I have now watched the premiere of Born This Way three separate times. Each time was unique. Each time I liked it more and, I have to say, although I'm not normally a reality TV fan (OK, I'm a sucker for The Bachelor and all spin offs) I am officially on board with this show.
The first time I watched, I was in the floor with L doing what I like to call intentional playtime. All that really means is that I am guiding her playtime in order to teach her something or work on strengthening certain muscles. I wasn't giving it my full attention but there were certain things that struck me, the first being how much I found myself relating to the parents on the show. Particularly standing out to me was the part where Cristina's parents were remembering her mother's 'lowest moment'. She described being sad that she would never worry about Cristina's relationship with a boyfriend as her mother had done for her. She was moved to tears and then Cristina's father laughed at how that worry had proven to be useless and unfounded as, in fact, they did worry about Cristina's relationship with her boyfriend. I was also so impressed with the insight, maturity, and capability of these young adults with Down syndrome. They identified their emotions. They worked through their problems. If anything about them seemed different it was that, unlike most reality TV stars I've seen, they were unreservedly themselves, with no ulterior motives, or hidden agendas.
The second time I watched the show, I watched with a good friend and her teenage daughter, who does not have Down syndrome. Watching with them, I found myself being thankful that the show addressed some of those negative feelings the parents experienced, that it shined a light on some of the added worries that parents of children with Down syndrome go through. This is not because I want others to feel sorry for me, but because it is nice to feel understood. I was also glad that it showed the similarities. At one point, one of the fathers said the emotions of raising a child with Down syndrome are the same as raising a child without, but the timeline is different. This line in itself shows both sides of the journey, and I think by showing both sides of the journey, Born This Way will help build understanding. A lack of understanding can breed a lot of negatives like fear or anxiety. It can make parents who don't have experience with disability uncomfortable around parents who do. I'm convinced that by giving people a glimpse into their lives, the families on the show will help bridge the gap between parents of children with disabilities and parents of children without.
The third time, and last time (for now) that I watched the show, was with my husband and L. This time watching it, I simply felt grateful for my family. I found myself dreaming of the future. Dreaming about watching our lives unfold together. Dreaming about what L's interests might be, and about all of the mundane and profound experiences parenting her are surely going to bring.
Nothing too dramatic happens on that first episode, but the exciting part to me is that the show exists at all. It is my hope that it will relieve some of the fear and stigma associated with receiving a diagnosis, that it will leave new parents full of hope for their children, and that it will show the world that people with Down syndrome are not so different from everyone else.