Hi it’s mommy, professing her unwavering love yet again. I wasn’t sure how to write this birthday post to you because, well, I wear you proudly on my sleeve daily. I think the whole world knows our love story and how it was born from pain. I’m pretty sure the universe is aware of how big our love is. That way my shame for being scared of you morphed into an incredible explosion of devotion and advocacy. You’ve been called “my favorite” by many and I’m sure even more think it. Although, I love all you babies the same, I do feel I owe you the most. Call it disgrace for my early feelings or my innate need to help the world… but, either way, I don’t think you need another post about how crazy I am for you. I think you are wildly aware of how much I value your life, and I am certain you can feel how your short 3 years have made me such a better version of myself.
I thought instead you may enjoy what others have said about your enchanting little soul over the years:
“Omg! He is so darn adorable!”
“Every time you post a picture or story about him, I find myself smiling. He’s absolutely beautiful and perfect.”
“Beth, I have to tell you that as an Uncle to a nephew with Down Syndrome who is 22 years old, I know that Judah is adorable!!! I love seeing your posts about him and his pics!He has the Greatest Smile and I know why you love him sooooo much!!”
“Every time I see him I just want to smother him in kisses and hugs.”
“A couple pieces of advice:
Keep dreaming big for Judah. Whatever it is you’ve imagined for him and his life, keep dreaming it. The possibilities for Judah are endless and I can absolutely guarantee he will amaze you, your husband and Calvin over and over again.
Judah is simply beautiful. And I’m thinking of you all. Two weeks in and you’re doing exactly the right things. And I’m certain this will continue. And when there are questions, there are so many great resources and people out there to help. Judah’s life will be amazing. Congratulations again to you and your family. ”
“Whether it was a doctor or a school CSE or a complete stranger just know that NO one can ever take away Judah’s worth or the unconditional and unsurmountable love that you will always have for him and that he will always have for himself and everyone he loves! That one rule of thumb has gotten me through a lot of scars and bends in the journey. He is who he is no matter what anyone or any diagnosis says he is, always has been and always will be, my boy. Judah is your Judah!”
“Love those smiley eyes!”
“The world is gonna love this kid…”
“He’s so carefree. It makes me want to be like that!”
“His happy makes me happy. I can feel it from here.”
“I believe in you!”
“All I can say is runny nose or not this soul has made my life a better. Following your family in this journey has be an amazing adventure. God put you all together for this reason , you make it all work out to his advantage . You are my hero and so is he.”
“Always love to see his constant excitement and happiness. ”
“He’s just adorable. I think there is a resemblance between all your boys”
“With all the love we give to this ” Wonder Kid” we still will never be able to give back to him what he gives to our family. Judah thank you for being such a very special part of it.”
“that smiles just makes all bad stuff melt away”
“Judah is 10000% the boss of me. That charm, those sloppy kisses, his fierce will and the strength he has, all make me want to be a better person! We all have those kids we just ‘click’ with and from the moment I held the soft little fluff nugget I knew….I would never stop being Judah’s cheerleader and advocate. ”
Bub, there a million more messages just like this. I have barely scraped the sentimental surface. Countless people have mentioned your ability to change their outlook and even more people have shared stories with me of their strife. They felt brave enough to tell it because of you. People approach me just to talk about you… and both friends and strangers swarm to see your little personality in action.
And Bub, there’s something else I need to tell you…. I don’t want to bear the bad news but I’d rather you hear it from me first. There are people out there (ones who don’t know any better) who think you are not worthy of life because of your teeny, tiny, extra chromosome. Well, sweetheart, if you are ever unlucky enough to find someone who lets a little chromosome outshine your big important life? ….Then I pray you find this post and recall all these incredible things people said about you before you were even on this planet three years!!!! It’s incredible you know? The work you’ve done to change things in your short little life? Don’t stop!!!! You are such a special person with a rare gift…… the gift to set the world on fire. Happy birthday Juju you are loved so fiercely.
