Last year was the first time I had ever given World Down Syndrome Day a thought. 1 year ago I wrote Cora's birth story, just 9 weeks after I’d ever had much cause to think about Down syndrome at all. 9 weeks after her arrival into my life changed everything. 9 weeks after I had discovered something that I now feel was always destined to be a part of my life. Something that seemed to fill in the gaps in my life and give me purpose that I realized I had been seeking.
Sometimes I wonder how it is that I was so unaware in the past. How is it that I had never known someone with Ds, that I don’t remember knowing any children with Ds growing up, that I barely remember even seeing anyone with Ds? I had to have. I knew what Ds was on the most general level, but I had never really thought much about it.
And now, of course, it is everywhere. Yes, I do seek it out. I love to be involved with our local group, the Northwest Down Syndrome Association. I love to read the blogs of other parents with children with Ds. I love to get together with the handful of local friends we’ve made, linked by our love for someone with an extra 21st chromosome. Yes, now I see Down syndrome. It made my day last week when Cora and I ran into a beautiful little 6 year old girl and her mama. I looked at her daughter and smiled. Perhaps her mother wondered why until she looked at Cora and I saw that little spark of recognition. We both smiled and talked about swimming before they scampered off to the pool while Cora and I got dressed.
Now I get caught up in stories about Ds in the news, thoughts about education and inclusion, and worries about what the new prenatal testing will do to our communities and to our society. I am both heartbroken and encouraged by the stories of abandoned children in other countries seeking homes with new forever families.
It may seem odd to suddenly find myself a part of a family that I had never acknowledged or recognized before. A family consisting of so many backgrounds, faiths, beliefs and stories. A family that most of us didn’t know we were looking for.
I think that the thing that I am learning since Cora entered my life is how important people with Ds are in the world. Because it really does seem that there is something bewitching about so many people with 3 copies of the 21st chromosome. I know how offensive platitudes about “special” people can be, yet underneath the annoyance I find myself wondering what it is about that extra chromosome that adds something indescribably compelling. My own exploration of this is admittedly limited, since my daughter is only 14 months old. But she has something that undoubtedly draws people in, that makes them smile, and that captures hearts.
As my wise sister Mira has told me, she thinks that that enigmatic quality is really Cora’s survival mechanism and her gift to the world; that her charisma contains something that other typical kids don’t really have. Perhaps it’s something impossible to put a finger on, yet equally impossible not to recognize. These are sentiments that I’ve heard echoed many times over by others as they describe their loved ones with Ds. That there is just something more, something mysterious that enriches lives, compels deeper love, teaches a truer understanding of what is important in life, brings one closer to their true self.
What is this quality? As a relative newbie I’m not really qualified to answer that. But I am certainly excited to watch it unravel in my own life, as I witness Cora maneuver her way through milestones big and small, drawing others in as she goes, leading my own heart on a string. And I am blessed to be surrounded by so much inspiration and so much joy in this community we’re lucky enough to share.