The gift of knowing her

In the early days after my daughter, Kate, was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, I would look at pictures from the weeks and days before she was born.

Of my maternity photos in that magenta ruffled shirt…

Of the photos of my mom cutting open the gender-reveal cake on a hot summer porch to show powder-pink sponge cake inside (it’s a girl!)…

And I would think of what I didn’t know.

I didn’t know she had Down syndrome in that picture of me eating banana pudding with a big pregnant belly at my husband’s 30th birthday party.

I didn’t know she had Down syndrome in that blog post I wrote the night before I would be induced with her. 

I didn’t know that the little girl who kicked me in bed and waved at me in that sonogram picture and completed my Halloween costume of “Baby Spice” would arrive with life-changing news.

It was — in those early days after Kate was born — as if time were split into Before-Down syndrome and After: there I was at the pumpkin patch a week before her birth. And here I was, a month later, trying to figure out what it meant to be the mother of a beautiful, precious child with a scary diagnosis.

But oh, how we learn.

Because now, 6 years later, I look back on those postpartum pictures of a tired mom with sleepy eyes and her hair pulled back holding a tiny newborn as sweet as sugar —

And I think about what I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that 6 years later, that little girl would be the best big sister to three younger siblings, her best friends in the world. That she’d love to gently kiss her youngest brother on the forehead while he slept. That I’d hear her singing lullabies to her sister when they played “family.”

I didn’t know how incredibly fun and silly and smart she would be. That she would cackle like an old woman when her sister tickles her belly; that she would love to re-enact The Sound of Music and run barefoot with glee in the rain.

I didn’t know how the diagnosis of Down syndrome would go from being a scary, unsure thing to a source of incredible gratitude. That it would change our hearts and our lives and our perspectives of the world for the better. That it would become as natural to us as the butterflies in our garden in the Fall.

And that she — like a butterfly herself — would go from being that snug, swaddled baby in my arms to a radiant source of joy and beauty whose life reflects the sunlight.

I am still learning so much about motherhood and all of my children — and God willing, I will continue to do so as this life is long. But during this October, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, it is an honor to share just a little of what I do know now —

The incredible gift of knowing her.

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