Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Party

Not long ago I faced my future and my past, face-to-face, in the life of another woman. It was at a 1st birthday party. A birthday party for a little girl with Ds who had been adopted. A girl who had been adopted by a family that had hoped to adopt MY little one with Down syndrome. The birth-mom, birth-grandma and birth-sister were all at the party, as were Lauren, Ada, Adrienne (our respite provider for Ada) and me. There was talk that the birth mom "Amy", may not come to the party as she didn't like crowds or being around people she didn't now well. But she was there and when we sang "Happy Birthday" to her/their baby, she was overcome with emotion and left to go sit in her car. That simple shift in Amy's demeanor while anticipating the singing of the song and then hearing "Happy Birthday dear Baby" took her by surprise and took me right back to a place I once envisioned myself. I went out to her car to talk to her, knowing that I may never be in that situation again-one in which I was watching another person (very different than me, yet the same) show me my feelings. It was both surreal and life-affirming.

Could that really have been me? Did I really come "this" close to writing an adoption plan for Lauren a.k.a. Anna a.k.a. Emerson?? Yes, I did and frankly I am okay with that. We don't always get to choose what we take on in life or what we want. But, I chose Lauren. When Amy left the party to collect herself in her car, I knew that a piece of me went out to the car with her. That shadow of emotion spoke so directly to me because i've thought about it a hundred-million times. How could I maintain a relationship with a family that was raising my daughter? Would I look forward to the photos and updates or would they break my heart over and over again? How would I feel if she got hurt or, for that matter, got picked to be in a calendar?

After leaving the hospital with Lauren we were able to stay at a friend's home while we sorted out the details of the adoption plan. So much was up in the air as the 2nd family we had chosen was out of state on vacation and we were not well-informed about inter-state adoption policy. We did not plan on taking Lauren to our home as we didn't want to confuse our other children about what we were doing.

We left the hospital on Friday and knew that on Sunday, the social worker would come pick up my baby to take her away, to, eventually, meet up with her new family. My baby would be taken away in a strange carseat and I didn't know when I would see her again.

It was truly more than I could bear. Having gotten to just that point, I don't know how some mothers have the strength to go forward. There is nothing selfish about adoption on either side of it. I sat in that friends home holding Lauren and howling with tears of pain at the thought of sharing her with another family. My heart was literally melting away in little piles at my feet.

My love for this little person was so real, so intense, so life-altering. I found Lauren to be the most precious little person I had laid eyes on in a very long time. Holding her and gazing into her sweet face erased all of the fears I had about Down syndrome. She was here and perfectly formed and meant to live. And I did not want her to leave me. I did not want to get pictures of her with another Mommy and Daddy, with toys that we didn't own or wearing clothes that we hadn't seen before. I didn't want someone else telling me what she was doing or what she was working on. I wanted that all for myself.

While Amy seemed mostly at peace with her decision, I know in my heart that I would not have been; it would have haunted me and hounded me for...ever. I needed to chose Lauren so that I could become a better version of myself and open myself up to a world where the possibilities were unknown, yet, endless. I truly admire Amy for giving this family a most treasured gift and my heart goes out to what might be a daily struggle for her to reconcile her decision. Her-their baby is beautiful though, loved by many and given the choice of life. That is perfect.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

their story is not yet written.

Today is Easter which has nothing to do with what's on my mind except in a very roundabout way regarding God and Jesus and how God must have incredible faith in us. All of us. Including kids like Ada and Lauren who have many challenges but much hope.

Hope is the best isn't it? I run out of hope sometimes because I get bogged down and worn out and sad that it is so hard to have the life I want and deserve. Why can't I have lush green grass in my back yard instead of a patchy dirt lawn that the kids enjoy but don't get to enjoy the way I want them to? Why can't my house be clean and free of clutter and peaceful? Why?

