Twenty-five years ago, my life changed. It wasn’t just about me becoming a mother, but the reality that I would be parenting a child with Down syndrome. That was a bit unexpected as I was twenty-seven-years old. There wasn’t a reason to believe that I would have a child with special needs, but God had a different plan.
What I thought his life would be, changed the moment the doctor came in and shared his diagnosis. It wasn’t just one doctor either. We had a team as there were multiple issues rocking our world. There was a lot of processing going on, but what I knew in my heart was that he would thrive. And that he has.
Twenty-five years ago, I was fearful of the future. What would that look like? Would he be independent? Would he be able to work? Would people be kind to him? The journey has been bumpy. I have (figuratively) put people in a choke hold in an effort to get his needs met. Twenty-five years of educating individuals that say “I’m sorry” when I tell them Bailey has Down syndrome. (My usual response is, “Why are you sorry? He isn’t dead”). Twenty-five years of worrying about what will happen to him when I am gone.
We have arrived at the twenty-five year mark and all of my fears have been unfounded. He is thriving. Working five days a week at a place where he is loved and accepted. They encourage him by teaching him new skills and giving him more responsibility. It is a community and he is a big part of it.
And while he isn’t living on his own, we have designed the lower level as his domain. He is happy with the arrangement and so are we. Maybe he will move out eventually, but for now, it works for everyone.
He changed our outlook on life. He makes us better people. Sure, he can be an asshole with an attitude, but he always maintains a sense of humor. His smile lights up the room. He is a constant reminder of acceptance and unconditional love. I used to grieve the child that I thought I would have, but now I celebrate the young man who impresses me on a daily basis and makes this world a little kinder.