My special needs mothering journey began at the Junior Miss pageant circa 1982.
I’ll start with a story. At the age of 16, I decided to enter our local “Junior Miss” pageant. Yep , as you would expect, a talent was required (I sang a song from Oliver), formal gown prance, (my prom gown), thankfully no swimsuit competition, and the obligatory interview with a panel of local celebrity judges.
During my interview, the question I received went like this: “There is new prenatal testing now being used called amniocentesis that reveals birth defects such as Spina Bifida and Down syndrome in a fetus in utero. If you were pregnant and learned through amniocentesis that your child had Down syndrome, would you abort or proceed with the pregnancy? My answer: “I would have the child, because a child with special needs has worth and is a blessing.” At the time I had been volunteering with my Catholic parish service organization called SPEC – “Special People Encounter Christ” in which we taught CCD to teenagers with intellectual disabilities. Prior to that I had had no real interactions with others with special needs as our parochial school could not accommodate these students. It was in SPEC that I developed a meaningful connection to those I was working with and a much deeper understanding of what value those individuals brought to my life and to the world.
Fast forward to 1997. The day after our first child is born, the doctor informs us that our newborn baby girl has Down syndrome. Yep. True story. Crazy world, huh?
Life can throw us some surprises, but sometimes we can look back at our life and see the signs (God winks I like to call them) that may have provided hints to our future. I certainly never imagined I would be a mother of a child with Down syndrome. And that little extra chromosome has brought me indescribable joy and endless self discovery as I’ve clarified what is now important to me and what is not. No, it is not the mothering path I imagined, and yet I couldn’t be more grateful for life’s unexpected gifts.