Some people believe that children like Lauren will never grow up to have babies. There are a few reported stories of women with Ds growing up to become Mommies. I don't know yet if that is what would be best for Lauren. For Ada, it was apparent years ago that she wouldn't and really shouldn't become a mommy. Yes, she is an incredibly loving and patient person but she tires quickly of responsibilities and doesn't have the common sense to know that a child needs to be fed and played with and bathed and cuddled - every day.

Lauren's story is not yet written.

Having Down syndrome is part of who she is but not all. I can't see into her ovaries to see if it is rich with perfect little eggs ready, someday in the far future, to be united with a life-equaling match.
Perhaps Lauren won't want children because she's so busy with her law career or writing a book.

Her favorite past-times right now are throwing anything and everything with a mighty side-arm, saying NO and cruelly smashing her baby doll into her little stroller.

When I look back at my own childhood, I never imagined that I would be the mother of 5 challenging children, living in Michigan, working as a counselor, still trying to find my way. Our past is a big part of our future, like it or not. As much as we try to accept and work through our issues, they rear their ugly little heads when we let down our guard, and/or find ourselves in moments of doubt. Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and say..."OK, you win" (whoever you are). I get is hard and unexpected and not much fun at times. I get that.

But, what are we here for, if not to find what our limits are and then exceed them? We didn't "come with a manual" Dr. Spock, much to the chagrin of Moms and Dads everywhere. We are all stories to be told, myths to be busted and labels to be either represented or mis-proved. We don't have to do anything or everything. We don't have to fulfill anyone else's expectations other than our own...we are both paradox and cliche. We are human--- we are sublime-- we are spiritual and ethereal.

We are all Lauren....a little girl full of promise and surprise...hoping beyond hope, that we will reach our full potential, whatever that may be.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Having Lauren

Having Lauren is like sitting on the shore of the ocean and the waves just keep washing over you...over and over...surrounding you, drowning you, smoothing out the rough edges and sometimes scaring you. Waves of joy and peace and sorrow and hope.

Having Lauren is like taking the piece of the pie that is a little lopsided, oozing out the side and perhaps mishappen and putting it to your mouth taste absolute perfection.

It's being surprised and expecting the unexpected.

Having Lauren means taking walks around the block with a girl in Red Cowboy boots who sometimes just wants to sit or crouch down and look at you for awhile.

Sometimes Having Lauren means being ready to die because you have seen the perfect picture of your child .(dressed as a Cowhand with her perfect little fingers delicately holding the lasso).

Having Lauren means walking into a new school and looking forward to the new people she will bring into your life because of her infectious smile, outgoing personality and incessant need to give everyone "the rock" and a high-5.

Having Lauren means nicknames like LoLo, Bitz, Bacon Bitz, Bisser, Wisser and Stinker.

She is all that I could want in a child and more...she stretches me in uncomfortable ways and she also gives me that deep satisfaction of knowing I'm doing the best I can.

Having Lauren means rethinking what perfection looks like and seeing other kids as missing something when they DON"T have the remarkable features created so lovingly by the extra 21st Chromosome.

Having Lauren means eating my words because I made such a stink in class one day because a textbook described kids with Ds as Stubborn..and, well, that is a word I would use to describe Lauren (sometimes).

But, it is also a word I would use to describe any 2 year old.

Having Lauren means that when therapists who have become jaded and impatient due to too many years in their chosen profession say things like "she is being Downsy", I can turn the other cheek and imagine Lauren graduating from High school, dancing at her Prom and having friends over for a sleep-over.

I can also see very clearly the fact that her entire family absolutely adores her and delights in her...not to a fault...believe me, my 7 year old tires of her just as he would anyone who takes him away from him Mom and messes with his stuff.

But they are also better because of her. Because....

Having Lauren means that each day will have an additional layer of interest and taste. Each day will bring out something different in us and each day will prove to be worth living...because of a very exceptional little girl who walks around the block in red cowboy boots.

