During my first two pregnancies, I dreamed about what my children would be like. With T-Man, my oldest son, I remember having a romanticized view of parenthood and childhood—joyfully reading books on the couch, patiently teaching and encouraging new skills, playing games together as a family, afternoon walks and trips to the park, playdates and baby classes—with everything slightly rosey colored.
With Fearless, my second son, I was a little more clued-in to the reality of parenthood. Not that I didn’t still have all the rosey-pictures in mind, but I also knew the not-so-rosey truth about sleepless nights, tantrums and diapers.
By the time my third pregnancy arrived, I thought I was so smart—I actually thought I was PREPARED for whatever parenthood could throw at me.
But apparently, I still had a lot more to learn, because God sent me a little girl.
After two boys, what was I supposed to do with a girl?!?
And not just any girl…an extra-special girl that came with a whole-new world that I had hardly even known existed. She came to us with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.
We found out about her extra chromosome—her extra specialness—when I was 20 weeks pregnant. After 20 weeks of dreaming about this new little life growing inside me…after 20 weeks of planning and preparing…after 20 weeks of thinking I was so smart.
And the shock of her diagnosis hit me— hard. I suddenly went from being “prepared for whatever” to actually having to deal with one of the “whatevers”. To be honest, I was devasted. And that doesn’t even being to cover it. I felt like I had been thrown from the warm comfort of my dreamy expectations into a nightmare of ice in a cold reality.
I came to realize that I knew nothing. And I still had 20 weeks of knowing nothing…20 weeks of waiting…20 weeks of letting go of that imagined “perfect” child I thought I would have.
And then, on April 6, 2009…my little ray of light, my Miss Banana, was born.
(Miss Banana, 2 days old)
Oh, how I needed her!
She came into the world fighting for her life. Despite all the pokes and prods and eventually open-heart surgery at two-and-half months old, she hardly even cried. Instead, she radiated light and joy and happiness to all around her.
(Miss Banana, open-heart surgery survivor, 5 months old)
The funny thing is, remember those rosey-parenthood dreams I said I had with T-Man’s pregnancy? My reality now is much more like that now than ever before.
Miss Banana has taught us all about what is really important in life, what true happiness looks like, how to stop and enjoy the little things, what “perfection” really is, how to love deeper than we ever thought possible. She has completed our family by opening our eyes to the world that we didn’t even know we were missing.
(Miss Banana, one year old)
In fact, our reality is better than those dreams.
I know that is hard to believe. And I know that a lot of people won’t believe me. But it IS our reality.
When I first heard the words “Down syndrome” associated with my daughter, I thought life as I knew it was over. I thought we would never leave the house, I thought T-Man and Fearless would be permanently scarred, I thought she would never want to go shopping with me. (Sounds silly doesn’t it?? But I really remember thinking that!)
Over and over again, Miss Banana has shown me that the nightmares I had envisioned during those last 20 weeks of pregnancy were completely unfounded. Sure, we have hard days—what parent doesn’t?—and sure, we go to extra doctors’ appointments and various therapies to help her development, but those things are not a burden because the joy that comes from being around my daughter, the delight that she brings into every moment, outweighs any sacrifice.
(Miss Banana, 21 months old)
With my firstborn my dreams were formed, with my second born I was comfortable with reality, and with my third born, my dreams and reality were united.
(Miss Banana, first snow, 21 months old)
Carrie and I used to live in Nebraska together until life sent us both in very opposite directions (Me, Iowa - Carrie, the deep south). Carrie is an inspiration to me as a mother and friend. She is someone that makes me want to be a better person. I remember every moment of Carrie's pregnancy and the birth of Miss Banana. I wish we lived closer to each other so I could spend more time with my friend and her family, I learned a lot in our short 2 years together. You can read more of Carrie's journey on her blog, "Life As We Know It."