Monday, April 7, 2014

21 Dreams Project: Everything We Needed

We live in the Indianapolis area and have been so blessed by deep relationships with families of kiddos with Down syndrome.  About a year ago I told you about The Lucky Ones, a group of women whose common bond is parenting a child of Down syndrome.  Through some of the same women, I learned of Sycamore Sisters Photography and the 21 Dreams Project.  Jen of SS Photography is a fellow momma of a child with Down syndrome, and to help raise awareness she started the 21 Dreams Project, part of which is publishing volumes of books featuring beautiful photos and touching stories of individuals with Down syndrome.  

So it is with great excitement that I announce that Bear is part of the most recently released volume!  I would love to see every OB/GYN office carry these books in their waiting room, as now nearly 92% of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy.  I choose to believe that many of these women do not make this decision out of malice but out of fear and ignorance.  With a little awareness and education, surely we can work to overturn this horrifying statistic.  I plan to gift one to my doctor and hope many others follow suit.  

Portions of the book's proceeds support Down Syndrome Indiana, and you can purchase your own copy here.

Since you can't preview Bear's page in the book, I thought I'd let you in on what I wrote about my beautiful little man.  Enjoy.  

It’s in his eyes.  I always said that about Bear.  Long before his lips curled into his first smile, he smiled with his eyes.
It’s in his touch.  The way he can’t sit beside me without playing with my hair.  How he pats his sister’s back as she sobs broken-heartedly because he’s heading to school.  How he eats his dinner with his hand on his daddy’s knee or arm.
It’s in his laugh, the one that is sheer unbridled joy and delirium. 

It’s in his stubborn perseverance.  Insisting that pizza, quesadillas, or doughnuts are for every meal or clearly letting us know, “I don’t want to.” 

It’s what we never hoped for; it’s everything we love. 
Bear is our eldest, the first grandson on my side, the first to steal all of our hearts.  As with all firstborns, the amount of expectation surrounding his arrival was immense.  Would he be Daddy’s little champ on the football field and baseball diamond?  Would he be Grandpa’s little buddy, hunting and farming at his side?  Would he become a fiercely protective older brother?  Would he have a tough exterior that secretly melted in the presence of his momma?  Would he enjoy music and academia and head to a prestigious college?  So many dreams.

During our pregnancy, there were some flags indicating our baby might have Down syndrome, but I was only twenty-six, we were both young and healthy.  Surely Down syndrome couldn’t affect our family.  When Bear arrived five weeks early, any physical traits of Down syndrome were nearly undetectable, and based on that, we were told by several medical professionals that he did not have Down syndrome.  We requested to have the necessary testing done to be sure, and at twelve days old, his doctor knelt at my feet in her office and cried with me as she broke the news.

Our perfect, first-born son has Down syndrome. 

I was crushed.  Dreams shattered.  Hearts broken
Calls made, tears cried, more calls made.  Husband rushing home from work.  More tears cried.  But somehow, my rock of a husband walked in the door with a new set of dreams.  His son was not a disappointment, had not fallen short of the dreams and expectations he had for his firstborn.  No, this boy of his would still accomplish great things.  Special Olympics, college, a prestigious job, these things were not out of Bear’s reach.  And after a few months of raging and grieving within my own spirit, this hope of his began to crack my fragile shell and let some light in.

Bear’s twinkling eyes smiled up at me; that belly laughter rolled at the sound of my voice; the comfort of his snuggles in the wee hours of morning softened my hard and bitter heart. 

And today, five years later, everything we hoped for has been far surpassed by the love and joy Bear brings our family.  There are no words to contain the fierce, protective love we have for him, no pictures to capture his endearing relationships with his sisters.  He is beyond what we hoped for, everything we needed to love.
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