Monday, February 8, 2010

some kids take a whole lifetime to raise aka. i'm still learning how to be a mom....

this has been rattling around in my head for awhile especially in relation to my son, Nolan. Nolan is newly 22 and one of the most unique young men you will ever meet. He wears his hair in a very unkempt Jimi-Hendrix-meets-Jimmy-Neutron way. He's white, he's black; he's cool, he's nerdy.

He's my son and, yet, he's a stranger.

Nolan was a gift given out of very unnatural and unnerving circumstances. Despite the situation, I kept Nolan. I said Yes to him and knew with all of my heart that I would love him always. He was born at home on a snowbound Illinois night; only a neighbor was able to reach our home before his first lusty squall. He was calm, alert and absolutely gorgeous. That was then: back when I thought that love alone was enough.

Raising a bi-racial child is something i entered into blindly and I don't know that i've done that great a job of it. I've been stupid, i've been naive and i've fallen short of the mark. Still, Nolan remains my son: he loves me, stays with me and assures me that i've done nothing wrong. He blames no-one for his faults, his tendencies, his insecurities or his interests.

I wish I would have know then what I know now - that it takes more than two loving parents to help a child become a man: it also takes guts and risks and knowledge. It takes perspective and patience and strength. I see now that I didn't risk enough in the way of helping Nolan get to know what it's like for other black or bi-racial children. I really thought that if I accepted him enough, he wouldn't need to know anything else.

All children are a mystery to be solved, but none moreso for me than Nolan. Not only is he my first son but he has the IQ of a gifted person, mad skills in music and math, huge hair that I call the 8th wonder of the world, a snowboarder (who passionately despises Sean White), a gamer (Hello? World of Warcraft? can I have my son back?). He isn't into HipHop or Roca Wear - more like Urban Outfitters and Express.

He is comfortable in his own skin and ever since his birth I've had to ask my self if I am? Am I comfortable with who Nolan is? It's not an easy question or a simple answer. I love him, I pray for him and I want him to know that Love and Acceptance...but I don't know if he ever will because...because perhaps, I don't know how.

Nolan got in some trouble recently at school for having marijuana in his apartment. It shook him up a bit and as he explained what happened I went right back to that place where I just want him to know that I love him and want him to be his best. It reminded me of how much I just need to show him my acceptance of him but I feel like I need to go back 22 years and start over again. He's home now and I am happy that he's here. I know how to love him. He is my first son, the one I got to learn with and I will continue to do so...forever perhaps.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

School is in session...

and I have pictures to prove it! Lauren is now (almost) exaclty 2 1/2, old enough to begin attending Ida's preschool for the hearing impaired. Some of our favorite people are from Ida so we have been looking forward to this for awhile.

Here is a quick snap shot of her first day. she even rode the bus home but my camera was in her Elmo bookbag so I didn't get any pictures yet.

Outside her locker agreeing to a quick pic with Mom.

Eating her snack all gone - she already has earned a Masters degree in eating, this is just a refresher course. Notice the little pilot cap for keeping her hearing aids in place. In theory, at least.

Block time with her new friend, Chloe

Music and Movement time - just look how tiny she is! But, she holds her own and has a lot of presence :)~~~~~

Calendar and story time - dont' let the picture fool you - she was up plenty according to her teacher, Joy.

So far, so good. No tears from LoLo or me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

a video worth watching

Please watch this video montage put together by a Mom from my online Down syndrome support board. She is the mother to a little girl named Gabby who was loved and wanted, just as her other children are. The fact that Gabby would have Down syndrome did not sway her love, commitment or longing for her.

She already had 2 beautiful daughters and Gabby brought the count of beauties up to 3. As you will see, Gabby was absolutely precious, vibrant and very loved. As planned, Gabby had open-heart surgery, something quite common for babies born with Ds. The surgery went well but the recovery did not and Gabby did not make it.
The commentary on the video reminds us of how even the difficult parts of life: the parts we don't choose, become the most important, impactful and amazing...anyway...the video (and yes, Lauren is in there, too!):

Gabe, Curtis and Dav

Future Drummer?

Future Drummer?