Today I was in the checkout line at Kroger and there was a pregnant lady in line ahead of me. She and the cashier were making friendly small talk about her due date and her toddler at home, when the cashier looked over and saw me and my daughter. The cashier said something along the lines of "Oh, look! There's another sweet little one!" As she did, the pregnant lady, all smiles, turned to look at us. The very second her eyes locked on my daughter's face, her smile vanished. In place of the smile was a raw, reactionary look of fear and pity and sadness. The friendly conversation abruptly ended and she turned away. She said nothing else as she finished loading up and walked out the door.
I know this lady was not trying to be mean. I know that her immediate reaction wasn't voluntary, and that I might've done the same 5 months ago. I know that it is sometimes impossible to know the right thing to say or do in situations that you have never had experience with. I get it. I really really get it. I have also known these things were going to happen, and have dreaded them, but this was my first experience with it.
Rather than letting it ruin my day, I want to use this experience to say a few things in hopes that maybe we can eliminate some of these situations in the future. If you are ever put in this type of situation, please don't look at that new special needs mom with pity or sadness, and turn away. Please realize that that mom, and more than likely a whole lot of other people, love and value that child just as much as any other child. Be kind. With all of the doctors appointments, therapies, the shock of the diagnosis, the added worries that come with being a special needs parent, this mom has been through A LOT. She will appreciate a kind word, and the normalcy of your conversation. Realize that, while you might look at that child and just see Down syndrome, that parent looks at their child and just sees their child. If there is one thing I long for for L, it is for the world to see her for who she is, and not what she has. For people to look at her, and see a valuable human being. For everyone to realize that, yes, she has a different genetic make-up than most, but she has just as much to offer the world as anyone else.
And as far as the fear thing goes, know this. It is scary. It is so so scary, especially at first, but, if you ever have a child with special needs, you WILL rise to the occasion. You WILL figure it out. You WILL find more joy than you thought imaginable, and you WILL be so much stronger than you could've dreamed. It won't always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
published by The Mighty on 12/11/2015