? You will find out who you can trust to help take care of your child. When you do, make sure you take time away from  diabetes. Go somewhere — anywhere for any period of time — and challenge yourself not to count carbs or think about testing blood sugar. But keep your cellphone on you. Just in case. And smile when you didn’t have to answer a text or call. Find a parent support group. Either in person, online or wherever. Go where you can ask questions, vent and do whatever you need to do with others that get it. Find the right endocrinologist for you. Even if one seems good and has done a good job, if it doesn’t feel like a good fit, try a different one. You need to be able to fully trust someone who is leading you through this life. You want someone who can talk to your child and help them understand what they need to do in life. Notice I said “talk to your child.” Because even if you’re doing most of the care right now, they’re learning. Eventually, they’ll do it on their own. And they need to know how to do that. It’s a lot. Believe me, I get it. You may be scared, overwhelmed and worried, and I’m sorry to say that will always be there. But it does get easier. And your child will feel better soon. And that is worth every single hard moment. Follow this journey on My Life With Three.

Mom Thanks Girl for Playing With Daughter With Down Syndrome

I saw you with your frizzy red pigtails, freckled face and soaking wet yellow dress. I saw you watching my daughter. I saw you sitting near her, not too close, but close enough to watch her expression as she concentrated on watching the buckets fill with water and then pour down. Most kids would be standing under that water. Mine likes to watch from a distance. I saw you smile at her. And then I saw you look up at me. You walked to me, shivering in the air. And you smiled this beautiful, crooked smile with your front teeth missing. I smiled back. And you sat next to me and watched my daughter again. Here is where I brace myself as a mom. My daughter has Down syndrome. She’s nonverbal and may be on the autism spectrum.  Instead of spending time with other kids, sometimes she prefers watching others. Some kids watch it and ignore it. Some kids ask questions. What is wrong with her? Why doesn’t she talk? Why is she mean? (if she pushes somebody too close to her out of the way) Why is she yelling? As her family we are used to these behaviors. The kids she has gone to school with for the past few years know her quirks. But I’ve noticed new children are rarely accepting of a child with disabilities Especially when she’s 9 and doesn’t speak. So I braced myself when you looked up to me. “Is that your daughter?” you asked. I said yes. “What is her name?” And with that reply you got off the bench and went back to sit by her. “Hi!” you said brightly, plopping yourself on the cement right next to her. She looked at you, but instead of shrieking, she smiled back. You wrapped your arm around her and laughed as the water bucket poured down. She looked at your arm, and I stood up, expecting her to shriek and push you away. See, she generally doesn’t like being touched. But my daughter like me sensed your beauty. Instead of yelling “no!” she did something amazing. She leaned in and hugged you back. And laughed as well. And I sat down again. You were too far away for me to hear your conversation. But I saw you talking to my girl. And not caring if she didn’t reply back. I saw you both laugh. I saw her touch your red hair and smile. My daughter at the splash pad When your mom called you, you walked over to me wrapped up in a beautiful handmade quilt. I smiled again, as I was still speechless. Instead of me thanking you, you thanked me as your teeth chattered. “Your daughter was so much fun to play with! Have a great day!” you chimed as you started to run to your mom. I’m sorry I couldn’t say thank you at that moment. But, you see, I rarely see friends with my daughter. You gave us the most beautiful gift that day. You gave us a day of making friends and laughing. For that I will always be grateful. And I hope I see your frizzy red pigtails again. This time I will make sure to thank you. Follow this journey on My Life With Three. The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines. Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today! Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes .