We’ve been outed. For the first time since Eli was born, someone (besides doctors and nurses) acknowledged that they knew he had Down syndrome.
We went to the zoo on Sunday. There was a family there that had a little girl with Down syndrome, she was maybe 8 or 9. The group she was with was quite large. Too many kids and adults to try and figure out who belonged to who. But, one woman (someone’s mother I’m assuming) looked at Eli in the stroller and did a double take. She knew. I took him out and we sat down to “play with” the otters (through the glass). I could see her out of the corner of my eye watching him. Now I know what other parents must feel like when I’m staring at their child. I’m not really staring – more like watching admiringly and/or trying to decide if I’m confident enough that the child actually has Ds to say something. We definitely need a secret sign or handshake that signifies we’re part of the “club” to eliminate any awkwardness that could be created by the not staring. As I noticed her watching him, I started to get nervous. What if she asks me if he has Down syndrome? I thought to myself, feeling a little panicked. You see, most of my friends have already had their moment. That moment when someone “outs” them as having a child with Ds. I’ve always said I think I’ll cry when someone finally asks me. I’m actually not quite sure why, but I was always afraid that would be my reaction.
After a few minutes with the otters, the lady and her group started to exit the exhibit. We were heading out as well. As we were passing each other, she leaned over to me and said, “Your son is beautiful” and then she looked at Chuck and said, “Really, he’s absolutely beautiful.” What a wonderful way of acknowledging that she knew. I didn’t cry. I beamed. I’ve decided that will be the way I acknowledge parents of children with Ds from now on. It can be our not so secret “handshake”. It’s so much more pleasant than “Does your child have Down syndrome?”. There’s always a fear that you could be wrong and unwittingly (and unnecessarily) upset the parents. Plus, what’s the point of asking? The only real reason is so you can point out that you too are part of the “club”.
It may sound weird to refer to Down syndrome parenting as a club but that’s the best way to describe it. At first, you don’t want to be a part of this club. But eventually you come to realize something I actually just told a new mommy today – “Welcome to the best club you never knew you wanted to be a part of”!
Anyway, thank you to that wonderful woman at the Woodland Park Zoo for acknowledging that we too are part of the wonderful club known as Down syndrome. Thank you for acknowledging Eli in such a meaningful way. I will never forget it.
I’ve been trying to enjoy summer in Seattle before I get too pregnant to withstand the heat! I am also cherishing every moment I have with Cody. I know when Eli arrives things will change. It’ll no longer be just me and ‘lil C’. My little sidekick. I just love hanging out with him. He is so much fun!
We went to the beach and enjoyed the sun, sand, and ‘surf’ (it was on a lake so there wasn’t much surf to be had!). My beautiful niece Mijah joined us on that adventure. He was very brave and got into the water up to his knees. I think it helped that “Auntie” (Mijah) held his hand and gave him courage. 😊
A few days later we went to our favorite farm (Fox Hollow Family Farm). Mijah joined us for that adventure as well (she spent a week and a half with us) as did my sister. Cody loves that place. His favorite animals are the ‘neighs’ (horses). He’s still telling stories about that outing days later. It rained the whole time we were there but he didn’t mind. He was a pro at holding the umbrella and he loved jumping in the puddles!
Today we went to the zoo with a former co-worker and her 5 month old. Cody wanted nothing to do with the baby (uh oh) but loved looking at the bears and giraffes and zebras (which he thought were ‘neighs’). They also have a few ‘moos’ (cows) at the zoo which he loved. He definitely loves the farm animals best!
My son brings so much joy to my life. He makes me laugh and giggle. I love playing at the park or in our backyard with him. I love hearing him clap for himself when he goes down the slide or laugh wildly as I push him higher and higher in the swing. I love when his little face lights up as he hears an airplane high in the sky then cheers when he finds it up there. I love that he tells every plane he sees, “Bye! Bye!”. I love when we’re cuddling in my bed in the morning and he strokes my arm or when he wants me to rub his back before nap time. I am doing my best to cherish all of these wonderful moments together.
I am afraid of the sadness that will envelop him once he realizes that baby Eli will not be leaving. I am scared of his cries when he just wants me to pick him up and hold him after my c-section and I’ll have to tell him no. I know our household will change drastically with the addition of a baby. I promise to take time alone to spend with my little man. I know one day Cody will love Eli. I can’t wait to see him give his little brother a kiss or clap encouragingly as he takes his first step. I can’t wait to see him teach him how to throw a football or kick a soccer ball or shoot a basketball into a hoop. I am so thankful that Eli will receive services to help him along the way (speech, occupational, and physical therapies) but I am confident that his greatest teacher will be his big brother. The same little boy that has taught me to laugh through the tears, find the joy in the simple things, and that sometimes a hug really can make everything all better.