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.