I was asked a few weeks ago "What's something in your life that you are now thankful for, but at one time you thought it was the worst thing to ever happen to you?"
The thing that immediately came to mind was Down syndrome. But then as other people started listing different trials in response, I wondered- do I view Down syndrome as a trial? Is it a bad thing that we are grinning and bearing our way through? Is it a cancer that we pray for grace to have the strength for?
Am I thankful for Down syndrome because it is a fire that has worked to purify me and my family? Is it the flood that we are sustained through?
As I stare into the vibrant eyes of my daughter, I wonder- do I love her in spite of this "trial" of Down syndrome? Or is Down syndrome one of the reasons that I love her- not a trial at all?
As her short arms wrap themselves around me, I feel something settle in my heart that I know is right. Having her low muscle toned body wrap itself around me is love. Having Addison as my daughter brings me so much joy- so much happiness. But is that because of Addison? Or Down syndrome? Or are the two so tightly entwined that I can't differentiate between the two? Is Addison Down syndrome?
And if that is the case- is calling Down syndrome a trial- calling my daughter's very existence a trial? The cancer of our family?
When I first received her diagnosis- I would have said yes. That is what I thought was happening. That is why I was so horribly upset by the diagnosis. I knew absolutely nothing about Down syndrome- other than my prejudice and narrow minded view of those different than myself.
But then she was born. Then we got to know her. We learned something about Down syndrome- about what it is, and what it isn't. What is it? a part of our sweet little girl. What is it not? A trial, a cancer, something to endure.
So when I answer the question "What is something that you are thankful for now, but at one time you thought was the worst thing to ever happen to you?" I apply Down syndrome not because it is such an incredibly hard trial that is purifying our family. No, I answer "Down syndrome" because I have changed. My perception has changed. I have grown as a person and a mother. My mind has broadened to recognize disability not as a bad thing- simply as a different form of the same. A varied normal. I have changed into someone who actually knows what Down syndrome is. I am no longer staring into a faceless diagnosis that seems dark and gloomy because it is off in the shadows. I am staring into the most beautiful face of my sweet daughter.
And so this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Down syndrome.
I am thankful for tiny feet with extra space between her toes and even tinier hands with a crease across the palm.
I am thankful for a sweet voice that works so hard to tell me things.
I am thankful for a year of health problems that showed us how precious all life is.
I am thankful for a difficult prenatal diagnosis that broke my prejudices and made us a better, kinder family.
I am thankful for a head full of thin blonde hair that curls if it is humid outside.
I am thankful for the name Addison and the 4.5 years of incredible memories that name brings to mind.
I am thankful for the sister she is to her brothers.
I am thankful for almond-shaped, blue eyes that sparkle with mischief.
I am thankful for perfectly shaped calves that love to climb.
I am thankful for short arms that reach for my phone as soon as I look away. (So that she can look at all of the pictures of herself.)
I am thankful for rosy cheeks that tend to get chapped when it is cold out.
I am thankful for a big, little girl belly which means that leggings fit her better than jeans.
I am thankful for her care of the baby- feeding him, shutting the toilet when he gets near, putting hats on him, and giving him lots of hugs.
I am thankful for my mind being broadened to realize that difference is not bad. It is not something to be feared.
I am thankful for Down syndrome
I am thankful for Addison
Are they the same thing? Does it matter?
I find my heart overflowing with love, hope, and joy as I parent my little girl. Every part of her is perfection, down to her tiniest of ears and flat nose bridge. And so I am thankful for the beautiful gift that has been given to me to mother.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! May your day be full of thankful moments that turn into thankful memories.
(Those of you who don't follow me on Instagram or FB- I am also thankful to have my first novel coming out in January! More details here)