Part 1 - The news
An ordinary Monday. My daughter's due date was imminent. Perhaps today would be the day, and how I hoped for a sweet little girl. I put my order through for a little girl, a combination of her older two boys…..
In the evening, the long awaited phone call came. "Mazel Tov, Mommy, a little girl, not exactly what you ordered, but we will keep her anyway!" This was instantly after birth. My daughter had absolutely no inkling what was in store for her. She just felt that her previous babies were a bit prettier.
Around midnight, I got a phone call from my son-in-law informing me that my daughter was fine and , quite casually, said that the doctor thought the baby had Down Syndrome. I did not need to hear anything else. My bedroom was spinning in circles. I was totally stunned and speechless! All I felt was that the world has ended for me. By ironic coincidence, it was only yesterday that I had analyzed a DS child on the bus with pity. Today, I had joined their group…..
My kids smelled fire, "Mommy, talk." Finally, I wept bitterly, like never before. They cried with me and then made a strong commitment. "She is our sister's child; we shall love her anyway."
Our shock was beyond human comprehension. I realized I could not drown in self pity. But how was I to face my daughter? I am the mother who has to provide strength. How will I enter that hospital room without breaking down? Is there any pill I could swallow to pull me through this? I kept on practicing and brainwashing myself. I must be Hercules.
Guess what! It seems my daughter had done the same homework! It was a great and gracious performance that we both played out.
Act one has passed fairly. All technicalities were taken care of. It was time to come home. Mommy moved in, and the first thing I did was to discourage her nursing. The superficial reason I gave her was that she was too emotionally drained. Truthfully, I did not want her so attached to the child, entertaining the notion of future adoption. My son-in-law proved to be a very strong individual, insisting on a regular, big kiddush, regardless of the situation. "Shvigger," he reasoned, "if I will feel sorry for myself, everyone else will. If I act naturally, people around me will treat me in the same manner." We made a big kiddush; I baked quite a number of tear-soaked cakes, admiring his attitude, yet not quite understanding him.
Part 2 -Tachlis
Both my husband and I were adamant about giving up Chanela. After all, this will drain my kids emotionally, affect the siblings, and all we saw was chaos. How do we convince this couple? The sooner the better, before it was too late.
I began my task fervently, first working on my son-in-law. His instant reaction was, "Knowing my wife, she will never agree." But he promised to do his utmost.
I spoke to numerous parents, grandparents, and institutions, until I finally mustered the courage to approach the issue with my daughter, explaining all the negatives possible. My bottom line was, " Darling, you are protecting your baby. I am trying to protect you, my child, from a very long battle."
I was so determined that I went so far as to arrange a personal appointment together with my son-in-law to a wonderful family that has adopted a DS child and were willing to foster Chanela. I had all the proof necessary for my daughter that this place was a kind, warm environment where she could feel at ease. But to no avail; her heart overpowered all reasoning.
Finally, one day, my daughter made herself very clear. " I could never live with myself if I gave her up. I have nothing to gain. My life will be miserable." At that point, I knew it was time to surrender.
Part 3 - Acceptance
Chanela was here to stay. She was my grand-daughter who was not born the way she was by choice. Why was I so angry at this innocent ‘shefella'? All the reasoning and psychology could not eliminate the senseless anger I felt toward her. How dared she interfere with my daughter's peaceful life? How come my daughter accepted Chanela instantly, while I, supposedly older and wiser, could not come to terms with it?
After much speculation and inner soul searching, I came to the only conclusion that made some sense to me. The maternal feeling Hashem gives between a mother and her child is a very special one that cannot be severed. I found the answer for myself and now, partly for the sake of my children, I was determined to love her unconditionally, and the feelings would follow as she developed. Slowly, one day at a time, I forced myself to warm up to her and befriend her.
Of course, the older she grew the cuter she became in my eyes. The more she progressed, the more she had to offer. The warmth and attention given to her by her parents certainly came through with shining results. She is a confident, lovable child. I can proudly and honestly say, I never believed that I could admit to myself that I truly have very strong feelings for her.
As I write this now, I feel strong enough to make this confession. Children usually learn from their parents. This time around, the order was reversed. I was taught a deep lesson from my children, who are admirable in every way. May they be an eye opener for future parents with special children. We can see that a tremendous amount can be accomplished with patience and compassion.
Chanela is an adorable, enjoyable child who made her parents better, stronger, giving people. No words can describe our awe for this couple. How proudly and beautifully they raise Chanela and her siblings.
One cannot underestimate the strength of young people, with the guidance of Hashem. I certainly believe this child has sealed the strongest bond possible between a mother and father, sharing a strong common goal-the nurturing of a happy, caring family.
This article first appeared in issue #2 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us