Dear Fellow Warrior

I’m at a unique place in my pregnancy with Wyatt.
It’s a crazy time. Nearly half way through my pregnancy, feeling him move more and more, busy with a toddler and a newborn and working.
But what’s become so special to me right now is my ability to reach new mamas on my what to expect (wte) boards. I know, I’m weird.

We are at a place when mamas will be having screenings done that freak them out, finding markers on ultrasounds, or getting definitive results from their amnio or maternit 21 testing.
It’s scary. It’s emotional.
And I get the honor of potentially meeting and walking with some new mamas.
I met two last night (hey girls!!) and odds are I will meet a few more before Wyatt gets here.
It’s exciting for me because I want to shout to the roof tops for them! Their baby is amazing and they have a whole community waiting to embrace them. Incredible families they have never met who will change their lives for the better.

I don’t like to consider myself a special needs mom or hand selected by God for a special gift. I’m just a mom like any other with a son who happens to have Down syndrome. (Check out the category Eli Pregnancy for more on my journey).

I know you’re scared. I know it’s different. I know the world is cruel and mean. I know Google doesn’t have the best resources out there or the best pictures. But trust me when I say you are right where you are supposed to be, it’s going to be better than you ever imagined and your child is going to turn your world upside down in the best way possible.

I’ve been very open and honest here about my fears while pregnant (wanting to terminate, wishing for another baby, praying I was the 1%, anger, grief, even picking a name, therapies, health concerns, doctors appointments…) but I’ve been equally honest about the love we have for Eli, the joy he brings our family and the love we feel. All that negativity is gone and there are days it’s hard to admit I was even in the dark place. He’s not a burden. It’s not hard to parent him. I’m on the other side now, and while no expert, we are happy and Eli is thriving.

At the risk of continuing to ramble or not say all I want to say, I’m leaving this one to my dear friend, Megan. I couldn’t say it better than her. 🙂

Dear Fellow Warrior,
One year ago today, we received Quinn’s Down syndrome diagnosis. I sat down in front of the computer and told the world our story in a post that makes me cringe when I read it now. In the year that’s passed, I’ve had a chance to look back on those raw emotions and remind myself that I didn’t know then what I know now. And most importantly, I hadn’t met Quinn yet, whose very existence is my greatest accomplishment. He represents my courage in a time of doubt, patience in a time of chaos, and the unyielding strength of a tiny human that I took for granted.
But I didn’t know this then. I was terrified, isolated, and grief-stricken. I found myself unable to celebrate this impending life, both out of fear and anger. I closed the nursery door and hid the baby clothes for months, embarrassed at myself in the process, but knowing that their very presence would send me into a tailspin of grief. I knew that I would love Quinn when he arrived, but this seemed so very far away from reality in the weeks following his diagnosis, and as time marched on, we faced new problems that made me fear becoming attached to someone who might not survive. I was an actor in those days, playing a role I remembered well from the time I was pregnant with Atticus. I knew how to answer the questions everyone loves to ask a pregnant woman: “It’s a boy. He’s due in January. He’s my second.” But those answers always felt like they deserved an asterisk at the end: “He has Down syndrome. The doctors found a pleural effusion. He might not make it.” Of course, I never shared these footnotes. I gave the people what they wanted because no one knows how to reply to unexpected news like that. I joked and traded stories with other pregnant women while holding back a searing jealously because their baby would be “normal” and mine wouldn’t; these women never had worst-case scenario conversations with their OBGYNs. While I was researching Early Childhood Intervention, Medicaid Waivers, and special needs preschools, these happy pregnant women were buying baby clothes and painting the nursery with stars in their eyes. I woke up at 3am almost every night, unable to fall back asleep because I was convinced I didn’t have the skills to raise a child with special needs. In those months before Quinn was born, I was lost.
But then he arrived and my reality shifted. I held him in my arms after our very short delivery and could actually feel the pieces of my life falling into place, like a puzzle that, when taken apart and rearranged, was actually more beautiful than when it was previously assembled. Every worry faded away. The moment our eyes met for the first time, he seemed to ask that I take him for who he was, and what could I do but make that promise? There was no anger or sadness or jealousy, even as I looked at all the other newborns in the hospital nursery. My Quinn was perfect just the way he was.

And so I say to you, fellow warrior, give it time. You must allow yourself to grieve for the child you thought you would have. You must allow yourself to feel angry and jealous, for you never asked to take this journey. You never asked for your child to be “special.” But there will come a day when your grief will break the surface and you will finally be able to breathe. And in that moment, you will realize that your life has taken on a new meaning. Everyone who surrounds your child will be made better because of him. And because you came out of this with a new outlook, you’ll learn to worry less about the things that really don’t matter. The spilled coffee, the morning traffic, the missed meetings will be frivolous. You have a higher mission than you did before, so these things can no longer touch you.

And as your child grows, their successes will bring you more joy than you thought possible. Every smile, clap, and coo will be a celebration. You will actually cry when he rolls over or learns to sit up for the first time, while simultaneously realizing that milestone charts are overrated. You will acquire grace and patience, and learn that your child blazes his own paths and develops at his own rate. And you will realize just how much better your life is now that he’s in it. You will make friends who are walking similar paths and share an instant connection. I can’t imagine my life without these people; it’s as if we’re all one family, and I root for their children with the same vigor and enthusiasm I show my own. Will there be hiccups? Sure. Will there be tough days? Of course. But we aren’t guaranteed much in this life, and we have to hold on to happiness no matter what unexpected form it may take. For me, it’s a supportive and loving husband, a precocious three-year-old who is honest and kind, and a baby with Down syndrome that smiles brighter than any person I’ve ever known.
Your happiness will come, too. I promise. And it will be impossible to ignore…”

-http://meganmennes.blogspot.com/
For more resources and info, check out my blog roll. Awesome, real families with inspiring stories!
Congrats on your pregnancy. 🙂

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8 Replies to “Dear Fellow Warrior”

  1. I remember reading that when Megan wrote it and I thought it was so perfect! You ladies are in such a great position to reach out and help others who have been in your shoes. I always wonder what it would have been like if we had a prenatal diagnosis, but I suppose my path happened the way it did for a reason. I hope you are feeling well!

    1. Wasn’t it? 🙂 So good!!
      I think everyone’s story is important because you can reach others in such a special way with it. 🙂 It’s what encourages me to continue blogging 🙂

  2. Wow excellent post from you both and the excitement of touching new families never fades. I am not tons further but the future I see is one ALWAYS full of babies and new parents. Lots of (scary), exciting fun.

    You are such a blessing. PLEASE keep blogging periodically despite how tough it will be. Carve out the time to help you sort your thoughts (for our benefit!).

    Or at least quick update posts!

  3. Where are the what to expect boards you mention? Matching families with similar personalities and conditions (geographical, medical, passions & pursuits like fundraising, blogging, awareness).

    1. It’s just whattoexpect.com- the board I was on was for the birth month of my son. 🙂 so it just varies. I’m sure there are lots of similar conversations going on all over the Internet 😉 I just happened to see that one.

  4. Matching is important! Connect families with similar journeys–you can’t mentor every single new family but I get you can figure out and recruit the right families together.

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