Sunday, February 08, 2009

Family Picture Part II, The Unfolding

In the early days with Bridget, my mind never stopped racing. I talked to doctors, ate and slept with my mind clicking along. I was constantly thinking about what life was going to be like once we brought Bridget home and how I was going to manage. I'd thought baby #5 was going to be a breeze. Mmm, slight change in plans.

If you've seen our blog or website before, you already know that I had a pretty strong feeling while I was pregnant that Bridget had Down syndrome. I did not, however,
go there...except in my mind. Being a planning-type, you'd think I would have learned all sorts of things to prepare, just in case my intuition was right.

But I'm also a realist, and we had no definitive information that she was anything other than a perfectly "healthy" baby. The odds were heavily in our favor for just that. So I made the decision to keep my hunch to myself, and to hope like you-know-what that I was wrong.

I had no idea what a life with Down syndrome meant. Of all the things we envision and want for our children, Down syndrome is not usually on the list. In my last post, I mentioned some of the things I thought about when I looked at the Christmas picture of the kids and tried to imagine our new baby in the mix.

When our ultrasound revealed that we were expecting a little girl, my thoughts shifted to things like room-sharing, hand-me-downs, dance recitals (or maybe soccer games), prom dresses, driving, boyfriends, college, more shoes, another wedding.

And all that is a huge part of my stumbling when Bridget was new. Was life going to be vastly different than what we'd anticipated? How would Ds affect Bridget's life, and our lives? I just couldn't get my mind around what it actually meant for any of us.

Knowing that we don't always get to choose our paths, Chris and I quickly accepted Bridget's diagnosis. We know we have to play the hand we're dealt, whether we asked for it or not.

Many times in those first few weeks, we discussed how deeply we already loved Bridget, and that we'd learn whatever we needed to learn, do whatever it took to be the best parents and advocates we could be for her. Our daily trips to the hospital did more than keep Tim Horton's in business--during our car rides together, we also solved a few of life's greatest mysteries...well, at least in part.

In one of our deeper discussions, we decided that we really don't know what the future holds for any of us, and that the things we envisioned may or may not be part of any of our children's lives--and we'd have to be okay with that.

We also came to realize that any sense of sadness or loss at that point had more to do with us, and the loss of a future that never really existed (what we anticipated, what's typical), than with Bridget.

We decided we'd have to wait for the unfolding of Bridget and her life--for her to grow and become and write her own story--before we knew how it would all play out. We had every reason to think we'd be as awed by her as we are by each of our other children. It is an incredible privilege to see a person grow and become--to see a person unfold.

There were many times in those first few weeks that I felt proud, confident and strong. At other times I slipped far out of my comfort zone, feeling vulnerable, very tired and a little scared.
There's so much to learn, I kept thinking. How am I going to advocate for Bridget when I'm still not sure what her having Down syndrome really means?

My head would fill with questions and images of some of the things we'd read or had been told, and I struggled to tell myself that we would find a way to be okay, that Bridget would be okay. I didn't know that for sure, but it is what I wanted to believe. I wanted to have hope.

Bridget was in the hospital for one month. She gained weight, and strength, and showed time and again her strong will and determination. Over a few weeks time, my mind gradually began to shift from frantic thoughts about mothering her to optimistic thoughts about the future. Instead of fearing what she would have trouble doing, or what I didn't know, I began looking forward to learning about her, what she would like and what she would bring to our family. I began to understand that Bridget, and Down syndrome, would be woven seamlessly into our lives. When I realized it was happening already, I started to let go of my fears about the future.

Fast forward two-and-a-half the little girl who talked me into macaroni and cheese for breakfast today, whose giggle will melt your heart. She's the center of attention wherever she goes--not dancing on tables yet, but I can't say it would surprise me in a few years. She's added more to our family than we could ever have imagined, in more ways than we could have known. She's a perfect combination of sweet & spicy, and she doesn't miss a trick. Plus, she's just plain funny.

Brian says it best, "Without Bridget, life would be pretty boring."

Who is to say that "typical" is what we should all be striving for? In many ways, Life is easier when things are predictable, but sometimes we all need a push into the unfamiliar...

**Coming soon : I wish I would have known then what I know now...


  1. Lovely post. I can't wait to meet her!

  2. Bridget is perfect just as she IS ~

    I totally get this: “We also came to realize that any sense of sadness or loss at that point had more to do with us, and the loss of a future that never really existed (what we anticipated, what's typical), than with Bridget”.

    I agree with you, being able to witness your children become their own person is such a blessing. I feel we have to give our children the chance to grow and become whoever they are meant to be.

  3. Absolutely beautiful!

    The part about the loss of a future that never really exisited really struck me. Thank you so much for this post.

  4. I think typical is pretty boring. I'll take Down Syndrome over boring any day! Bridget is who she is meant to be...and she is that person PERFECTLY!

  5. Man you are on a roll lately with your posts...I love it! Thank you for sharing so much of your story, so much of your heart, and so much of you! Makes me wish you lived next door!

    I love all of your past Christmas pictures. Your family is just beautiful! I can imagine you picturing who would be in the middle of the next year's picture when you found out you were pregnant. It took us so long to grow our family I remember looking at each year's Christmas picture and wondered if the next year's picture would bring a new addition....finally it did with Reid....WHO BY THE WAY dances on our coffee table :), it just started about 2 weeks ago. I will have to videotape it and post it to our blog...maybe it will inspire Bridget! :)

  6. Great points! Your pix inspired some of my own... thanks.

  7. Oh my, Bridget sounds like a doll! I laughed so hard at the "Mac & Cheese" comment... My daughter Maren was seriously addicted! In fact, two years ago, a friend from class gave her a birthday present (a real one), and a box of Mac & Cheese. We died laughing! Her friend said, "Now Maren, you can stop asking God for Mac & Cheese" during morning prayer. Bahh... apparently she was doing it at school too :-).