Oh baby. This post makes me weepy… Where did our time go? It’s a question asked by most mamas I know….. but here’s my secret: I wanted you to grow bigger, I couldn’t wait until your baby neck became sturdy and I did not have to hold your head. I longed for the day solid foods would start so that feeding every three hours didn’t chain me to reluctant stillness…..and I formula fed. I wished you would be a little less needy, a little less whiny; a little less of a baby….And I know that I sound like a monster and I recognize what a shitty thing it is to say, but my darling Augie it is my truth. My goodness I pray that I don’t wreck you because of that.
Hopefully you will feel how I could look in those deep, baby blues forever if only I just had the time. And I wish I could be the one responsible for that heart stealing smile that smiles so big everyday. I wish I was always the one to bathe you and take in the delicious scent of your squish. I wish we could linger at bottle time and I could sit you on my lap for endless stories about animals and letters. But my darling I cannot. You’ve come at a precarious time, a time when I am incapable of taking your incredible love in solely and completely. I hope you get that I want to. I hope you know when I look at you , I can’t stare too long. The devotion I want to dote on you but can’t…fills me with guilt and takes my ever loving breath away.
I love you my son and I love that you’re here. I wish we had more time, or I was younger or had you later in life or a whole bunch of other things so I could take you in more wholely. But I cannot…
August James, instead, I can make you a deal. I can promise to stop wishing for more and start loving what time and nurturing we do have together. I vow to not give up because it’s not the perfect proportion of feeling to action or exactly what it should be. I will never stop kissing you, telling you I love you and soaking in the beauty of you. i will not look away in shame because I cannot give you all of me. Rather, I will give you the best of me. So…when you must be plopped or brushed aside or strapped in a seat, you will remember the endearments I showered upon you. Your hugs may be a little shorter but I will promise them to be a little sweeter.
Here’s the thing sweet baby. In the name of research for this post and because I’m neurotically trying to give you the best shot in this big bad world of ours, I googled “third child.” I read and I read and I read. The consensus is not detrimental. According to research you should be eagerly diplomatic, uncomplicated, willing to give (because you always have to) humorous, light hearted and you shall hate to be alone. You may surround yourself with friends to supplement for the family who can sometimes leave you feeling like an outsider or left behind. (ouch!!!!)
Well, this tells me two things: one, I’m not the only monster out there daring to bring a third child into her already chaotic world and, two, now I know. Knowing is half the battle my love. I know what the world has planned for you. Some because of your experiences in our family some because you just are who you are and came when you came. I also know Cravers and Shores were born to break molds. We’ll surprise you with what’s up our sleeves and we will pull a rabbit out of our metaphorical hat. Also, you are not so diplomatic. You are headstrong and you demand (sometimes in a shrieking tone) to not be ignored…like the way you demanded to be a part of this world.
And us, well, we aren’t complacent to let the cards fall the way research predicts either sweet frog. We will continue to make sure what has always been so, does not define us.. You can count on us baby Augie. I will not fail you my dear …because, you see, your daddy and I are first born, so we are perfectionists… we are innately driven to create only the kindest, well rounded humans with just the perfect amount of adoration. Who knows my love? Perhaps all this analyzing and overthinking will harm you in the end….but maybe, my baby, love will prevail. I believe it will. I will always pick love. You can’t go wrong with that.
And so I love you August James. I love you in the complicated ,wrinkled way a mommy must love her third born and I pray that is enough. Happy birthday sweet boy. You are such an incredible gift.
As the impending doom of my first baby’s bus ride inevitably nears, I ask myself when not if….I know I’m going to cry. Shoot, I’m crying right now through typing tears. I cry at inspirational speeches and pretty much any musical montage. I have surrendered myself to waterproof eye liner and the fact that it will just be so.
The question lies within the beautiful little kindergartener to be. His soul is old and delicate. He walks the world sensitive like his momma (well both of his parents actually) and I plainly see that bright big heart on his sleeve. When he turned 4 he came to lie in bed with us. I tortured myself by playing Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” and nuzzled his neck through my sobs. I certainly wasn’t expecting him to match my tears and declare that he now didn’t want to grow up either. Oopsie, parent fail. I spent the next half hour repairing that damage and thankfully the crisis was diverted when he remembered PRESENTS.
