Last night the children and I were relaxing in our sunroom after a hot day here in Oregon. There was a cool breeze blowing through the screened windows, and I was nursing Hayden in one chair while Lily did the same with her doll in another. I watched her tenderly caress her baby's cheek as she whispered shhh - shhh - shhh to her...she leaned over and kissed her baby's forehead and sat her up to pat her back after she finished "nursing". She was the perfect little mama, and I felt so much love for Lily watching her display those instinctive mothering feelings my other little girls have shared.
And out of nowhere came the Down syndrome bus.
That ugly, joy-sapping thief came barreling down the highway of my mind, ready to scatter any thoughts of happiness in a thousand directions.
"Lily will never be a mama," I thought.
Do you ever have things hit you like that - maybe not even related to Down syndrome - and it's more than just a thought, it's a physical pain that strikes the pit of your stomach? In fact I'm feeling it right now trying to describe it.
I hate that feeling.
The phone rang and I handed Hayden to Abigail, while I talked to a friend. She cradled her baby brother in her arms and slipped his binkie into his mouth. Lily climbed into the chair across from Abbi and cuddled her baby as well. She rocked and shushed, sang and swayed her baby to sleep. I hung up the phone and fought that horrible feeling of dismay, and thought about all the things in the world that just don't seem fair. Little girls should grow up to be mamas, shouldn't they ? Little girls with instinctive, mothering, nurturing hearts should be able to have their own little girls some day. Shouldn't they ?
Lily slipped off her chair and wandered to the table to find a bag of wipes to change her baby. She looked so sweet attempting to clean her baby that I caught the moment on video to show her daddy later on. She chattered to her baby and I caught little words and phrases I use when changing Hayden. I couldn't help laughing at her determination and precision as she carefully laid down a wipie and not-so-carefully flopped her baby onto the floor.
And right then, as Abigail and I laughed at her little sister's diaper-changing expertise, I thought to myself...this is a fork-in-the-road kind of moment for me.
I have two paths I can go down in my mind. One is a path of self-pity and sadness and grief and what-should-have-been. I can go down that road if I want to - there are some pretty big ruts there from years of grinding the wheels of my mind.
But the other path is the way out. It's the one I have to deliberately decide to go down, because my natural inclination is to choose the other. This path is the one that looks truth right in the eye - Lily will never be a mama - and reframes the sadness that goes with it. She won't ever be a mama, but she will always have babies around her to love. She has ten brothers and sisters who will no doubt give her multiplied nieces and nephews to cherish and nurture and devote herself to, and if I really believe that God works all things together for the good, I know He has wonderful things ahead for Lily.
Will she know she is missing out on the gift of motherhood some day ? Will she feel heartache when the day comes when she realizes that isn't a possibility ? I have a tiny inkling she will.
I'm bothered by the stereotype of people with Down syndrome "always being happy" - because I see on a regular basis that it simply isn't true. Lily has a full range of emotions just like any of my other children - she is stubborn, she is feisty, she shows disappointment and sorrow and even shame. And I have no doubt that whatever her intellectual capacity is when she becomes an adult, she will still run the gamut of emotions that she does today.
But isn't that what we all go through as "typical" adults ? We have disappointments and frustrations, we deal with grief and hardship and uncertainty and unfairness... along with joy and happiness and contentment and excitement and love. Each one of us will go through hard times in our lives - there is no escaping that on this side of Heaven. And each one of us has a decision to make about how we handle those unfair things we are handed.
We can let those things break us or shape us....
I'm choosing the latter.
It hurts that Lily won't be a mom some day. But this is life - sometimes beautiful, sometimes broken... but I'm choosing to be thankful.
I am so thankful for this little girl, the one who starts almost every day with a smile, who fills our hearts to overflowing with her spirit of joy. You can't be around Lily without noticing her zest for life, and I'm going to do everything I can as a mama to make sure she carries that same spirit into adulthood. I'm going to make sure that "Aunt Lily" has every opportunity to employ her nurturing instincts on dozens of nieces and nephews, and I have no doubt her siblings will reap the benefits of that as well.
I'm not going to allow the should-have-beens to rob me of what-will-be, and I'm going to teach Lily to do the same.
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference."