Four years ago, Jon and I decided that it was the right time to think about having a baby. Since we got married the year before, we had prayed about this decision, that we would have the "right child at the right time." Suddenly it hit us, it was the right time. In December 2005, at our three month doctor's appointment, we had an ultrasound of our little peanut. We were so excited to see her for the first time. Then the doctor gave us some unexpected news based on various measurements, and all of a sudden we were uncertain of how to react. But, we had made the decision months before to get pregnant, and unlike an estimated 90% of people in our shoes, nothing would change our minds. I hope to not offend anyone in saying, we were in the right 10% - our beautiful daughter is the most wonderful person I've ever known. There is nothing negative about Lilly. There is nothing sad, or confusing, or anything that has ever made me question her right to live, and her right to have an amazing life.
When I was pregnant, when she was born, when she turned 1 - why did no one tell me how amazing she would be? Each step along the way, I learned for myself, and I had faith in her, and each time she exceeded my expectations. When I was pregnant and everything we knew about Down syndrome - which wasn't much at all - was presented in a negative light - Lilly danced in my belly, doing the funniest moves, making me laugh out loud during boring meetings at work. When she was born, and she needed to stay in the hospital for 2 weeks - she gave me funny little smiles, she looked at me with such love that we were instantly bonded and I'd do anything for her. During her first year, when I was told by strangers how limited her future would be - her babysitter asked if I'd rather Lilly be a lawyer like her mommy or a brain surgeon like her daddy - and I suddenly realized not to limit her options, she can accomplish whatever she wants. I wondered if Lilly would have friends as she grew up, and if her new school in New Zealand would be accepting - and she turned out to be one of the most popular kids. I wondered if she would have difficulty learning, and yesterday out of nowhere she counted to 10 by herself, and can sing along to the ABC's. I didn't know if raising a child with quote "special needs" would be depressing, and now I've never laughed so much in my life. I wondered if it would strain our marriage; instead she inspires so much love within our family. I wondered if she'd do the same things as other kids, and for the past year she has memorized songs and dance routines based on popular movies (I literally can't keep up with the dance moves!). Today after school, she starts her first dance class - Jazzy Bugs at Little Gym.
Lilly is certainly no exception to the rule, as we've discovered in meeting other friends with Down syndrome. These kids are motivated, bright, beautiful, and charismatic. I don't worry for my daughter like I thought I'd need to; I know there is so much potential inside her and I love finding ways to inspire her. The one area that she will need help, though, is in breaking stereotypes, and raising awareness, that there are no limits in what she can achieve. I watch her do this every day just by existing. A homeless guy on the Downtown mall gets a huge wave and dance, as he plays his guitar for money. A business man at the airport stops for a minute to blow a kiss back to my little sweetie, who has taken his mind off whatever business deal he's worried about. A teacher who has never worked with a child with Down syndrome gets inspired by all that my girl can learn. And randomly, daily, people come up to me to tell me how beautiful my little princess is - which of course, I know. I am the luckiest person in the scenario, because I get to live with my role model and watch her grow and thrive and flourish.
On Saturday October 17th, we will be walking in the Northern Virginia Buddy Walk, which supports and raises awareness for Down syndrome. This is so important to us. Our future, Lilly's future, is in the hands of people who may not realize how amazing she is, and will be. I want the world to know how incredible a gift I've been given, and it starts with simple efforts like a Buddy Walk. Positive Down syndrome awareness is so important. When I was pregnant, the National Down Syndrome Society sent us their "welcome parents" packet. For the first time during my pregnancy, information was presented to me in a positive light, with current data and beautiful pictures of children and adults with Down syndrome. We were ready to accept this "challenge" which instead has become such a wonderful opportunity.
If you would like to support us walking in the Buddy Walk, you are more than welcome to do so financially by going to our webpage https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=315089&supId=266944115. But more important than money, I would love for you to continue the awareness - spread the word that Down syndrome is not something to be sad about or want to avoid. I would not change a thing about my little princess, and I thank God so much for sending her to us. I can't imagine it any other way. I want Lilly to grow up feeling accepted by society, and to be able to follow her dreams no matter what they are, and that starts with simple awareness and inclusiveness. It is amazing what a child like Lilly can accomplish when we give her every opportunity to succeed.