Here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure I haven’t screwed him up too bad yet ; besides that minor fawpaw. I encourage creative play and try my best to ignore messes.( A real tough one for my type A-ness.) I give him freedom and space and snuggles. I say I’m sorry when I screw up and speak in plain language about things that are serious. I love him fiercely and I only cried on the inside when I dropped him off at his grandparents the other day as he proudly announced “don’t get unbuckled, I can go in by myself.”
So, to cry in front of his cherubic little face or to save the ugly sobs for when he’s safely in his seat?
One part of me says let my freak flag fly. Be me. Us sensitive souls must stand in solidarity. He should know that crying is allowed, not shameful and an expected response to such a momentous occasion. He should also know that the fierce love I feel for him won’t flee just because his little birdie wings are flying from the nest. He has spent a lot of times simmering on the back burner in this short little life of his. He should know that on this day, thoughts of him are swirling around all the lobes of my cerebellum and thoughts of his baby days swell deep within my soul…..
BUT, will my streams of sadness wreak havok on his tender psyche? One cannot know for sure? I am torn between “my mom was a tough old bird” or “all she ever did was cry.” I want me to be me because I want him to be him …but I don’t want him to associate school with devastation either. Being a mom is hard. Being a sappy one is harder. Watching them grow is the hardest. I am not sure how it wall all go down but I am sure of my dad’s advice on moderation.
So, I’m going to(most importantly) simply show up, and try for just a trickle.
Wish me luck.
I avoided writing about this topic because…I don’t know why? I’m too mad? I’m a hypocrite? I have nothing new to say? The community is flooded with responses to eliminating Down syndrome? The truth is. It’s all of these. But here I sit, ignoring the show I’m watching, wine on the floor rather than in my hand, because I just cannot let myself be so passive to such a crossroads. I cannot not keep my head down in this traffic. You will instead find me in hard hat, putting up stop signs.
I’m. Mad. I’m mad because eliminating Down syndrome in essence means doing away with my son. What if in an instance we could poof away all the people in this world with a disability? What if there was a vote? How many would agree to do it? You know what? I have no idea what that number would be, but I know it would be some. I know people would “poof” my son away the first chance they could. It’s a horrid feeling to know that. It baffles me and also, it really freaking pokes the mama bear inside of me.
I’m a hypocrite. I didn’t have the test. I do have an intuition of sorts. It’s eerie but I can’t deny it. I knew I was going to have a baby with Down syndrome day 1! I just had a feeling. I waivered when it came to test time because I knew….so, I procrastinated and asked countless people their opinions. I purposely surrounded myself with conviction that I was fine, Judah was fine, Down syndrome didn’t matter. All these things helped me evade making a decision so I would never actually see it on paper….I can’t be sure what would have happened ? Thankfully I’ll never know . All I know is there were options in my mind,so I get it . I am a bit leery about the fight…because if you don’t know what I now know, how can I make you know? How do you make someone feel something they don’t know yet?
I have flooded my social media feeds with the adorabalities of my dear Judah. I made up the word adorabality and he deserves it dedicated to him . He is something special all right…and he is work beyond all work; but it is glorious in all it’s returns. You know this . We don’t need some steeering articles spewing incredulous facts to tell us numbers because If you love me or if you love Judah….then you know what Down syndrome is all about . I can’t tell the world anything new. Down syndrome is not a burden. Down syndrome is the most incredible gift. It fixed me!!!! I say those phrases so often you may find them on my tombstone. They are the truest words I have ever spoken ; but that’s it. I cannot come at all these eliminating articles with anything new. There are no words that I can say to fix this travesty that I have not said before. I do wonder though? If so many people with Down syndrome are saying “Down syndrome is great!” And so many parents are declaring their love for this heart warming disability then why in God’s name is nobody listening? Are we viewed as liars? Sugar coaters? Does the world think we are trying to trick them into having a baby with Down syndrome? How is no one getting the awesomeness of these people with something extra? All you have to do is talk to a person with Down syndrome or someone who loves them and you’ll get it. I want to scream it from rooftops with a microphone, into a megaphone ” YOU ARE MISSING OUT… DON’T DO THIS TO YOURSELF” but by now if you know our family and are reading this then you already know.
And if you don’t? If you’re a worried momma or a politician trying to do away with all the “extra expenses Down syndrome puts on our economy” well then I’m sure you won’t find yourself reading about my firm planted stance. I’m sure you will scroll right by. Maybe because your frightened?
