I was recently prompted by a fellow blogger to write about the best piece of advice I was given after hearing Bernadette’s diagnosis of Down syndrome confirmed. I have given this question some thought and something quite simple came to my mind as I recalled those early days I was pondering her diagnosis and what that meant for me and my family.
I am a verbal processer. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will all tell you the same. I have been that way from an early age. My mom every now and again will remind me of how every single day I would talk her ear off nonstop on the drive home school as I decompressed about my day and attempted to figure out all of life’s issues as I spoke through them one by one.
My husband will tell you the same exact thing. I will get in the car even now to go somewhere with him and from the moment the car backs out of the driveway, my mouth starts moving and the words start pouring out.
It helps me. I often times will talk through various solutions while discussing my options. My husband will also tell you that on many occasions he has in fact given me the very advice it took me multiple discussions to arrive to that conclusion before I began my discussions. But he knows that if I eventually come to that decision, I can move forward with certainty, always reminding me it was his idea to begin with.
The pregnancy with Bernadette was no exception. I began talking through the diagnosis with David and a couple of my closest friends, those whom I felt I could be real and raw about how I was actually processing through that information.
One of my dear friends who doesn’t live close by was letting me ramble on one night about the uncertain journey ahead and how I didn’t know what that would mean for my family looking forward. Her husband works in a classroom setting with kids with special needs. I have always been able to be real and completely honest with her and she has always graciously listened to my heart pouring out.
After I finished my rant concerning things unknown there was a brief silence followed by her sharing some of the greatest advice I had come across at that point in the road. I was a short few weeks away from delivering Bernadette and my head was spinning with what ifs and how does this work etc.
She reminded me of how her husband works every single day with the most wonderful group of kids. He loves his job and the kids so much. She then went on to tell me that she had been talking with him the other night about Bernadette’s arrival. He told her that ultimately, David and I would be bringing home a baby, just like we had done twice before. She passed along his words to me and continued on with how babies are all born with the same basic needs whether they are typical or not. Medical concerns aside, Bernadette was a baby first and foremost, my third daughter, and she would need to eat and sleep and be loved just like my other daughters.
I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it that way up until that point. But it was in that very conversation my thinking shifted. Instead of focusing on all the things I didn’t know, I began to focus on the things I did know how to do. I knew how to be a mom, after all I was already a mama to two beautiful little girls. I knew how to change diapers, to rock my babies to sleep, to snuggle them in close. I knew when they needed to eat and then eat some more.
This advice brought me so much relief. It was as if my mind had come to a place of reconciliation. Sure, maybe I was not a medical expert and there was a definite learning curve relating to heart conditions. There was not as much of a learning curve for bringing home a baby who would have the same basic human needs as anyone.
I can honestly say that conversation also stirred up something in me, about how people can tend to see the diagnosis before they see the individual. I hear it constantly in this community of people and I’m not sure I understood the difference up until this particular conversation. The incredible importance of people first language. People are not defined by their diagnosis. That may be a part of them, yes, but they are not limited to their diagnosis.
I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation, that shift in my own thinking. And of course we had a lot of struggles with Bernadette right of the bat due to her heart. At the end of the day, I delivered a perfect little baby girl who needed my love and my heart, just like my other two baby girls.
Linking up with these other bloggers answering the same question:
It’s funny how that is such a simple thing, but one of the first we forget when we hear the diagnosis.