Reese is beautiful.
I know that every mother believes that their child, or children, are beautiful. Some will argue that biochemical changes during pregnancy and after delivery are to blame for this type of reaction to our off-spring. Some may argue straight up love and emotional bonds are the culprit. Whatever the reason we, as biological or adoptive parents, think our kids are the cutest darn things that humankind will ever see.
Now, factor in a disability.
When I first had Reese and was willing to actually go outside I never thought much about how the world would perceive her. But first I should explain my unwillingness to leave the house. Reese was only 2lbs 15oz at birth and was born during what was one of the worst cold and flu seasons I could ever remember … and she was a preemie. I’m a bit of a germ phob. OK, fine. I am paranoid of every germ out there and having a teeny tiny baby magnified this by a BAZILLION.
Anyway, Reese was a baby. An extra small version and cute at a bug. To me. I loved her and all of her extra chromosomes. I was so proud of her, as I am still today, for all she had overcome.
I should probably elaborated a little more here as well. I had a very difficult pregnancy with Reese. Setting aside all the false worries our “specialists” filled my head with, she had some very real and scary things to overcome. Reese stopped growing at 28 weeks. It had nothing to do with the Down Syndrome, something was wrong. It wasn’t until after she was delivered via emergency Caesarean Section that everything became clear. My placenta necrotized. In lay terms, it died. Or at least enough of it died to significantly hinder Reese’s growth. Her umbilical cord was also described to me as “feeble”. All of this was not good. Reese was born malnourished. They didn’t expect her to be breathing at delivery, but thankfully she was. Reese spent 28 days in the NICU overcoming every hurdle she was presented with. I was in awe of her strength and will to thrive. She was a natural born survivor and I was so proud of her.
So when I finally did leave the house with her I paraded her around like a Rose Parade Queen on a float. She was my little hero.
What I experienced when I finally left the house with her was something I never expected. A reaction from strangers that I never saw coming. Let me point out that there were people who could tell right away that Reese had Down Syndrome. And we almost always could tell by their description of her. “What an angel!”, “Hello angel!”, “She is just like an angel!”. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, if the word “angel” was thrown in there, they knew. And I loved it. I thought it was a perfect way to describe her and I was thrilled that others, people we have affectionally coined “on our team”, saw her for what she was … our little angel.
But then there were the people who surprised me the most. The men and women who would be absolutely “taken” by Reese’s looks.
“My god she is beautiful.”
“She has the most unique features I have ever seen.”
“She is prettier than any of my babies ever were.”
… and they hadn’t a clue. None of them knew she had Down Syndrome. I would let them talk about her beauty and I wouldn’t say a word. At least not until the very end of our conversation. And then I just watched their reactions. They were stunned. They had no clue that what initially drew them to Reese was what many in the world would find unattractive and a reason to judge her and treat her negatively. I loved that they viewed her unique features as something positive. I made sure I thanked them and I shared that their view of her, albeit one based entirely on looks, somehow gave this mom some hope.
This morning as Reese sat at the table eating breakfast Libs and I were both struck by how beautiful she looked sitting there. Libs told me a story about a friend of hers. She had recently told this friend that she had a little sister with Down Syndrome. Her friend went on and on about how she thought babies with Down Syndrome were so “cute”.
Perhaps I am being naive and more hopeful than I should be. But I personally have bore witness to the changing perception of people with Down Syndrome. How uniqueness is FINALLY being celebrated as a gift and not something debilitating.
We aren’t all good at everything. We don’t all look the same. We don’t all come to the same conclusions. We don’t all learn the same way. We won’t grow up and all become the same thing. We were all made differently … on purpose. Each of us has a different job to do with the life that we have been given. No job less or more important than another’s. No one’s life less meaningful than another’s. How we look should not matter in the scope of things. But I sure am glad that at least a portion of this world we live in is starting to perceive beauty in different ways. In this era of awareness how we truly SEE others with disabilities is changing … and this mom sure can appreciate that.
Well, I hope you all have a day where you view the world through genuine and loving eyes!!!