"What are you hoping for?"
It's a question I've been asked a hundred times during my pregnancies over the years. For the most part my answer was always the same- a healthy baby. Even if I was secretly hoping for a girl - ten years ago today I was indeed thrilled to deliver my second girl after having given birth to five boys - I would still reply with the standard line: "we just want a healthy baby."
It was as if I thought I was jinxing my chances for having a healthy baby if I said what I really wanted- a little sister for Mackenzie, or another boy because I'm so partial to baby blue. So I'd state my one requirement, an answer to a question, and a little prayer to God...a healthy baby, that's all I'm hoping for.
And isn't that what we all hope for anyway? A baby without defects, one who arrives in life without any challenges, perfect by medical standards at least, even if they don't end up on the next Gerber baby ad.
Because who hopes for a baby with a syndrome?
And right up there with that spoken hope - the one for a healthy baby- was my unspoken one. The one that wanted my babies to be smart. Of course they didn't have to grow up to be geniuses, but definitely somewhere in the "above average" zone. I wanted my kids to be the best at whatever they set their minds to, I wanted them to excel in life and to learn well. "Gifted" "talented" and "bright" - those were words I wanted my children associated with. Never in my prayers or hopes or dreams did I imagine that "mild to moderate cognitive delays" or "learning impaired" were phrases someone might use to describe my child.
And perhaps hidden even deeper in that list of things hoped for- maybe buried underneath the avalanche of universal wishes for one's baby, such as blond hair or blue eyes or her Daddy's smile - I wanted her to be able to read.
Not quite as profound a wish as others, maybe a little bit more specific than hoping she'd do well in school- I wanted her to share my passion for books. From the time I was old enough to hold them in my hands, books have been my best friends. They've opened up new worlds to me, they've taken me to places I'll probably never physically go, and if life ever gets so overwhelming that I want to scream, I have a proven fail-safe method for de-stressing: go curl up in the corner with a good book.
So when Lily was born, in the midst of all the little dreams I tucked away in a box called "do not open again" was one that I really thought had died ~ reading. I wrote about it, cried about it, and I honestly believed this one little hope was something I had to deliberately let go of.
...has a mind of her own.
And thankfully she hasn't been hindered by any low expectations on her Mama's part. Because just like all of her older siblings, she has a love - no - a PASSION for books.
She loves her baby dolls, her toy house, her fake cell phone and her purses, but a dozen times a day, on any given day, Lily gravitates to her books. She turns the pages slowly and carefully, she "reads" the words out loud to herself, "lalalalalala", the cadence of her voice changing as the story unfolds. She points to pictures and laughs at them, holds the book up for us to see, reads each one from cover to cover and starts over again. She takes her siblings by the hand and pulls them over to the couch, hands them one of her favorite stories and climbs up onto their laps to read. There isn't a day that goes by that Lily doesn't lose herself in one of her books, and when she's sad or sick or- yes, I'll say it, stressed - she's found the cure that works for Mama, and curling up in the corner with a good book works for her too.
I don't have any doubt that Lily will one day learn to read. Because I peeked into that dream box - the one labeled "do not open again" - and to my amazement, it was empty. Along with so many hopes I had quietly hidden away there, the dream that she'd share my love for books is now becoming a reality. The very things I thought she couldn't or wouldn't do are what our days are made of, and it's a wonderful thing to behold.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.