Note: An edited version of this piece recently appeared in the summer issue of DFW Thrive Magazine.
It has been six and a half months since Kate was born and I can’t believe it.
That’s what all moms say, isn’t it? The saying is as ubiquitous as “time flies” — or as older parents stopping you in line at the grocery store and saying, “Remember every moment, they grow so fast.”
That’s six and a half months since the day that forever changed our lives. The day we found out that our sweet Kate, born at only 4 lb., 12 oz., had one tiny extra chromosome in her tiny newborn body.
Six and a half months since I ate popsicles and sang songs through contractions – wondering who the little human that lived inside me would turn out to be.
Six and a half months since we finally decided on her name in the delivery room – a decision that seemed so hard to make (almost providentially) because the baby girl we imagined wasn’t the baby girl we received. She was even better.
Six and a half months since a little chromosome made a big impact when the doctor told us the news, saying, “There’s no good way to say this — your daughter has Down Syndrome.”
Six and a half months since I called my friends and family with the solemn news. Since I heard them congratulate and cry and comfort in a way that only they knew how. Since they looked at me with gentle eyes that said, “We’re all in this together.”
At the time, it was devastating. Incomprehensible. Surreal. But now — with her fat little cheeks and her gummy little grin, that extra chromosome seems to only make her extra cute.
Along with that extra special chromosome, we’ve met extra special friends. Learned extra special things. And have heard extra special stories about inspiring, successful adults who share her diagnosis.
One story in particular gave me something to look forward to. A mom, speaking of her teenage foster daughter who has Down Syndrome, told a story about how her daughter just loved hugs.
Every chance she got, the daughter pounced her Mom — and other family members — like a lion in the jungle, then clung on tight for a big hug.
She hid behind furniture and walls, cast her eyes on her object of affection, and then darted toward them like a speeding love bullet.
This passionate hug fest occurred without warning – and often at the most cumbersome times. The recipient was often holding things, completely unprepared for the enthusiastic embrace.
Finally, after having the breath knocked out of her one too many times, the Mom said, “Honey, I love your hugs – but you can’t jump on me, you’re too big!”
“I’m big?” asked the daughter with sincere puzzlement. It hadn’t ever occurred to her that she was big.
And with that simple validation – the hugs continued in a bit more gentle fashion.
The story warmed my heart as I looked at my little baby who would someday be big enough to squash me with hugs — and thought: how beautiful to not know the size of your body, but only the size of your love.
In a society where we are so quick to focus on “special needs” as lacking something – I think it’s quite the opposite. It’s the something extra special that will give Kate a unique outlook, a profound capacity for love – and the ability to affect every one around her in a “big” way.
Six months ago I received the biggest gift of love. In a tiny package. With one beautiful, extra chromosome. And I couldn’t be happier.