I never really went through the grieving process I was apparently supposed to have when I had a baby with Down syndrome. I did experience about 5 minutes of raw fear after getting the diagnosis before they placed him in my arms. Once I held him, I knew it was going to be okay. A friend of mine had been updating family and friends during labor. I called her about 20 minutes after delivery to tell her he was here. I said, "He's here! Simeon Israel. He's the cutest baby with Down syndrome we've ever seen." She responded that she was sorry and I said not to be...that he was perfect. I meant every word. I also joked that we needed to get one of those bumper stickers that says, "My child has more chromosomes than yours". Acceptance came easily for me.
I don't know if previously considering adopting a child with Down syndrome or knowing I had a high risk helped prepare me, but I never got depressed over it. I have had moments of sadness periodically, though. Very few and far between them almost two years into it, but sometimes they come out of nowhere.
I had one the other day. I was shopping at Aldi and I heard the familiar sound of an insistent "Uhhhh!" I recognized it because Eon hollers it frequently when he's excited or wants attention. I don't notice it much at home because all the kids are loud around here. But in the middle of a crowded store, it was noticeable. As I was bagging, I saw her. She was standing in line with her mother pretending to talk on a cell phone. What she was saying was completely unintelligible, but she was obviously enjoying herself. She looked to be about 7 or 8 and had on the cutest sparkly tennis shoes.
I never know how to approach people, especially if Eon's not with me, but I decided to go for it. I walked up and said, "I think we have something in common. My youngest son has Down syndrome." The mom brightened and asked me how old Eon is and we chatted for a minute. Then I asked how old her daughter is. I was completely unprepared for her response. "Sixteen," she replied. My heart dropped into my stomach and I hope she didn't catch the dismay I'm sure I wore on my face. I mumbled something to the girl about being a "tiny little thing" and that I liked her shoes. She didn't appear to understand me.
We chatted some more and she mentioned something about "the other little girl I watch that's a month younger than her"...
Another 16 year-old that needs a babysitter?!
You're probably thinking, "Duh. Of course a teen with Ds might need someone to watch them." I know that cognition varies with individuals and people with Ds function at different levels, but I guess I hadn't gotten that far. I was unprepared to see a young woman with Eon's condition still engaging in behavior that Eon currently enjoys (loudly vocalizing and pretending to "talk" on the phone). It threw me.
And, the encounter has stayed with me. I'm still trying to process it and my response to it. I just assumed Eon would progress beyond the toddler he currently is. He is so typical in many ways, I sometimes forget that he's behind in other ways. My expectations for him are high. Now, I wonder if they're too high.
As I was writing this post, Eon walked over to Keturah's crib, signed "baby" and then, "sleeping". I asked him if he wanted to sit in my lap and he climbed up. He's doing great and I am so proud of him! I just need to remember to take it one day at a time.