Six years ago, on January 29th, I gave birth to a baby boy. The delivery room got very quiet immediately following his birth until my nurse midwife said, “Tara, the reason we’re looking at him so closely is that he has features consistent with Down syndrome.”
It was like the air was sucked from the room in that instant. Up until that moment, Down syndrome was just an idea, a flight of fancy. I had been given a twenty percent chance earlier in the pregnancy and, at the time, I found the idea kind of exciting. This pregnancy, my sixth, was different, special somehow. I researched all I could, thought I made peace with it, and then honestly put it out of my mind while caring for my other five kids, never really thinking about it again.
Until those air-sucking words.
My mind raced to make sense of the permanence and the magnitude of what she was saying. I managed to confidently croak out, “I wondered about that,” as if it had been true any time in the last several months, instinctively protecting him, my son, from the pity of those in the room. I willed them to know that he was going to be fine. We were going to be fine.
And then I held him. And I realized he was perfect. He wasn’t some scary diagnosis or some drooling adult grocery-bagger I’d conjured up in my imagination, he was a perfect little baby boy who needed his mama. I knew then we really were going to be fine.
Six years later, I smile at that scene in my memory.
Simeon Israel, meaning One Who Hears and May God Reign, melts me. His powers of persuasion remain unmatched in the family. He is undaunted by rejection, choosing instead to find another source to get what he wants. In a family this large, there are plenty of people to charm to get his way and he is crazy good at it.
He has a well-developed sense of humor which fits in well with this family, and a surprising brand loyalty which really doesn’t. We are fairly frugal folks and are committed to getting the most bang for our buck which often means buying generic for things that don’t matter (and we have very few things that matter to us). Eon, however, is a child of advertising. Slick marketing campaigns work on him. The other day, we argued in the frozen aisle of the grocery store for what seemed like ten minutes over chicken enchiladas. He had decided that’s what he wanted for his birthday dinner and reached for the Stouffers box. I stopped him. The store brand box was $3 cheaper. THREE DOLLARS! For the SAME THING! He was having none of it. I made him read what it said on each box. (Chicken enchiladas…big words for a kindergartner!) I showed him that they had the same quantity and we counted that out on our fingers. I made him read that they were packaged in the same place. Nope. He finally decided on Salisbury steaks, instead. (Swanson. I know, Encore was cheaper, but only by 90 cents and I could live with that. Picking my battles, people. Not the hill I want to die on.)
His sense of presence is a gift which seems to be shared by many people with Down syndrome. Eon knows how to be fully present. He lives in the moment. While he remembers the past and looks forward to the future like the rest of us, he completely embraces the present. I am learning so much from him.
He’s learning how to lose. We’ve been playing Uno since Christmas. I’m very competitive and an obnoxious winner. I do a little touchdown dance and everything. Eon burst into tears every single time he didn’t win. I’m afraid I wasn’t very helpful, uttering consoling lines like, “You’re not the only loser. KJ and Zak are losers, too!” While I did hug him, I may also have said other encouraging things like, “Suck it up, buttercup.” I’m happy to report that he now does a slick little dance and wags his finger in my face calling me a loser when he wins, er, I mean, he doesn’t cry anymore when he loses and simply yells, “Play again!” I’m proud of his maturity. (And, yes, I realize I could learn from him.)
He cares deeply about the people in his life and is empathetic and sensitive to everyone’s moods and feelings. I find it so ironic that, while he is fully included in his current classroom, I know it will likely be a fight to keep him included in the future and yet, he is the least likely to exclude anyone from anything. The night before his birthday, he got to go to dinner with just UpcycleDaddy and me, as is our birthday tradition for our kids, and he was so sad that his siblings had to stay home. He kept trying to convince us to just take along one or two because he hated the thought of leaving anyone out.
He’s a beautiful soul, fearfully and wonderfully made. And he loves life and everyone in his. What more could a mother want for her child?