Quick side story here: when I had convinced myself I was having a baby with Down syndrome, I shared the news with a close friend. She urged me to read Kelle Hampton’s “Nella: A Birth Story” I wouldn’t do it. Even though my friend promised me it was beautiful (and it is) thought it might help (and it would have ) I just could not bring myself to do it. After, Judah was born with Trisomy 21, I took to google, of course. Her story was the first thing I read in my hospital bed. Then, I immediately repeated reading it with my husband. We sobbed the most reassuring sobs. I read it again. Then I read her book as soon as I was home. And I have and will continue to read that story on the eve of Judah’s birth from now on.
…..And I get it if you’re frightened, or you are afraid you might will it true by educating yourself. I know It sounds crazy… but I understand it because it was me.
I love Holland now. I love the pain I felt. I loved the extreme uncomfortable shift my life took. I love Down syndrome. I love all of this different and beautiful path. And so maybe we are frightened or uncomfortable or we just don’t know. And maybe I won’t change one person’s mind. But I have to write about it anyway. The pull is like a magnet’s North to a South. I owe a homage to the little boy who changed me. I owe it to the world to share my one-time skeptical, side of the story and I owe it to myself so that I can pick up my wine,watch a show, and know I’ve said my piece.
On my 43rd birthday I am still figuring out who the fuck I am. How is that possible? The answer is a short one. I had to undo all the people I thought I was supposed to be first.
I was supposed to be pretty, skinny, and fit in. I was supposed to go to college, party, stop partying, get a job, get a boyfriend, get married, get a house. I was not supposed to curse, be late to bloom, be outspoken, be forth coming, be selfish, leave my comfort zone, take a risk, be unlady like (whatever the fuck that is) or in essence, be me. I was supposed to be me…. reeled in. Me, but not too much me. Just a little me.
Society told me how to be. I idolized those that were loved by the masses. Their public life molded me into what I should be. I don’t blame my parents , teachers and role models. They did not tell me how to be…but they also did not stress the importance of being me. No one did. In fact everyone seemed obliviously satisfied with all the people I was trying on for size.
Somewhere along the way, because of age and wisdom and Judah I started to see the world differently. Pretty and popularity were not standards to be judged by ; rather kindness was. Love was. Bravery was. Real shit was. I started to realize that I had been doing it all wrong. All I had ever craved was admiration and people being proud of me. The only time I had ever earned it was when I cut the crap and became real.
…Authentic, exposed, insecure, sensitive, loyal, fun, impatient, kind, selfish, selfless and brave me. When I turned into that girl I became loved. First off, because I now loved who I was. Secondly, because I was seen for who I was….not who I was pretending to be. I pretended for so damn long that I’m just getting to know myself again. So, obviously, I don’t have all the answers….But this is what I would tell the young people playing dress up with different personalities:
1. Karma is real. Be nice.
2. Whether someone likes you or not, actually has very little to do with you ….brush your shoulders off and straighten your fucking crown.
3. You can’t do all the things and do them all well AND be happy. Give yourself a break.
4. You really are your own worst critic. No one else is really paying that much attention anyway.
5. People will come and go in your life. You are allowed to be sad about that. You should explicitly share your feelings with loved ones ….but do not dwell. It’s not good for your soul.
6. Be a rebel. But don’t do it because it’s cool to be rebellious. Do it because you aren’t a piece that fits neatly into society’s puzzle.
7. Be charitable. But don’t do it because it’s cool to have a cause. Do it because it stirs your soul to serve others and see them smile. If it doesn’t stir your soul, check in as to why.
8. Speak up. Even when you think you’re alone. You aren’t. There isn’t a feeling in this world that no one has never had before.
9. Hold out. Hold out for love, your dreams, and whatever the thing is that has always moved you. Settling is not for dreamers and we all have dreams.
9b. It is never too late. You are the author of your own story. Don’t let tales of others dictate the way yours will play out.
10. Be considerate. Don’t forget your family. Love them fiercely. Let all the little shit go. Regret is a heavy burden to bear.
11. Guilt and worry have no place in your life (this one I’m still working on.) One has to do with your past, one with your future. Neither of which you have control of.
