Saturday, March 26, 2011

Birthday--Part II

(I insert a helpful note here: You should really read "Birthday" from my February 28 post before you read this one! It's a continuation of the story that began that day.)

"Memory is more indelible than ink." ~Anita Loos

Part 2 is a little harder to write about. There were words spoken and thoughts thought that day that don't remotely reflect where I am now. Even though I know that my 27-year-old self is miles from my 53-year-old self, some things are painful to revisit. In fact, I still admit to a million internal admonishments about that time. I prefer not to think about them. But here is what else happened the day Clifford Anthony Taylor was born:

Discovering my new baby had Down syndrome was a relief, given that I thought there was something truly life-threatening going on. The pediatrician, in his wisdom, had asked Ken if he wanted to give me the news or if he wanted it delivered by a doctor. Ken's decision to tell me himself was just one of so many things he did that I consider a gift.
I lay exhausted in recovery when he came into the room with tears in his eyes. He spoke the words that I know must have been so difficult for him to say. "The doctor isn't sure, but he thinks the baby has Down syndrome."
Almost immediately, my mind went to Ken's cousin, Mary. Mary was in her twenties at the time, a delightful, lovable young woman. And Mary had Down syndrome.
In my shock, I needed to explain what was happening to me, to understand why, of all the new babies in the world, mine had a chromosomal abnormality. I wanted to blame someone. For just a moment while I took in this unbelievable news, I blamed Ken. I thought, it must have come from his side of the family. It was his fault. But at the same time, I was horrified at my own thoughts. I looked into my husband's eyes, beautiful and blue and absolutely devastated. I told him, "We can't blame each other for this. " It was as if, by saying it aloud, I quieted that destructive, absurd thought in my head.
And I was afraid he might blame me.
Of course, it was never anyone's fault. It just...was.
Later, as we took turns holding him, I thought about the name we chose. Clifford was the name of Ken's late father. We had assumed our first son would carry on the Taylor name. It's such an old-fashioned notion thinking back on it. Nonetheless, this child would not be the son to do that. Should we name him Clifford as we had planned?
My uncertainty didn't last long. Ken and I  looked at each other and smiled. Clifford was the name he deserved. Grandpa Taylor would have been honored to know this grandchild would be named for him. This baby was perfectly perfect and deserving of the name of a man who, by all accounts, was a good, loving man and a wonderful father.

People are fond of saying that "kids like these only go to the most special parents." It's a sweet sentiment, but we were just normal people, imperfect like everyone else. People also like to tell us Cliff is a lucky young man. I would counter by saying we are the lucky ones. If I'm going to be truthful here, it isn't always easy. But the good stuff far, far outweighs the difficult stuff. Of that I am sure.
Twenty-six years later, I can honestly say to people just absorbing the news that their unborn child or their newborn child has Down syndrome, that there is no tragedy here. Rather, it's an opportunity to transform yourself into the best person you can be. Accept that some things were meant to be, and someday, you'll wonder what you would have ever done without the child you never expected, but who found you anyway.

Postscript: Studies done since Cliff was born point to the mother being the parent who donates the extra #21 chromosome. The percentage is something in the 90-ish range. So there you go. :)