Thursday, May 1, 2008


I don't know whether it's a function of genetics of upbringing or training, but I, and other members of my family, seem to be able to spot what's wrong much more easily than most people. I call it my inborn critic. Mostly, I don't mean for my impressions to convey negativity, just reality...what is, is.

The day Walker was born, I rode by the private school for boys where I fully intended for him attend, hoping that in a few years I would be like the mom's I saw loading their kindergarteners into the door for the first day of school. Later that night, when I was told immediately after he was born that it was indeed a boy, I felt absolutely euphoric.

I don't know why our society finds it so important to have a son, but in most families, it's of some importance. Having had two beautiful daughters, I was sort of beyond just hoping for a healthy baby. I wanted a boy this time.

Before he left the hospital that night, my husband knew that this little boy was not the one we had hoped for. I was saved from that knowledge for a few more hours.

When I was informed the next morning that Walker was almost certainly to be diagnosed with Down Syndrome, they had to connect that information to the one thing I already knew about birth defects--Mongoloid. Like some other parents, my sole information on this subject came from Dale Evans Rogers book,"Angel Unawares". I had read it as an adolescent, and cried when their beautiful, and well loved little girl died. The somewhat idealized experience of living with a child with Down Syndrome had never entered my consciousness at that point. I don't even recall ever seeing a child with Down Syndrome on the street or in the neighborhood. I do recall one young man who was "different" and a bit scarey who we kind of avoided on visits to my grandmother's, but that was it.

My main question for the doctor was about how long my baby would live. I think my greatest shock came when he informed me that Walker could live a very long life. He gave me a small amount of information about what his limitations would be, and it sounded even more horrible than I had first imagined.

At this point, I withdrew from everyone and everything. I hid under the covers and sobbed until drugs gave me a little peace. Every time I regained consciousness, that incessant sobbing returned. I refused to nurse, or even see my baby. I just wanted this nightmare to go away, and soon. Sometime during that second night, which was so different from the first, someone, probably my husband, perhaps a nurse, perhaps God, reminded me that you don't have to be perfect to need love.

Now, I had spent most of my thirty something years presenting my best impression of perfection. My mother started me down that path at age two when she permed my hair so I'd look more like Shirley Temple, everyone's ideal little girl in 1946. I had been driven to get E's on all my work at school, then later to bring home a higher GPA, then eventually to make a home and family that appeared, at least on the surface, to be perfection.

This event totally destroyed that image, and it was absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me. As I learned to accept Walker's limitations, I found that I had more patience with those of my two older daughters. Just as I understood that there were things he simply could not do, I began to forgive myself for the things I couldn't least most of the time.

May I always understand and give the benefit of the doubt to those who can't seem to do what seems to be right. May I at least look for a reason that explains why they don't.


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