12. Surround yourself with your heroes, your mentors, and people you are proud of. All the others are just helping you hide. Hiding is easy. Being real is hard.
13. Show up. I know you won’t always want to, feel like it, or look your best,… do it anyway. The shame of letting yourself down is not worth the price .
14. God is always there. Sometimes you may think the light has abandoned you or was never really there at all. That is not true. The light is always there. Look for it. It will eclipse your darkness.
15. Love your life. It will be hard and shitty. It will exhaust you and bewilder you. It will surprise you and hurt you. Love it anyway. Complain about circumstance if you must, but love your life. The messy way it is. It is irreplaceable and valuable and there is good in it. Find gratitude in that. It will serve you for further blessings.
16. Listen. Really listen. Not so that you can compare stories. You already know what you know. Listen so that you can learn, be a good friend and so that other people’s story has power through being spoken.
17. You will get hurt, hurt people and do stupid shit. Don’t let it define you. You are so much more than your mistakes.
18. If you want to change, really, really, change…unchain yourself from what you have always done. Do what you must to rid yourself of the habits that inhibit you. Only then, can the electricity begin to be rewired.
19. Sometimes, it’s a: stay in your pj’s, eat chips, don’t wash your hair, or call anyone… kind of day. Take a day. But follow it with a: false eyelash, favorite outfit,feed your people,.. kind of day…. You need both.
20. Nature can fix you. It won’t solve your problems or change the world . However, a good walk, surrounded by God’s very first creations, will humble and move you. If issues should arise : take to a forest or a lake, not to the bottle.
21. Work hard play hard. It has always been my mantra. It is my dad’s. It will be my sons’. It is everything.
22. Don’t panic about getting it done. You always have. You will not fail. Even if you do, the world will still spin just the way it always has. Take that worry right off the table. Strategize instead. Make better use of all of that mental energy.
23. Life will surprise you and send you curve balls. Don’t be so set in you plans that you are unwilling to adapt. You will miss out on some amazing beauty that way.
24. You won’t be saved from the advice I’ve laid before you. If you were young me, you would have barely been paying attention. …What will ultimately change you is grit and pain and hurt. It will take your anger, sadness and disappointment to change . It will take your fear. You must add in all of those uncomfortable growing pains. THAT is what will make you real. Feel the feelings. Know they have a purpose. Turn them into something worthwhile. Be the sweetest, coldest, and best tasting lemonade… you’ve gotta do something with all those lemons anyway…
25. Happy birthday to me. The real one. Thank you for finally showing up. This second act is going to be fucking fabulous!!!!
Post inspired by: “Love Warrior” by Glennon Melton Doyle, “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, “The Story Of Diana,”…..and another year in the books.
When they offer you that early test, lets all admit it…that’s what it’s for. Down syndrome . Deemed the worst road.. As a special needs mom there are so many roads I have seen now. Not worse, not better ; just different. But when we are all offered that test… that’s the thing . The one they Detect. The one you can avoid. I can’t even imagine how many people have avoided…, statistics record 90% ? I place zero blame on that. .Had I have known I may have been in the majority. I cannot be sure of what I would’ve done. All I know is what I know now. You adapt. You do it quick. You fight. You advocate. You somehow find strength within yourself and you become strong and then……
You fall in GOD GIVEN love. You cant even help yourself ! Because all of the sudden you have gained a community , a fellowship, a fraternity. And that is all minuscule compared to the diabolical endearments that greet you every morning with the best hug you’ve ever had.
You do all these things to make your kid great because you know he is and you know he can be and because everyday you cannot believe how he is proving your old you wrong .
And then there he is. He has his little personality that warms souls and grows yours and you think… why did I ever believe this old belief to be so ?
I can say it because I was there. I uttered incomprehensible phrases of not wanting him to be my own.
And now…. I could not imagine a day without the way he makes my soul bigger, my heart brighter and my life fuller. He is a volcano of joy that erupts with each face he sees. Who does not want that in their life?
So Maybe the fear is because he is a rare gem? but maybe he is him and we just made him rare. He is me. He is you. He is the best part of all of us. He is worthy. And most importantly, he is a blessing. Momma’s honor!
