Just yesterday, my baby boy was born. Or at least, it seems like that. It had to have been just yesterday that we were driving to the hospital in the middle of the night, giddy with excitement to soon meet our second son. It had to have been just yesterday that our older son was three-and-a-half and full of questions about the baby that would soon arrive.
And then just like that, there were alarms and panic and people refusing to tell me what was wrong. Serious faces and pages over the hospital PA system and racing down a long hallway.
And just like that, the panic stopped. The steady heartbeat returned. All was well again. We settled back to meet our son, me strapped to an operating table and my husband by my head.
And just like that, he was born—a ferocious tugging on my abdomen and a strong, beautiful cry. I turned my head to the left and looked across the operating room at a wiggling mass and a bald head. I watched my husband walk over to the heating table and talk softly to the baby, who stopped crying at the sound of his daddy’s voice.
And just like that, they told me he wasn’t right. Low muscle tone, maybe Down syndrome. They were sorry, they said. But they were wrong. I might not’ve known it right at that moment, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that he wasn’t wrong—he was very, very right. Extra chromosome and all…
And just like that, I fell in love harder than I knew possible. Fiercer than I could’ve expected. Sweet, sleeping face, unaware that he was deemed “wrong”—I needed to protect that.
And just like that, I learned how strong and loyal our family and friends were. No pity, no “I’m sorry”—just surprise, as we had felt too, and then so, so many congratulations, so many people saying “he’s beautiful,” and so many people saying, “You’ve got this. He’s perfect.” So many people perfectly enthralled with this wonderful new being we had created.
And just like that, we were back in the hospital after one day at home, my tiny, scrawny boy stuck under blue lights to reverse the jaundice. And I was thrust into my first time as advocate—demanding that they take my baby out of the blue cocoon and let me hold him just for a short time after he had spent an hour wailing his head off. “He needs to be in there,” they told me. “He needs his mother!” I cried. “Just for a few minutes. Just let me nurse him and calm him down.” And they did. And I felt a little stronger.
And just like that, we were back home and life as normal resumed. Just like that, I went into a researching frenzy, trying to learn as much as I could about our new normal. I gained back my confidence and stopped crying at random intervals. And I recognized a change in my marriage—the strong bond was made ten times stronger. We were united in facing the unknown, and united in marveling over the exquisite little person we had created.
And just like that, I saw a side to my older son that I cherish: a tenderness and utter adoration for his new baby brother. He was captivated—and once the baby stopped sleeping around the clock and began to look around more, he was captivated by his big, mysterious brother too.
And just like that, he was a year old, and finally sitting up on his own. Things moved along pretty normally, but my need to connect with people who understood that magical extra chromosome remained. And just like that, I fell into an incredible group of Rockin’ Moms who became my lifeline when I was concerned about something DS-related and needed someone “in the know” to ask. And who often made me laugh so hard I cried. Crazy, wonderful new friends—a most welcome addition to the awesome group of friends I already had.
Just like that, my circle of friends swelled. And I learned how deeply I can care about children I’ve never met before. During the winter months with colds and flus and RSV and pneumonia lurking, it seemed as if every day there was another child in our group being hospitalized for complications from something a typically developing child would kick in a day or two. Most of these sweet kiddos made it out of the hospital…but not all. And some of them made it out only to go right back in. More than once, I put my head in my hands and cried over these children. And hugged my own son extra tight, thanking God he was reasonably healthy and at the same time wondering when our luck would run out.
And just like that, I learned what it’s like to hold your child before bed every night and silently whisper thanks for another day. Because even though your child has been lucky and healthy, you’ve seen too many who haven’t, and your heart aches for them and for their families. And if you’ve learned one thing, it’s that whatever time you have with this little being, you are better for it. If his time runs out early, God forbid, you know that your heart will break into a million shards…but that you will have been glad to have him in your life, because he made it ever so much better.
And just like that, he was two. Not walking yet, but crawling. Not talking yet, but babbling a little. And smiling…oh, such a beautiful smile. I learned what it’s like to be approached every single time at the grocery store by strangers who are just captivated by the tiny, sweet little guy waving at them. One day I even got stopped in the parking lot by a woman who leaned out her car window and called, “I just have to tell you, he is the most adorable baby!” And yes, he is cute…but what really draws people in is his open, warm smile and his unabashed friendliness. He loves big and bold—there is no middle ground with him.
And just like that, I was forced into the somewhat unwelcome role of advocate again—trying to convince people that I, as his mother, knew what was best for his health. At the same time, I questioned whether I really did know. I thought I did…but did I really? Could I be sure? I took a giant leap of faith and listened to the doctor who agreed with what I felt in my gut. And when I turned out to be right, I breathed a giant sigh of relief, because honestly, I really wasn’t sure. How could I be?
And just like that, he was walking! And trying to talk. And playing differently—more purposefully, more maturely. And he was in “school.” He was becoming a little boy, right before my eyes.
And before I knew it, he was eating…finally eating! Not so much for me, but for his school, so I knew he could do it. He was the class clown and making friends, even though he still really couldn’t talk much. He was washing and drying his hands on his own. I saw my little boy through different eyes. He really was growing up.
And just like that, his third birthday was approaching as I stepped into the advocate role again, fighting for him to be treated just like everyone else, because by now I was confident that he was just like everyone else when it came to capability. Unique, yes. A little slower, yes. But just like everyone else.
And just like that, he’s three. All big blue eyes, blond hair, and mischievous grin. He’s talking some now, and his favorite word is “no.” He’s fighting back with big brother, who still adores him so much that apparently it gets annoying sometimes. He’s playing silly tricks on us and giggling in glee over them. He’s ready to step into the real world, even if maybe I’m not quite so ready for it.
And just like that, in the time it took me to close my eyes and open them again, he’s three. And oh, how proud and happy I am. We are the lucky ones who get to enjoy this ride with him. And we know it.
Happy birthday, Samuel Ames. You make life a joy. Just like that.