Today as I rocked Lauren to sleep, I felt the soft puff of her exhale on my neck. She had her arms wrapped around me and her legs around my waist. She lifted her chubby, short-fingered hand up to feel my smile, then signed "I love you". I could barely make it out in the dark.
I kissed her almond eyes and traced the shell of her small, folded ear with the pad of my finger. I softly rubbed her chubby neck and kissed her single-creased palm. I thanked God for her healed heart and for her hard won accomplishments.
This is Down syndrome. And I am blessed.
Lately I am struggling with Lauren's delays. Some days she feels so behind her peers. Other days I am amazed at all she can do. My sadness at her challenges and the sorrow in some times feel when I think about her future pops up like an unwelcome guest that refuses to leave.
My child is not like her peers. She is disabled. She has special needs. She. Is. Different.
Its been three and a half years since she was born. Almost four years since my twenty five year old self got a diagnosis that I never expected for my unborn daughter. Shouldn't I be over it? Shouldn't I be on the acceptance stage on the continuum of grief?
The truth is that grief is not linear. It doesn't follow the rules and it does not care about acceptance. Grief and acceptance are not mutually exclusive. Love and sorrow can, and often do, coexist.
Down syndrome has changed my family, thrown a wrench in my plans and given me new purpose. It has shaped the features of my daughter and made her so incredibly beautiful that most of the time I can't believe I made her.
I am owning my grief. I am owning my acceptance. She is mine and I am hers.
Love makes allowances for feelings that don't match, for emotions that contradict, for hope and fear to melt together. Love conquers all.