A friend of mine, who happens to also have a daughter with Down syndrome, called me the other day. “Audrey! I was just realizing, not only are you about to get another child… (we currently have 7) but she is a toddler! Like – in diapers, not talking yet and she has Down syndrome!”
We laughed so hard our sides hurt. The kind of laugh that only a mama of a child with Down syndrome can relate to. The “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” coupled with “I can’t wait to jump into this beautiful joyous mess again head first!”
Us mamas with Ds kids are our very own tribe. We don’t discriminate between bio, adopted at birth, domestic, international… if you are a mama to a child with Down syndrome then you automatically qualify for “The Lucky Few” club. As in, we are the lucky few that get to travel through life’s journey with a person who has an extra chromosome.
And I’m about to double dip. Our littlest sister will be joining the family only two years after our daughter with Ds, Lucy, came home from China.
So how did I make the decision to go from zero children with Down syndrome to two with Down syndrome in less than two years?
Let me back up and give you a glimpse into our story.
Hi, my name is Audrey and I love children. Like, in even my high school yearbook, next to students who say “future doctor”, “future lawyer” or “future President of the Untied States”, next to my name says “future mom”. Exciting stuff, I know.
I met my amazing husband when I was a mere 15 year old adolescent. He was a much older 17 year old. Five years into our dating we got married and a year after that found out we were expecting our first child. We were over the moon! Well, I was. He was a first year medical student and a little freaked out. Within the next four years we added two more children.
And then we got serious about adopting. We had always wanted to adopt and China just felt like the right path for our family. But medical fellowship and many moves got in the way and things were put on hold. It was a few years later and we were pregnant again… and again. Up to five children and we felt we had hit our limit. Isn’t it interesting how you can feel either totally overwhelmed or like you have finally slipped into that comfort zone and God just ends up turning your world upside down?
We knew at this stage of life that we were finished with the size of our family based on one thing: we now had teenagers. Please don’t tell me how perfect your teenager is and how it’s the best years of raising your kids. I’m here to say that teenagers are aliens that have invaded your children’s body and turned them into something you do not want to live with. At least our oldest two were. Like clockwork, when they each hit 13, they changed from their sunshine, sweet, lovely selves to moody, sulking, I-want-to-be-alone, you know nothing, apathetic selves. And with it the mood of our family changed too. It amazes me the power of each person in a family has to determine the mood of the group. We struggled along for several years until things started to level out again.
But right about the time I wasn’t sure if my mama’s heart (nor my own mental state) could handle any more teenage drama, a three by three picture of a little orphan in China with a chopped black bob and a flat little nose appeared on our laptop.
It was my husband that sent me that email about the idea of hosting an orphan for a few weeks over the summer. And it was him that nudged me to take a look at the little postage size pictures of boys and girls needing a family from the other side of the world. And when I asked him what he thought about a child with Down syndrome, it was him who said, “If the Lord gives us a child with Down syndrome, then it’s meant to be. But I will not go and seek it out. I want to retire one day.”
Thankfully, the Lord knows exactly what we need, when we need it. He knew what we didn’t know.
God knew we needed Lucy.
Well-meaning people often tell us that we are such a blessing for adopting Lucy and giving her so much. But in reality, it was Lucy that has truly blessed us.
Before Lucy, our lives were busy. We hurried through our day, from school to events to practices. We rarely took the time to watch a bird fly through the sky or pick a flower growing in a crack in a parking lot. Dinner time consisted of grumpy teenagers telling how boring school was and our younger kids fighting about who gets to sit by daddy.
Our family was certainly filled with love, that was a given, but it was’t always filled with joy. Life felt more like a grind than truly living. Freely living. I think any of us can get into that same rut. It takes someone truly special to shake you out of complacency. It took a super-hero, orphaned girl with Down syndrome from China to wipe the sleep from our eyes and to help us to start truly living again.
I’m so grateful my husband didn’t listen to that voice that wanted to dismiss Down syndrome because the thought of retiring and having an empty nest seemed like the right thing to do. The things we would have missed out on if we had said no to adopting Lucy are far more valuable than playing golf and eating dinner at 4pm. (And who wants that anyway?)
Our yes has given us countless hours of belly laughs, nightly snuggles and reading the same little board book.
It’s dozens of weedy flowers picked because we now choose to walk the long way, flat nose Eskimo kisses and stubby little fingers that make the sweetest art work daily.
It’s the morning send off of “Daddy, hurry home!” and the afternoon race to get to the back door when he returns. It’s the “Mommy, you the best mama EVER!” and the way she can make friends with every person in the grocery store.
It’s how she can sense if anyone feels upset and immediately runs to comfort them. And if there is the slightest tension in the air, you can bet she will do something silly to make everyone laugh.
And it’s a child with the most magical innocence, like nothing I have ever seen before. Like she has a special connection to the angels.
Down syndrome was the best thing that ever happened to our family.
So when my friend reminds me that our new little one coming home soon will also have Down syndrome, she laughs.
She laughs for joy because she knows the truth… Down syndrome is sometimes messy, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to our family.
– guest post by Audrey