[October is National Down Syndrome Month. This post is one of a few where we will share some of what we’ve experienced in our first 7 months of being a part of the DS community.]
You may or may not be surprised to know that many times when we share with someone how Gracie was born with Down syndrome, they get a look on their face like they just tasted something sour or feel sorry for us.
I get it. When I first found out Gracie was going to be born with Down syndrome early in my pregnancy, I felt sorry for myself too – even pitied myself.
But I was wrong. I just didn’t know – and you might not either.
Trust me, don’t feel sorry for us.
Because of Gracie, I am less selfish. I am learning more what it means to put the needs of my children over my own, and it brings me joy. That learning is bleeding over into all areas of my life. I used to not think I had time to invest in others or do things that God was whispering to me because I didn’t have time. I DO have time. It is just that I was so selfish with how I used it before, I didn’t think I had it. Of course it’s important as a mother to have “me” time, and I do, but I manage my time better now so I can make sure I am advocating for Gracie as best I can and investing in my children and others.
As a family, we know how amazing it is to have people pray for you when you are in need, reach out to you, bring you food, and offer any sort of encouragement. I don’t think I realized how important it was to do those things for people, but I am grateful now, that through Gracie, we are learning more what it means to think of others in need.
I was so rushed in life before Gracie. Just hurrying and not taking a lot of time to stop, enjoy, and celebrate moments. You know what I do now? Slow down. With Gracie, there is no rushing her development. It is all in her own time. As much as I sometimes wish I could hurry and mark something off her development list, I try to just slow down and encourage her little, amazing triumphs. She will only be my baby for just a small season of life. She will eventually meet her goals and exceed them, so I feel like my mantra lately has been, “Stop, Jamie. Slow down. Celebrate the now.” Les is a great advocate for this as well, as he is usually the one chanting that mantra to me when I forget.
How wonderful is it that slowing down has affected our life with sweet Gage as well? I may have loads of laundry to do and a sink full of dirty bottles after work, and Les may be tired from the week, but Gage isn’t always going to ask us to color with him, or snuggle and read a book, so I am so grateful we are slowing down and cherishing him even more.
Before we entered into this world of special needs, I shied away from it. I can’t remember a time I proactively reached out to someone with special needs to try and get to know them. Now? I’ll stalk you. The other week, I needed to feed Gracie a bottle in public and saw a boy with Down syndrome sitting on a bench. Where do you think I went to go feed Gracie a bottle and say hello?
If I see a parent with a child with special needs, I will come dote on your beautiful child and try to love and encourage you. The special needs community is wonderfully inclusive. Everyone is welcome. Praise God I have had my eyes opened to all people around me and am more accepting. It pains me that I was a different way before and not as proactive in reaching out.
Gracie has also taught me how to extend grace.The things people have said to me about choosing to keep Gracie, or saying “she doesn’t really look like she has it real bad,” or casually using the word “retard” when referring to something that is stupid, or even commenting that they could never do what we do, hurt. However, because my life and my thoughts have changed so much in the last 7 months, it’s easier for me to have the mindset of just wanting other people to see differently as well.
One of the most beautiful things I have discovered since Gracie was entrusted to us, is how amazing this will be for Gage. The love he shows his Gracie bug is remarkable and the compassion and acceptance he shows now, will only continue to grow. I am so grateful that he will grow up being surrounded by people who may be different than him in some ways, but that he will only understand them as being MORE alike him than different from him. That’s my favorite hashtag to use whenever I post a picture of Gracie and Gage on Instagram, because it’s true. #morealikethandifferent
So now that you know, don’t feel sorry for us.
We are not ashamed of our Gracie. We do not feel like she is any less of a beautiful child than Gage. We love talking about her. We adore showing her off. Not one ounce of us is remotely embarrassed because she has Down syndrome. She’s amazing. She’s just….Gracie.