Dear Mom at the park whose son has Down Syndrome, I’ve been to this park many times since before I can remember. I’ve played in the wading pool. I’ve run around on the grass playing with my imagination and later my younger brothers. I’ve rowed on the lake and run up and down the stadium steps. I’ve walked the lake dozens of times with my dogs. I’ve stumbled across the green grass in the dark with my BFF, both of us inebriated after her bachelorette celebration. I’ve nursed my baby on the benches around the lake, by the theater and by the basketball courts because that’s where he melted down. I’ve taken my baby swimming at the pool. I know this park well, but this was my first day at the playground with my little boy, Bear.
Bear and I have had such a journey to get here. I remember the NT scan and genetic testing. I opted for it mostly because it was one more opportunity to see him when all I could do was feel his little flutters. I needed that reassurance even though my odds of having a child with down syndrome were low. I needed that reassurance because the last scan I had of my first little guy missed all of his problems because abnormal nuchal translucency wasn’t one of them. I came close to that alternate universe. That universe where my first son survived and had such incredible physical challenges that life would never have been the same in so many good and bad ways. As my little rainbow literally face planted in the sandbox and started eating dirt I looked around in the hopes that no one would be judging me for letting him eat a little dirt before I reeled him in. After two younger brothers I know boys = loud dirt.
It was then that I noticed you.
Your son caught my eye next. It might have been the way the light reflected off the fire trucks parked next to us. Or really it was the halo of loving energy he exuded that caught me, entranced me. He was laughing, having such a good time. Then I noticed something a little different. It took me a few moments of watching him to put my finger on it. Suddenly it clicked and I realized he has that magical extra chromosome. That chromosome that opens hearts and comes at everyone with love. I saw how tired you were, trying to corral him into the stroller as it was time to go. I saw his older brother patiently helping you and him. I saw his older sister resisting leaving because she too was having a ball. I saw his older brother getting behind the stroller to push him around. I saw you watching me watch you. I saw you turn away, maybe embarrassed or feeling self conscious or maybe angry because I WAS staring.
Mama, I want you to know what I was really thinking.
I was really thinking your son has such a lovely soul that shines right through his beautiful face. That crocheted blue hat he was wearing looked so soft and framed his face just right. Its color made his complexion even brighter. I was really noticing his cherry red cheeks, flushed and happy from playing in the crisp morning. I was really seeing his joyous self excited by all the people and commotion. I was really watching how lovingly his siblings interacted with him. I was really thinking to myself, “Wow. He is such a beautiful little boy.”
I want you to know what I was really thinking because I don’t want you to think for one more second that I was doing anything less than marveling at the miracles of your life. I was humbled to be in your presence. You’re a veteran mom and I don’t doubt you have had to fight a lot of battles on behalf of your children. I can only imagine how you felt after your NT scan, or if you even had one. I can only imagine the stares you’ve already faced. I can only imagine the challenges you’ve faced. I hope you know, in your heart of hearts, that you are winning and wonderful and my hero.
With RAWR, Marie