3.21.16

Last spring was a hectic one for my family. With two weddings and a baby on the way, there were multiple showers, parties, and events to prepare for and attend. On March 21st, I was hanging streamers, making punch, setting out trays for finger foods, and getting my house in order for my little sister's bachelorette party. I was 6 months pregnant with L, and I was busy busy busy. World Down Syndrome Day was not on my mind. In fact, I was not even aware of its existence. 

  Pretty Things taken March 21st, 2015

  Pretty Things taken March 21st, 2015

Had I stopped to think about what I might be doing exactly a year later, as I was slicing lemons and strawberries in my kitchen and feeling L kick around in my belly, celebrating Down syndrome is not what I would've imagined. It is certainly not what I wanted to imagine. I may not have been entirely shocked if you had told me I would be aware that it was World Down Syndrome Day a year down the road, but I wouldn't have believed you if you had told me I would be celebrating it. 

You see, when I was 8 or 9 weeks pregnant, I had a dream. I dreamed that all of my friends and family were sitting in a row on a grassy embankment. I had my baby and held her in my arms and took her down the line to meet everyone. When I got to the end of the line, suddenly we were alone. I was standing under a young tree and cradling my baby in my arms. It was only then that I got a chance to look at her for myself. It was only then that I realized my baby was a girl and, upon closer inspection, that she had Down syndrome. I hugged her tighter and the dream was over.

Sounds crazy, right? Well not really, when you believe in a sovereign God who created the universe and gravity and a burning ball of gas that hangs in the sky and warms you up from millions of miles away. But whether you call it mother's intuition or premonition or divine intervention, the fact remains that this dream was a quite literal foreshadowing in my life. I do not like surprises and believe God was trying to prepare me.  In my natural and human fallibility, however, I chose not to listen and to let fear rule. 

Photo by Loren Gifford, photobyloren.com

Photo by Loren Gifford, photobyloren.com

There are many reasons I could give as to why I chose to forego genetic testing but the main reason was fear. I kept imagining the midwife calling me with what I would've then called 'bad' news. My subconscious decided that if I stayed positive and pushed those thoughts away, things would be fine. That if I ignored the nagging feeling that something was 'wrong', things would go according to plan, my plan. The dream, the small spot on her heart, the ultrasounds where I noticed her arms and legs were measuring just a little behind, my mom calling me and telling me that she kept seeing things about Down syndrome; there were plenty of signs. However, on March 21st 2015, I did not think Down syndrome was something to be celebrated. So though there were plenty of signs, I ignored them all. Down syndrome was not in my plans.

Photo by Loren Gifford, photobyloren.com  

Photo by Loren Gifford, photobyloren.com  

 

But Down syndrome was in God's plans, and because God is faithful, L has changed my life for the better. Because His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and His ways are higher than my ways, March 21st isn't a random day to me anymore. Because His plan does not succumb to mine, today has meaning. In the past 10 months, I have met some of the strongest, most kindhearted, good, and generous people. I have come to see people with Down syndrome as superheroes. I have become a better person, and want to be an even better person. There have been days where L has cried and fought me through her exercises, days when I've seen kids younger than her doing things she can't do yet, hard days when I've felt sad, but even on those days I wouldn't change her. Even on those days, I still feel like I've been given a little glimpse of heaven here on earth, and am on the journey to leading the life I was meant to lead. Even on those days, I believe L's life has meaning and purpose and that she is and will continue thriving. Even on those days, I believe she is a light in a dark world, and that is all I ever prayed she would be. So today is a day for celebrating my little bean, and all of those born with a little something extra. It is a day to celebrate the people who love those with that little something extra. It is a day to celebrate the blessings that something extra has brought to my life and the true beauty that is found in what the world would deem as broken. God has taken this thing, this extra chromosome that I was so afraid of, and used it for my benefit, and truly for the benefit of the world if they would choose to recognize it. A year ago I did not think of celebrating Down syndrome, but today I am able not only to acknowledge World Down Syndrome Day, but to CELEBRATE the extraordinary. It is my hope that because of us, others will learn to celebrate it as well. 

 

World Down Syndrome Day is a global awareness day that is celebrated on March 21st every year. Down syndrome is caused by an extra 21st chromosome. Most people have 2. People with Down syndrome have 3. They have 3 21st chromosomes, 3.21. This is why March 21st is the chosen day.