My daughter just turned four. FOUR. I swear to you I blinked and my sweet baby girl all of a sudden morphed into this sassy little preschooler. I think of little moments and I wonder where the time has gone…
Let me introduce you to her, my firstborn, the baby that almost wasn’t…
The baby that almost wasn’t. One choice brought her into this world, although I had no idea at the time. When I realized the impact of my choice a few days later, I humbly thanked God for the choice I made. I suppose had things gone another direction, I would never had known. But to think of my life now, with this child in it, I shudder to think of the alternative.
Let me explain.
When my husband and I were planning our future together–before we were married–there was one thing we kept coming back to: kids. We both wanted them. Lots of them. Of course we had fleeting discussions about marriage, but we weren’t in a hurry for that. But kids, well, we were in a hurry for kids. I always had this nagging feeling that I should be having kids sooner than later, that things in the reproductive department might be a little hard for me. I had absolutely no medical or scientific basis for this. It was simply a gut feeling that had always been there. It wasn’t something I necessarily discussed with anyone, including my girlfriends. But it was something I knew in my heart to be true. Always.
So, when I fell in love with my husband, and we determined (without any rings involved) that we would be spending our lives together, we set out to buy a house and make some babies. This news might surprise some folks. I apologize to any family members led to believe my daughter’s conception was an “accident”–it certainly was not. In fact, after trying for 6 months unsuccessfully (we started trying before we even lived together–double whammy), we made an appointment with my doctor. Adding to our uneasiness was the fact that my cycle had been on hiatus for months, but pregnancy test after test came back negative. We were nervous but excited. After examining me and finding no obvious physical defects that would prevent me from conceiving, my doctor led us to her office, where she offered us two very expensive pieces of advice: go home and have a lot of sex and there was a pill available that would make me start my period. I could take it, she said, and be able to start tracking my cycles from scratch.
My husband (then-boyfriend) and I looked at each other. I took for granted that we were on the same page, thanked the doctor politely, and declined. I felt more comfortable letting nature take its course, I explained. I walked out of there feeling like we had learned little and feeling disappointed that I was so not pregnant (as if there are varying degrees of pregnancy) that I could have taken a pill to jump start my cycle and it would have been no big deal.
That was on a Friday. I remember what I was wearing that day–a red cable knit sweater with jeans and my black Merrell mules. I remember that I made a special effort to dry and curl my hair that day even though we were taking students on a field trip. I wanted to look pretty if the doctor told me I was pregnant. I knew exactly how I wanted the scene to play out and I did my best to stage it to my satisfaction. I remember receiving a compliment as I got on the bus that morning and thinking maybe I had “the glow.” But when we left the doctor’s office, I had to accept that “the glow” was nothing more than a good foundation and some skillfully placed blush. Good makeup. Nothing more. I said this already, but that was a Friday.
On Sunday, I was pregnant. I mean, it wasn’t like I wasn’t actually pregnant on Friday. It’s just that I didn’t know I was, and my doctor didn’t know I was, and seven pregnancy tests didn’t know I was. Until Sunday. And finally, after months of trying, I was pregnant. I guess my makeup skills weren’t as expert as I had thought. It was the glow after all.
One decision made in less than a minute guaranteed my pregnancy would continue. When I realized the magnitude of that choice, I was overcome with emotion. Had I taken that pill, I would have effectively (and unintentionally) ended my pregnancy. My daughter wouldn’t be here. My life would be very different.
But she is here. In a big way. She is here and she wants the world to know it. She is precocious and spunky. She is loving and independent and resourceful. She is mouthy, she is feisty, she is thoughtful. She is a living, breathing dichotomy. And I love every bit of her, even the stubborn streak she unleashes at the most inopportune moments. She is my heart, my soul outside of my body, my breath and my life. She is my world.
When Eli was born, one of the first concerns I verbalized was how his diagnosis would impact my daughter. I cried because she had dreamed of having a healthy sister. Instead, we were giving her a brother who had to be whisked away to Children’s Hospital just to survive. Certainly not the healthy sister of her dreams. Would she resent him? I asked that seething question through my hot tears. I couldn’t bear the thought of her resenting him. And I resolved then to shape her experience of Down syndrome into something positive. We could teach her to embrace it. That’s a delicate dance.
Today, Evie adores her little brother. There is no resentment (although that could come later) and she sees him as a person, not a diagnosis. She will be his greatest teacher and therapist, and I am looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops over time. I believe she will always love him. And I believe she will never regard him as a burden. She is as compassionate and tender as she is stubborn. And I love that about her.
We get moments, you know. Only moments. And we can never go back and live them again. I’m going to make this my mantra as we sail through the next four years. And then the next four. And the four after that. She will be grown in no time, so for now, I want to enjoy our moments.