Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Unexpected Joy

Yesterday at the park, a mom friend was holding Jude and said "You know all the people I meet who have kids with Downs say that these kids are a special blessing." I answered without even thinking "They are." And she came back "Well aren't all your kids a special blessing?" It was a good come back and it left me thinking like all good come backs do. The first answer is that of course all my kids are special. I love them all fiercely and with all my soul. But there is something different with Jude, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I don't love her more. Yes, I love her differently but I love all of them differently. At first, I thought it was about choice.

In some ways, I argued to H, we choose her in ways we didn't the other kids.
Weren't all the kids a choice H argued back.
Well not like her. We could have chosen to abort her.
We could have done that with any of them.
But with her it was something a lot of people do.
He remained unconvinced. To some extent we are both right. Jude's being her in some ways came from deliberate thought especially once we knew about the Tri21. I'm being honest here. I didn't think of abortion as an option but it was there kind of lurking in the back of my mind. But to say this belies the choice inherent in each of our children. They were all beings we wanted with us.

I stewed over a bit more and it hit me. It was in some ways about choice. About choosing joy. When we first learned that Jude had Down syndrome all we knew was a list of disorders. A lot of parents with kids who have DS talk about this list. It's pretty over-whelming and frightening to see what risks your unborn baby faces: heart problems, epilepsy, bowel problems, leukemia, cataracts, early onset Alzheimer's. The list goes on. Let's be real: there is no joy in that list. I had a hard time seeing Jude as anything but a bundle of symptoms wrapped in a baby blanket. Looking back on her birth, I realize some my shock and distance came from this...she was a baby. I don't know what I expected. But there she was a squalling, newborn looking at me, her mama, her world. And when I started to love her, I didn't know what she may be facing health wise. They hadn't done the final tests yet. Instead, I began to fall in love. To welcome a joy that I had not even dared to consider.

This is why I called Jude a blessing. The unexpected joy. Perhaps it is more intense because I didn't think I would feel any joy. No one tells you this. No one tells you that you will feel joy even if it takes a bit longer. That you will feel love. And passion. And all those wonderful and scary feelings you felt with your other kids. It is a joy that springs on you and leaves you breathless. Kind of like that feeling when you first see the person you love...that moment when the mundane becomes something spectacular.

Those who know me know I am a realist (some may say a cynic but we'll ignore those folks) so I am aware that we are very new in our journey with Jude. Many of the conditions I listed still haunt Jude's future. As I said before her challenges will be harder in some ways. But it doesn't matter because even if she never brought another moment of joy to us, the joy she's already given is a reminder that life is never predictable. You can never imagine that perhaps in your most fearful moment, the light might shine in.

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