Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Keeping it Real

I'm not unhappy.  My life is pretty good.

I know this will cause many of you to say "duh!" rather loudly, but there are a lot of people out there that still can't wrap their heads around this.

We're not unhappy.  Life is not hard.

Oh sure, we have our fair share of poopy diapers and kitchens that don't clean themselves.  There is drama.  There are skinned noses, hurt feelings and juice spilled from one end of my house to the other.  There is life, sure.

But we're happy.

There are a lot of things we would like to change, of that I have no doubt.  My husband is a stay-at-home Dad and I'm pretty sure he'd be perfectly happy to be back at his old job on those weekends when I work nights.  Surrounded by the aforementioned poopy diapers, swimming lessons, yell-y kids, an utter lack of privacy, quiet, and a complete thought; he'd be bananas not to.  But, he's not miserable.  The little ones go down for a nap at some point and the big one is content to hang out playing video games or quietly watching a movie in the mean time.  In a related story, I'd give my (honorary) left nut to be able to stay home with the kids.  Ok, I'd probably work one day a week, but to not have the responsibility of everything fall directly on my shoulders is a nice dream too.  Something for "when we win the lottery".  I think there are times when we would both change this part of our lives.

But, we're not unhappy.  Not in the least. 

Back in the early days, the just post-potential-diagnosis-but-not-sure-but-there-is-an-AVSD days, I was pretty sad.  I had a right to be, having just lost an Aunt I cared about very much (and didn't call much in her final years) and almost losing a very dear colleague in a horrific car crash.  I was also super pregnant with twins, super heavy, slow, in pain almost constantly and had to wear "Batman" anti-embolism hose that took me no less than half an hour to sweat my way into each and every day (and a nerve wracking 5 minutes to gently fix every time I had to pee, which at that point was eleventy-zillion times a day).  I was very sad when I was told about my unborn baby's diagnosis.  As time went on, I was told I was sad as I was "grieving my perfect baby".  Once they were here, once we knew about Wyatt's karyotype, once the twins were being kept alive in the NICU, I was told by a social worker and every piece of literature that I was handed that I was grieving.  As I continued to write updates to my family, that is how I described it.  Grieving.  Down syndrome was making me grieve.

I learned more about DS when I  got the babies home.  I also learned all about them, their individual personalities and got really into the swing of being the parent of infant twins.  It was then that I started to figure out my emotions a little more.  Ok, so DS wasn't what I originally imagined for the ONE baby that I thought I was going to conceive, but really, is that one little chromosome the source of all my sadness?  How about postpartum blues, post-surgical pain, recovery, or multiple personal losses?  In relation to my son's very real cardiac condition and the two fragile lives for which I was terrified, how about simple fear?  In retrospect that sounds like the recipe for postpartum depression, not my son's T21.  My own husband, upon hearing the "grieving" bit, argued with me.  "It's not like anyone has actually died!"  he said to me, exasperated. His mother had passed away suddenly in 2001 and it was this very real loss that he referenced now.  However, as told to us by that social worker that came to see us while we held our tiny sparrow babies, we were grieving our son's Down syndrome diagnosis.  It was only natural, after all. 

It took me quite some time to sort out my thoughts and feelings, probably compounded by my early return to work and the challenges I faced because of that.  As the children grew and my son became more of a boy and less of a baby, it became more evident how he was just himself, not some list of potential or actual diagnosis, not some 'special' baby, not the source of any familial discontent.  You see, I was told that my husband would leave me, that having a disabled, a "retarded" baby would ruin our lives, our marriage.  I was told by many "well meaning" people that it was a good thing that "Down's children" were so loving as I would have a forever child.  I was told by every medical source, by every appointment, by every medical professional that his extra chromosome would be the cause of a life of sickness.  I was told by a nurse that it was a good thing he was a boy, imagine how tragic it would be if he was a girl?  I was consoled for his birth, often multiple times a day.

I wish I could wave the realization of what I had attributed exactly to his extra chromosome off as a "D'oh!" or "A-ha!" moment, but the reality is I was deeply ashamed at my participation in the "love the baby, hate the disorder" mentality.  How I would love him "despite" his Down syndrome.  How as a family we would "overcome this obstacle".  You can see that here in past posts, as my writing changes and as I became more of the advocate that I am today.  Of course, I still had to really start to check my ableism at the door and realize quite a few more things, but you can see where I actually started to get it.

This month, being Down syndrome Awareness month in the US, you would expect me to be all over this like in years past. But, I'm not.  There's a lot of reasons here, ranging from current personal illness to personal perspective.  I'm not so keen on the "awareness" any more;  the colours, the gew-gaws, the posters.  Instead I'm all about the education or the advocacy part.  Even the activism part.  One could argue that I always was more of an advocate than awareness raiser given the topics of most of my posts in Octobers past... I may partially agree with you too.  However, as I've stated before, I'm done with awareness.

Instead, I'm going to advocate.  Hard.  It may not be pretty, it will probably seem to some like I'm shouting.  It may seem to some that I am full of hate and anger and all the things that I am accused of because I don't write about unicorns and rainbows and flatly refuse to accept things as gospel as they have been "always done this way".  So be it.  I will continue to challenge the stereotypes and whatnot that many people maintain as "fact" about Down syndrome.  There will probably be swearing.  This is what I do. 

That particular social worker is no longer telling new parents of children with T21 about grieving the diagnosis.  In fact, I've helped develop resources for new parents.  This blog is routinely passed out as a reference and I have been personally thanked by a great many people.  I am no longer misplacing my emotions onto my son.   He is no more or no less stellar than any other child of mine.  My desire from day one was to ensure that nobody else would either, even if I couldn't process or understand it properly.  We are not unhappy.

We're us.  Full of emotions and drama and all the little things that make up Team Logan.  Sometimes we're happy, sometimes we're sad.  Sometimes we're silly and giddy sometimes we get frustrated with one another, hell, even argue.  Sean and I worry about the things that other couples do, like money and our health and whether or not we're getting enough sleep.  The kids romp around here together, spreading chaos and love in their wake... and occasionally whacking each other with toys.  Down syndrome is literally a microscopic part of that, if it is really a part of that at all.

We're not unhappy. We're real.

I long for the day when no one is surprised at that statement.

[A banner for Down Syndrome Uprising, depicting the text "Down Syndrome Awareness Month,
with the word acceptance stamped over the word awareness.]


  1. Right there with you. I'm so tired of so many equating thought-out criticism, analytical thought, and well, just *thinking* about things with hate or anger. And I won't even get into how those people who say they reject the hate and anger do that rejecting with nice touches of hate and anger and the quaintly belittling "why do you have to overthink things?" (Alright, i got into it anyway, i guess I'm overthinking it? ;-) )

    Never mind. Love the post!

  2. I heard a lot of the "grieving is natural" when my daughter was diagnosed with T13. I have never grieved her or wished her away - I was just terrified for the first couple of years because of her medical issues and T13 life expectancy. It's hard to remember now that she is a happy, active, never-stops-talking almost-5, though it shows up again every time she gets sick.

  3. Yup. Good work/words. As always, Mardra

  4. I absolutely adore you! Thank you for this post and your perspective and your fabulousness!


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