Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reasons to Celebrate

It's a been a few weeks since my last post, but as promised to my husband, I wouldn't make this something that I felt compelled to do when I didn't have time, it would just be when I had something to share.  There have been some things that have taken place in the last 2 weeks that have once again caused me to reflect on my life and my family.  Two weeks ago we participated in our first Gigi's Playhouse 5K run/1 mile walk fundraiser.  As a team, we were able to raise over $5000 and came in third place! I'm not ashamed to say how impressed I was by this and how proud I am of my family and friends for their contributions of time, money, effort, and most of all love.  When we started the team and began spreading the word, I don't think in my wildest dreams did I ever think we could have raised that much.  But as I have said before, our little girl seems to have touched people in a way I never thought possible.  It was a beautiful day and we were joined by over 30 of our family and friends to participate in this great cause and I was so touched by everyone's generosity, if I had the time I would call each person who donated and/or joined us to thank them personally.  I can't wait to see what we can do next year :) 

The weekend after the walk was my husband's first Father's Day and I hope it as special to him as my first Mother's Day was.  We spent a quiet day at home as a family and it was wonderful to have that time together.  One of the most amazing things for me to watch lately is how much Tera has become attached to him.  She definitely seems to be comforted when he holds her after being at work all day and it almost makes me tear up when she just looks at him and breaks out into one of her huge smiles, as if to say, "Ahhh, my Dad!" I love watching them be silly together and make funny faces, and the looks of adoration at him make my heart want to just burst out of my chest with happiness.  It was a time in my life I've looked forward to for so long and so far there hasn't been a moment of disappointment. 
Yesterday we had her reevaluated by her EI team and while there are some things she still has to work on, she is still not far behind in general.  They will be recommending services for her to begin soon so that she doesn't fall behind as what is expected for her to be able to do increases.  She continues to amaze us everyday with what she does.  She moves constantly and we really do have to make sure she has time to wiggle and move each day.  She now loves to roll over and makes so many noises that when I'm talking on the phone she seems to genuinely want to be part of the conversation (so very much my daughter)! She's doing so much better with her head control and we're just amazed at much she's progressed just in the last week.  Her abilities now are what make me so glad we didn't know about the Down Syndrome until after she was born.  I know that had we known, I would have been reading and researching constantly and probably would have assumed that she would already be delayed and would have anticipated the worst case scenario of everything.  Instead we have this incredibly happy, active, amazing little girl who is doing some things ahead of typical babies her age and has relatively few medical issues.  It's just so reassuring to know how well is doing instead of having spent months agonizing over what could be happening and I wouldn't change my decision for anything.

And finally, this weekend we have her big debut celebration.  Neither of us being religious we did want her birth to be celebrated and after the outpouring of support and love from our family and friends, we wanted to give everyone a chance to meet our little stinker.  So we are having over 70 people to our house for our celebration of Tera.  I'm so excited for the rest of our families and friends to meet her and see what a special little person she is, and I won't lie, it's a reason for me to get her dressed up and get lots of pictures!

Everyday I wonder if I could love her more and I keep thinking it's not possible.  Even at 11:30 last night when she was waking up for the 3rd time since she had been put to bed, and I was frustrated because there didn't seem to be a reason why, and all it took was me picking her up and holding her to calm her down, I realized that that are worse things that could be happening than my little girl falling asleep on my shoulder because she was comforted by my holding her.  I don't know how long it will take, or if it will ever happen, but I swear I still don't believe she's ours.  I look at her and still wonder how we created her and how she grew inside me and it still doesn't sink in that she did in fact come from me and that she is the most amazing thing we have created together.  But I'll enjoy every realization that no matter how hard it is to believe, she's our little munchkin. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer inspiration

So I seem to be affected by the weather more and more lately, for good or bad, and yesterday was beautiful!!! It was one of those days that really makes me remember why I live in the Midwest (there aren't many). The sun was shining, it was in the 70's, and I got so much accomplished I pretty much collapsed at the end of the day and so after dinner I just sat down enjoyed the beautiful evening.  Summer evenings are one of my favorite things because they bring back so many memories of good times. I remember being a kid and playing outside until 9:00 because it wasn't dark yet, BBQ's at my grandparent's house, going to the park for my first date with my husband, and more recently enjoying time with friends in our own backyard around our fire pit. I also think about what those summer nights will be like when Tera is older and she can enjoy some of those same things. I guess it's sort of cliche, but there's a reason why there are songs written about summer nights.

One night a few years ago, on one of those amazing summer nights after an incredibly relaxing long weekend in Door County for our anniversary, Tom and I sat in our backyard and contemplated our future and what it would be like when there were kids running around. I have to say, at that point in time, the possibility of our little girl was pretty far away and I don't think either of us could have ever imagined how our lives would change with her arrival. But more importantly, we never imagined how she would change the lives of so many people around her as well.

When she was born, the doctor handed her to me and I couldn't believe that she was really there. I wasn't one of those people that could say I had this incredible attachment to my baby before she was born. That sounds bad, but while I enjoyed feeling her move (usually) and talked to her constantly, I guess I just didn't feel some of the things I've read other moms feel with their unborn child. But I knew I would love her and I was so excited about meeting her and starting our family. The overwhelming emotion I felt though, when she was first given to me, was wonder. Wonder about how this little person was going to be the most perfect parts of Tom and I and wonder as to how she had just come from me and that after all those months and waiting, she had finally arrived. But within an hour the doctor told us that he suspected she had Down Syndrome.  We were still trying to process things and so we decided not to tell anyone that came to visit that day.  By the second day, we knew there was no pointing in hiding it and we made the choice to tell everyone.  Tom was the one that took on the responsibility of telling almost everyone himself and I will never be able to thank him enough for taking care of that because I don't think I could have done it.  Some people were harder to tell than others, but nobody said "I'm sorry" and more than one person, "Ok, and?" Because she had to be in the NICU for a possible strep infection and some feeding issues, most people found out without being able to see her right away.  But almost everyone agreed that as hard as it was to hear the diagnosis for this sweet little girl, when they were able to physically see she was okay, they felt immediately better.  And from that day forward, she has brought our family and friends closer to us than we ever could have imagined.  It also made the bond between Tom and I, something that was already incredible, that much stronger. 

When the emails went out informing the rest of our family and friends, I was overwhelmed by the responses.  I cried so much during those first 7 days I didn't know I would have any tears left to cry.  Everybody was so excited to meet her and every update I sent out was excitedly received and responded to.  I asked two of my amazing friends and coworkers to share the news with my department and my students.  My students immediately wanted to hold a fundraiser for her and by the time we set up her Facebook page, half her friends were kids from school.  I look at Tera as a way for my kids, high school kids, to hopefully learn about Down Syndrome and as a way to increase their awareness about people who are different from them.  I know she has already taught so many people so much.

I have been reading a book called "Gifts", a gift itself from a very special person who wanted to find just the right thing to bring when she met Tera for the first time, and it brings back so many memories of that first day and first few weeks; a time that seems so very long ago.  While I still struggle occasionally with the unknown, reading this book, reflections by other moms of children with Down Syndrome, I realize how far I've come. 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.
-Roald Dahl