My third pregnancy was progressing well, just as my other 2 had. I was 31 years old, not considered high risk. Therefore, it was my choice not to have the genetic blood test done. Even at 18 weeks, everything looked well, measurements normal. However, at my 30-week check-up, our sweet girl had fluid on one of her lungs and other red flags that something was abnormal.
At that point, we were filled with fear, not only that there might be something ‘wrong’ with our baby, but for her life as well. We left the doctor’s office determined to name her, not knowing what the future held. Through amniocentesis, Julia was diagnosed with Down syndrome. We were heartbroken, mourning the loss of expectations for our unborn child. Never having spent much time around anyone with Down syndrome, we feared the unknown, feared Julia would not be able to use her imagination, to be independent, to play and be loved by her “typical” peers. We automatically wrote off college, marriage, things most consider milestones in a successful life.
Julia has opened my eyes to how precious our lives are and has filled my heart with compassion for those around me.
With all these thoughts, fears, and disappointments, I will confess her birth was not a joyous moment, at least not as joyous as it should have been. However, it did not take long for us all to fall deeply in love with sweet Julia. Had I known then what I know now, I believe I could have found more joy in giving birth to this unique individual.
Julia is just that, an individual, more similar to my other two children than different. She is the most independent child, always wanting to do things by herself, whether she can or not! As she has gotten older, it has become very clear that Julia can definitely participate in imaginative play. I often hear her in her room carrying on conversations with her dolls and animals. She is in a regular preschool class as well as a regular dance class. Julia has been welcomed with open arms by her classmates and participates in the same activities as rest.
Julia is full of life. She does not hold a grudge and loves unconditionally. She gets upset when she doesn’t get her way just as any child (and some adults) does. She is feisty, loving, silly, and quite the problem-solver. I do not know whether or not she will go to college or get married, but I do know these are milestones that I do not doubt she can achieve one day. It may take Julia longer to reach her milestones, but it makes the triumphs that much greater and makes me appreciate the little things we often take for granted in life.
Julia has opened my eyes to how precious our lives are and has filled my heart with compassion for those around me. Through Julia and the community of parents and other children I have met over the past 6 years, I have come to realize that we are not special. Everyone has something going on in their lives from a child with a disability, a parent with a life-threatening illness, a friend struggling with depression. We are all in this journey called Life together. I think it was completely normal for me to mourn the shattered expectations for my child when I first got her diagnosis. However, finding friends through the CMDSS and other outlets, I found community and comfort in the fact that we were not alone.