One of the things I’ve discovered since Tera’s been born is how completely amazing people can be. I’ve talked many times already about how incredibly supportive, loving, and caring everyone in our families and group of friends has been. To many, this wouldn’t seem surprising. You might expect that these are the people that would surround you in your time of need. However, I have read so many stories online about other families in the DS community that experienced the opposite of this. Friends and family members that stopped calling or visiting because they just didn’t know how to handle the diagnosis. People who didn’t understand what DS meant and just shut out the new parents and baby. This was so far from what we experienced. In fact, I still have people, 11 months later, asking to be added to the email list for when I send out Tera updates. The emails are a bit fewer between now that she’s a little older, but every time I send one out, I get so many responses thanking me for letting them know how she’s doing. I sometimes hesitate to send out the mass emails because I feel like I’m bothering people and cluttering their inbox when so many people have problems and stresses of their own, but the positive feedback I receive reminds me once again what a tremendous support system we have.Besides just our friends and families, and many coworkers, I have some truly inspirational students. I have to say, my senior advisory last year was not terribly thrilled I was going to miss the second half of their senior year while I was on maternity leave. But I promised them I would visit and would not miss graduation. After Tera was born I was worried about how to tell them. Not because of how they would react, but because I wouldn’t be there to reassure them that we were all relatively okay. So I had two very good friends tell them so they wouldn’t find out on Facebook through older siblings and friends. Most of them had my phone number and shortly after they found out I got text after text after text. They all wanted pictures and wanted to know when they could come and see her. But the support didn’t stop there. They did in fact come to our house to visit, but it was more the regular questions about how she was doing and wanting to know what was going on that made me so proud to be a part of their lives. I definitely did go to graduation and I definitely did cry; they had already made me so proud. But again, it didn’t stop. In June when we did the walk for Gigi’s, I had two of my former seniors that I was still very close with, join my family and I on our team. They got up early on a Sunday morning and drove from Kenosha to Barrington just to be with us and I couldn’t have been happier.
In September, many of my seniors went off to college and not too long after I got a text from one asking me for information on DS because he was going to do an informational speech on it and Tera for his public speaking class. I think he did more research on this than on most of his assignments in all of high school. He verified information with me, asked me for my side of what it was like to be the parent of a child with DS, and asked if he could use Tera in his speech. How could I say no to that? My only stipulation was that he make sure I could either read or see it when he was done, and he did a fabulous job.
Then just a few days ago I sent out an email inviting our family and friends to join us for a fundraising night at the Chicago Express hockey team for Gigi’s. I got a response back a day or two later from one of the kids that walked with us telling me that he and his partner would like to do a skate for Tera at their training facility to raise money for DS. I swear I teared up.
See I had lots of practice being a mom before Tera was born. I’ve always made sure I was there for my kids at school and those relationships are ones I never forget and am so grateful for. Just to know that these kids have turned out so well, makes me as proud as I could be without actually being their parents. I have maintained close relationships with many of them and on my worst days at school, those are what I think about to remind me about why I chose to do this.