I’m JoEllen Talley’s mom. We call her JoJo. The best way to tell you, as a new parent, how I feel about JoJo is to share excerpts from my personal journal entries from the days when JoEllen was born. I put them in chapters because when she’s old enough, we’re going to write a book together (yes, she’s nine years old and can write just like every other nine year old). We’ll call it “JoJo and Me.” She’s just like me in every way, and I love her so much. I thank God every day for her and can’t imagine a life without her.
I couldn’t be prouder of my child and though you may not fully understand it now, you’ll feel the same way – soon.
Chapter 1: The Story Begins
I couldn’t have been happier to find out that at age 42 I was pregnant again. We had an eight- year-old son, but another with a nice space in-between sounded ideal to us. I knew the statistics about genetic odds over age 40 (actually 35 is the age they start scaring you with them), but 1 in 100 didn’t sound concerning to me at all. I wouldn’t bet on a horse with those odds. Actually, I’m the unluckiest person in the whole world so the chances of me hitting the 1 in 100 were even more impossible. (This rate actually diminished to 1 in 80 as I was later informed at my delivery).
At any rate, I read what I was expected to, but early on decided against any form of test that would give me bad news half way through my pregnancy. Besides, my doctor was a friend, and she promised to give me any tidbit of information she could capture from a sonogram that looked concerning to her.
One day as I went on my 6:00 a.m. two-mile walk, I really didn’t feel like finishing. I came home, contemplated my “sick day” call to the office, and realized that I was in labor. It was all too familiar.
It was almost a month too soon. This was not right at all. I all of a sudden became scared, for the first time in a long time. My husband was almost to work by now. It was 7:30 a.m. and traffic was awful at this time of day. I’d never get him, and if I did, there’s no way he’d be able to make it home in time to pick me up. It was a 30 minute drive to the hospital.
“Hey, what’s up? I made a quick stop at Lowe’s to pick up a part for the dryer. Need something?” he said. Lowe’s was only five minutes away. This was another carefully crafted piece of the plot for us that day. Something was definitely not right.
Chapter 2: So I’m the 1 in 80?
I’ve always believed that good hair skips a generation. That’s why when I saw her for the first time I didn’t notice how many fingers or toes or even if she was breathing or not, I was overwhelmed with joy that she’d be the one in our family with perfect hair. She’ll be able to wear it with or without bangs, straight or in curls, and it’s not stringy or fine. Beautifully brown and perfect!
JoEllen seemed so advanced when I met her. She instantly knew how to nurse. She didn’t cry, and she had a beautiful little round face. She weighted 7 pounds 7 ounces, which I thought was pretty good for being nearly a month early. The nurses swept her away to clean her up, and I wasted no time calling all of my closest friends to tell them about my most recent experience (and to brag, I suppose, about natural childbirth even though it was completely accidental). Life was good now.
Then it came. There’s no easy way to tell someone that your child has a genetic disorder, so the doctor just came right out and said it — “we think your child has Down syndrome.”
“But,” she said, “she’s going to be high functioning.” What the heck does that really mean? It’s a term I’d hear a lot over the next few weeks. It’s actually a classification for people with Down syndrome, and a not-so-accurate one at that.
The only thing I said for the rest of the consultation of which I can remember hardly any of anymore was “so… I’m the 1 in 80.”
I’m the 1 in 80, the lucky 1 in 80.
JoEllen is thriving now. She’s in a regular 3rd grade class, participates in just about every activity that typical children do, and most recently she was a princess in the Miss Mississippi Pageant. She doesn’t even know that she is different. You’ll find that you didn’t know you could love someone so much!