Those last days. The ones before you relax , heave a big sigh…then say, “now what (or who) to fix these next six weeks.” It’s a precarious time for a teacher; you yourself are wrapping up and sealing all you know about a little mind into a report card, a folder and a collection of memories. You are passing all these things along to families, specialists and new teachers and you hope to God you’re doing it justice.
If you are clinically insane,like myself, you also are on the good-getting recieving end. You are at countless concerts and ceremonies. You are bombarded with trinkets of your babies bearing their possible occupation or current favorite food. The hope is that you tuck it all away and compare and contrast for years to come. It’s hectic. I am fruitlessly trying to keep all those balls in a 360 degree formation without disturbing the system.
These aren’t on the must-do list. Your stuff won’t be repo’d if you fail or anything….but when you are a hoarder of mementos like myself …it is on the “if I don’t do this I’ll die” list.
And so it’s not work but it’s nuts and I love the rewards, be them big or small. Here some favorite end of year particulars that have me on a summer high:
1. Those first day to last day school pictures. This one is never going away for me. The way they grow and come together and fall apart is endearing in all it’s meaning or not. Judah wasn’t even able to steady his Sandlefeet in the fall and somehow Calvin’s baby locks turned into kid hair? There are no missing teeth or facial hair yet but there’s a year’s growth in their eye twinkle and the way they carry themselves. If only to the trained eye of a mommy or daddy
2. Teacher Gifts. This year Calvin chose a Venus flytrap for his darling of a teacher. As a teacher myself I half chuckled/ half cringed and obliged because it is “soo him” I dreaded the hustle to grab appropriate souvenirs thanking teachers for morphing my children into structured, well mannered, little learners. It seemed nothing would quite do and I’m pretty sure nothing could….But hugging all those first molders in my children’s lives invoked tears of gratitude . I’m sure they felt all my warm fuzzy neurons buzzing as I squeezed them one last time.
3. It is not all quite hearts and rainbows at the school where I teach…in the sense that there are not thoughtful gifts or tearful hugs there. It makes me sad sometimes but those brick walls hold other rewards, in the safe haven that you are for little lost ones and a knowing camaraderie with the ones you work with. So when I rolled up on the last day I had no expectations. In fact, I knew it would be the opposite from the tearful goodbye I had just left. So as I pulled in the parking lot it became everything to see a handful of teachers with camping chairs perched in the parking lot, smiling in the sun and soaking in every last second until we would meet the ones we tried to save for the very last time. We had made it. We survived the trenches and no lives had been lost. Sure some of us has embedded schrapnel but we mostly came through unscathed and we were once again smiling! There were no hot dogs or cold brews at the early morning makeshift tailgate but there was something better. There was triumph. We won the year together, we won the war and we may have even changed some lives in the process.
4. I’ve worked every single summer since I’ve been 15. I’ve flipped burgers and scooped ice cream. I’ve poured beers and taught about Egypt . I’ve taken countless orders at the fair while dodging bees and I’ve even sorted car parts in a hot service garage. I’ve nanny’d waitressed, educated, bartended, counseled, and made sure I completed your order. What I haven’t done is ME! So the thing that sailed my ship right into shore was the opportunity to keep my womb to myself, become the best version of me and do all the things that I’ve wanted to do. The dancing sugarplum dreams that swirled around my newly married brain 6 years ago….Before I was pregnant 4 times , before I dealt with a diagnosis, before I was laid off and frantically searching a job, before a home was just a first-star wish, before family stormed my bed at 6:30am, before all my dreams came true. They’re here. It’s all in front of me now. Now I get to do all the things I wanted to do with this crazy life and now I have the time to do it. Here’s the thing though….when you are living a dream you’ve dreamt for so long…where to start is a conundrum. I am spinning with home improvements, warm summer days and lingering late nights. My life has just begun damn it. There is not enough summer. My bucket list is created and I’m headed to my first vacation as I write this very sentence. I am in it. This will be my best summer ever. The buzz shows no sign of wearing off anytime soon.
There is something about the end of something that births a new beginning. It’s a chance for a redo or to do it better and adrenaline hits the gas pedal on caffeine. It’s intoxicating. It is the best high of all, the one I’ve had since I’ve been a kid. It’s that good old fashioned summer high.