Thirty years ago, I was running around the office completing my work. It was the last working day of the month and all cases had to be completed. There was always a great deal of pressure at the end of the month as no one wanted delinquent cases.
This Friday would be different. This was my last Friday, last month, last year of my working career. I was one of three women who were pregnant. We all joked that there was something in the water.
In two weeks I was giving birth to a baby. Boy or girl? Most of us didn’t know back then. I was just happy to leave the stress of my first job behind.
I had done what I was required by my parents, and I suppose myself. I completed a college degree that my mother said I needed in case of divorce. I worked for one and a half years. This was enough for a down payment on our first home, and we purchased a sofa, chair, a brand new car, and used appliances. All in just eighteen months! We were proud of ourselves.
We were able to live off the meager wages of my husband at the time. It was a horrible time in our economy. My parents had purchased silver coins and there was talk of another depression. We were fearful of being laid off, but thankful just the same for employment, health insurance, and reliable vehicles that we did have.
The birth of our baby was planned, like everything else in our young lives. I enjoyed my pregnancy. No morning sickness, no smoking, no alcohol, and I watched what I ate.
Now, I was ready. The baby could come. I would rest and wash all the pretty baby clothes that were scattered across the bed in the nursery from three baby showers. I was blessed!
Only….at 3:30 a.m. I went into labor. Oh no! Not now…What about two more weeks?
At 12:12 a.m. the next day I was holding a precious, beautiful, baby boy.
We had done it. We have a son.
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
Amid the visits, cards, and flowers it was a glorious time. The first grandchild on both sides. Boy, were they proud and couldn’t wait to hold him or peek at him through the nursery windows at the hospital.
Then came Monday. Quiet. I was alone. No more visitors. Everyone was back at work. I actually appreciated the quiet. This gave me time with my new baby. Just he and I.
My pediatrician who had not been on call over the weekend came by on her morning rounds. In a dead pan voice, she stated she believed my son had Down Syndrome. Stunned and disbelieving, she began rattling off the characteristics that years of training taught her to observe: narrow bridge across the nose, almond-shaped eyes, simian crease across his palms, and a large space between the big toe and the next.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. The doctors never recommended institutionalization as my parents might have heard. Nor did I hear this from family members and friends.
I held out hope that what the doctors were saying wasn’t true. In the back of my mind, I had two weeks before the chromosomal test would come back. This can’t be right, can it?
In the meantime, Patrick was transferred to a neonatal ICU at a nearby hospital in order to treat jaundice. My mother-in-law took me to a local library to read up on Down Syndrome. No world-wide web back then. Secretly I wished, oh I wished that my perfect life would not be disturbed.
As you may have guessed at two weeks the diagnosis was confirmed. We began early with Early Intervention, Early Childhood, and the public school system. Therapists. You name it. We were busy for the next 18 years.
Patrick learned to speak a little and use some language. He participated in swimming lessons for several years and enjoyed the friendship of his younger sister, 4 years after his birth.
He enjoyed school and riding the school bus to and from school. He enjoyed the routine. And….a milestone for any parent and child, he graduated from high school. We were so proud. Since then he has participated in Special Olympic swimming and bowling events, dances, parties, and church. He has proudly won ribbons. He attends a day program where he enjoys music therapy, outings, art, and many friendships.
In his early 20’s, he was diagnosed with autism. The double diagnosis has been challenging, but I can honestly say I’m much easier at going with the flow. Patrick has taught me that.
Patrick has taught that it really is enough to have food, shelter, clothing, and all the love your family and friends can give. What more is there, right?
At 30 years of age, my wish for Patrick is to live with family who nourish, encourage, and love one another. Patrick is a valuable and meaningful part of our family. He provides joy, laughter, and some routine to our daily rituals. He REALLY helps me slow down and evaluate the speed of life and what’s it really all about.
That extra chromosome? Not a problem. God has him in His hand.
Happy 30th Birthday, Patrick!