Yesterday I went to Indianapolis to spend the afternoon and evening with my daughter and her family. Her youngest, and my youngest grandchild, was celebrating her 11th birthday. What a joyous day! How different from the day of her birth 11 years ago.
You see, Sarah has Down Syndrome. My daughter was 34, certainly not at the "dangerous" age, and there was no reason to suspect that anything was wrong. Short arms and legs are a sign that the baby may have Down Syndrome, but ultrasounds showed a baby with arms and legs of normal length. The doctor didn't take into consideration the fact that in our family, we all have very long arms and legs.
So Mike and Val found out after Sarah's birth, in the delivery room, when Valerie kept asking why everyone was so quiet, was anything wrong? Well, the answer is yes and no. Yes, she has Trisomy 21, the medical term for Down Syndrome. This means that every cell in her body, at the 21st set of chromosomes, has three chromosomes instead of a pair. Sarah has challenges. She faces a more difficult world in many ways. She had to have surgery to close a hole in her heart. She wears glasses, and her eyes tend to cross. She wore braces on her legs, then graduated to shoes with special inserts. She has had more dental work than you or I would want for our child. That's the "yes" part.
There is also a "no" part to this story. No, there is nothing wrong. Sarah is just fine, thank you very much! She is a healthy happy child with red hair and the temper to go with it, legs that are strong and sturdy (braces and shoe inserts are gone), a heart that is working just fine, and glasses that stay on her face most of the time. Oh, the bills for glasses were pretty bad for the first few years - lost, broken, left behind.
Sarah has a lot of self confidence. She reads well. She is very creative. She will never be a doctor, but then neither will I. I'm not sure what path Sarah will take as she matures, but I know it will include bossing people around.
Here is my favorite Sarah story. This happened about five years ago, on a hot summer day sitting around the pool. Sarah had just learned to sing Pop Goes the Weasel. She went up to a total stranger, a woman, and said, "Let's dance!" She and the woman danced in a circle together while Sarah stumbled through the words, pretty unintelligible, but the lady got the drift and began singing with her. Then Sarah saw another woman and said to her, "Come on. Dance!" So the three of them began circling and singing. Then Sarah stepped back from the circle, put the two women's hands together, said, "Now you dance!" and walked off! I still laugh out loud thinking of that. Social director in the making, perhaps?
Yesterday when I went out to meet Sarah as she got off the bus, I hugged her and impulsively said, "Sarah, I am so glad you were born."
"Thank you, Gramma," she said.
Later, over dinner, one of our guests (a teacher from her school) said, "Sarah, what a wonderful day it was when you were born!"
My son-in-law Mike looked across the table at Sarah at one point and said to her, "Sarah, it was such a great day when you were born!"
My daughter said it with her eyes, and the lovely smile on her face, "I'm glad you were born, Sarah!"
That seemed to be the theme of the day, this realization from all of us that we are so GLAD that she was born!
Oh, yes, it was a great day, a very great day, and my daughter's love and devotion to HER daughter is so much of the reason that all of us can say that now, eleven years later, after all of the trials and tribulations that accompanied Sarah's birth and the early years of her life. Yes, Sarah, we are all so glad you were born.