I’ve always been awkward around people with special needs. Never knowing what to say or how to act. How to relate and not offend. Feeling like it was easier to just avoid interaction and keep us all comfortable. To love and respect at a distance. That was me.
And then I had a daughter with Down Syndrome and my world changed. Drastically. Pushing me way, way out of my norm and my comfort zone.
Over the last three and a half weeks I’ve had the opportunity to care intimately for someone with special needs. To make major decisions regarding her care. To be the resident expert on her. And yes, even to be her advocate. And you know what it’s like? Basically just being a mom to my new daughter.
Not to minimize her diagnosis. It’s also been a three week crash course in Down Syndrome; reading books, meeting with doctors and social workers, arranging tests, and planning for the future. It’s been emotional and eye-opening and life-changing. But one of those life-changing elements has been learning to see with new eyes. To look at my Down Syndrome baby and see… Lydia. Lydia the person, instead of her diagnosis. Lydia with her own personality as a unique member of our family and someone new to love. Just, Lydia.
I’m not an expert on this yet, but I hope that with practice I’ll become one. That some day *Lydia* is all I’ll see. Of course, she’s a newborn, so there is a lot that you just can’t tell, yet. But, while it does profoundly affect our lives, there’s more to her than Down Syndrome.
Who is Lydia?
First, she’s curious. While she still sleeps much of the day, when she is awake she is actively looking around, EVERYWHERE. That little head and those little eyes are going, going, going. Trying to take in the whole world around her. I love that.
Second, you should see this girl do tummy time. I remember subjecting my boys to this most miserable of newborn exercises, and they always gave it a few tries before collapsing in a face plant of infant tears. Yesterday I tentatively put Lydia on her stomach, expecting that with her low muscle tone she wouldn’t be able to do much and would quickly get frustrated. And it’s true, she struggled, but she didn’t give up. She didn’t collapse into tears. She fought. It was pretty remarkable to watch that little girl strain to lift her head, rest, then try again. She didn’t cry. She is fierce and persistent and determined. It amazed me and gave me a lot of hope. We’ll need exactly those attributes.
Finally, there’s a quiet, optimistic peace about this girl that I appreciate. She is gentle and positive by nature, and that is a gift. And she likes to cuddle, which this mama loves.
I’m so new at this. And awkward. And incredibly imperfect and humbled. But if there’s one hope that I have for my daughter and her future, it’s that people will make the effort to get to know her and love her and respect her for who she is: Lydia. And that they’ll allow and encourage her to be her fullest self.
Today I’m grateful for all those who have gone before. For researchers and doctors and interventionists. For parents and teachers and members of society and friends who have realized that people with disabilities are people, first.
And I’m grateful for Lydia. Who came to earth as her own person, and who already is a gift and a blessing and an expert at opening her mother’s eyes.