Learning Through Lily
By, Tracy Kadavy
I wish I could go back in time and give myself a pep talk when I was a scared and worried expectant mom sitting in the fetal maternal specialist office. I was swallowed up by what I thought was devastating news that our unborn daughter had Down syndrome. I didn’t realize at the time that I had actually just been given the greatest news of all time. News that would forever change the course of my life for the better.
If I get a hold of that magical time machine this is what I would tell myself:
I know this news is unexpected and you are in shock and disbelief and can barely see through your tears. That is a normal reaction when the life path you are on suddenly changes directions. You have to take a deep breath and allow yourself to be open to a bigger, brighter plan around the corner. I will be honest; it will take some time. After you grieve the family you thought you wanted, you will start to celebrate the family you needed. Your family will be changed in ways you never thought possible.
Go ahead and allow yourself to enjoy your pregnancy. Agree to have a pink princess baby shower for Lily instead of declining one because you don’t want anyone to feel awkward. Believe me you will regret that later.
Go ahead and meet your new neighbors on your new street. Not only will they support you, but one will be the first nurse to greet your daughter in the NICU.
I know it is impossible believe all of this as your well-meaning fetal maternal specialist bumbles through trying to explain what Down syndrome is with random stories of all the people he knows with an extra chromosome. The only saving grace from this appointment will be the big, white binder from some local organization called the Down Syndrome Association for Families of Nebraska.
Sure, some of your legitimate worries and challenges will come true – an all-or-nothing lifesaving heart surgery at nine weeks, oxygen for a year, airway and feeding issues, hypermobile joints, and leg braces. But let me tell you, those medical complications will resolve, and the challenges will make the accomplishments so much sweeter. Many of the irrational fears running through your head will not come true and in fact will have the opposite outcome.
Don’t worry that Lily will be shunned and snickered at in public. The biggest challenge in your public appearances will be controlling the mobs of fans and remembering the names of everyone who knows her. You will wonder sometimes if you need to hire an agent for your star. No one will remember your name. From now on, you will only be known as “Lily’s mom.” A title that will mean much more to you than the doctorate you earned.
Don’t lose sleep about Lily not being able to walk for over two years. Sure, it will take a bit longer, but in in a couple of years you will find yourself chasing after Lily in Target thinking to yourself, “That physical therapy worked a little too well.”
Talking? Don’t worry about that either. Lily walks up and talks to everyone she meets. And when she gets sassy and demands Barney on the kindle, you also question the Catch 22 of the excellent speech therapy.
School? Not a problem. She will run out to the bus and barely look back to say bye as you are crying about her maturity and independence. Don’t waste your time and tears worrying if your daughter will be able to learn. Lily will come home from Kindergarten after the first week and tell you she is bored with learning preschool stuff.
I know you love taking Jayden to music and swim class, the zoo, and museum, and you assume this is not in cards for your unborn daughter. You are convinced Lily won’t be able to do the things your typical child is able to do. What an unbearable thought. Shhh. I’ve got a secret to tell you. The child you are carrying with that extra-talented chromosome will not only participate in music and swimming, but she will sign up for cheer, dance, t-ball, and theater. In six years, you won’t be heartbroken because of the lack of activities, you will be heartbroken because there are not enough days in week for all the activities.
And don’t think about giving up family vacations. By the time Lily is five, she will have a couple stamps in her passport taking her on journeys to swim with dolphins and sea lions. Something you didn’t do until you were in college.
Friends you say? Lily will have friends of all ages, races, and beliefs. She makes friends and melts hearts wherever she goes. I will challenge you to find a more extroverted child than Lily.
Will her siblings like her? Jayden and Brynn adore, protect, and help Lily on the bus, at school, search for glasses she lost for the hundredth time, tuck her in at night, and watch her perform in front of 2,000 people at the Lied Center. They will laugh and play, and be better people because of Lily.
I assure you every day will be a gift and a joy. You will grow as a person, mom, advocate, and friend. Right now, you don’t think you can be a parent of a special needs child, but that will all change when you open that white DSAF binder and make that first call. The uncertain pregnant mom you feel like today will quickly be transformed into a proud, fierce Mama Bear. Your grief will resolve and your heart will be full. You will never look back at the tears of sadness you feel today. You will only look forward to the tears of joy you will feel tomorrow.
Hang on, you are in store for a wild ride!
To support moms just like Tracy and their beautiful children like Lily, join us for this year's Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk on October 5, 2019. Every donation makes a difference and an impact on a local family of a child with Down syndrome.