As of yesterday Casey and Connor are 3 years old! Time has flown by and though I have been present for every day of their lives I find it hard to believe it has already been 3 years since the miracle men arrived in our lives. It has definitely been an adventure and a wonderful journey!
We spent the day yesterday at Akron Children's Hospital where we go every Tuesday to do medical education. My mom and I take the boys and Reagan to talk to small groups of 3rd year med students about Down syndrome. It always amazes me how many of these future physicians have never met a person with DS. So, we go and let them meet Casey and Connor and ask questions and I share my story, my feelings and thoughts about being a parent to children with Down syndrome. It is an incredible blessing to be able to go and do this every week.
There have been a few of these students that have really made an impact on me. "Dr. Matt" is one I have written about and yesterday was Kellan (or maybe it was Kellen). He will be a wonderful doctor. He was asking wonderful questions and I really felt like he will be the kind of doctor that takes the time to actually listen to patients and in my opinion that is one of the most important qualities a doctor can have- good listening ears.
Some of his questions had me really thinking and trying to explain just what a gift my boys have been to me and to my family. In honor of their birthday I would like to take a few minutes to tell all of you what I came up with.
Kellen/an asked me several questions but one in particular really made me think. He asked something along the lines of have I ever considered what my life would have been like if C&C were typical. That was not his exact question and I may have misinterpreted what he was asking but that's what my momma brain heard and processed. The simple answer to that question is yes.
I would be lying if I were to say I have never imagined what my life would be like if Casey and Connor were not my miracle men. I have thought about it a million times. I think we would still be a happy family but I think I would have gone back to work. I may have gone back to school by now. I would have loved them as fiercely as I do now so that would be the same. I would have expected them to always try their best- again no change from my life now. I would have been singing with them, laughing with them, sharing adorable photos of them with anyone with a cell phone or facebook page. So, really nothing would have been that different. Well, that's not entirely true- I would have had more free time- time not dedicated to weekly speech therapy, twice monthly physical therapy, bi-monthly feeding clinics, 2 visits monthly with Help Me Grow and Early Intervention, blood work to check their thyroids and CBCs to make sure there was no indication of leukemia. There would have been no visits to orthopedists for helmets and foot braces, cervical x-rays to rule out AI (atlantoaxial instability) and no need for EKGs to rule out heart problems like endocardial cushion defects. There would have been no need to KNOW words like endocardial cushion defects, atlantoaxial instability, duodenal atresia (or the need to know it presents with the classic double bubble)- no need to know the increased risk of leukemia or early onset of Alzheimer's. I feel like I could teach a class on the laundry list of crap that can come with that bonus 21st chromosome. But really, with all of that comes something amazing- the biggest thing that would have been different if Casey and Connor were not who they are- if they didn't have designer genes- is that *I* would be different.
When I look back on the person I was before my sons I can tell you that I am not proud of who I was. I was impatient, judgemental, cranky, lacking direction or any ties to my faith. Sure I smiled and loved to tell my cheesy jokes and I was outgoing but I was different. I was less. I was... incomplete. I was like a puzzle with missing pieces that you didn't realize were missing until you got to the end and noticed the damn dog was busily chewing up the last pieces you needed to complete the picture.
And then, on December 4th, 2009, that changed.
The dog dropped the pieces he was gnawing on and they were tapped into place- a little soggy, a little worn, but they were there and the puzzle finally came together.
My world changed.
And it was for the better.
I still struggle with impatience and I still have a temper. However, I am far quicker to walk over to a person I don't know and ask if I can help them if I see them struggling with something. I have learned from my sons to not give up on anything. I have learned to look at people and see a friend not yet made. I see every hand as one worthy of a high five, a fist bump or an " it's a real pleasure to meet you" hand shake. I have learned to slow down and enjoy the little things. I have learned to recognize the infinite joy that comes from something that seems so simple like bubbles (even better in the living room!!) or an empty shoe box (Hello deluxe garage for toy cars!). I have learned that I *CAN* reach people and share the message of the gift of my children and I can do it in a way that may make them re-think how they view Down syndrome. My sons have given me courage. My sons have given me a voice. My sons have restored my faith in God and man. My sons have shown me that life is NEVER set in stone and that anything can change the path you *think* you are on and you may just find yourself on an adventure beyond your wildest dreams. My sons have given me many, many gifts. Every day is an honor to be their mother. Every moment I have with them- even the *really* trying toddler moments- are better because they are in my world.
Casey and Connor have taught me many things. But the thing I cherish the most- the best lesson I have learned from my sweet faced little angels is that it is ALWAYS acceptable to LOVE without reservation, without limitations and without hesitation. They have taught me that a smile that doesn't light up your whole self is not a true smile. They have given me the gift of laughter. They have shown me that even though I may not have a Grammy winning voice that I can belt out "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" with the best of them and my renditions of Billy Joel's "Lullaby" or Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" could bring any audience to their feet. To their little ears there is nothing sweeter than mommy's voice singing them to sleep. What an incredible blessing.
Casey and Connor look at me and they think I can do anything. Puzzle too hard- give it to mommy! Can't get your socks on? Mommy's got it covered! I am the keeper of the graham crackers and Goldfish and the reader of "Goodnight Moon" and "Pajama Time". I am the singer of crazy little tunes while we brush our teeth, put our pants on or march like dinosaurs down a very public hallway. In short- I am a hero to my kids. I love them unconditionally and in the biggest way I know how. I am not a perfect mommy but I am their mommy and that is a pretty damned amazing job.
As I reflect on the last 3 years I am left with a full heart and a joyful soul. God has given ME a gift that I still don't know how I deserve. He has given me a do over. God has given me 2 children who make it seem criminal to not try to be the best me I can be. I have been given something many people would love to have- a second chance to be a person to be proud of, looked up to and maybe even admired a little.
So, yes. Yes, I have imagined my life if Casey and Connor were born without the extra chromosome and I have to honest- it's not nearly as sweet as the life we are living now. Sure things are challenging at times and we have some extra appointments that other families don't have to worry about and yes, my head is crammed full of lots of scary medical terms. But at the end of the day, I wouldn't trade any of the little inconveniences for the mountains of blessings that have been heaped on me because of my miracle men.
The true miracle of Casey and Connor is their power to completely transform a person.
I am sitting here wondering how we are so blessed to celebrate their birthday and yet WE are the ones that got the true and best gifts of all.
Happy Birthday, my little men. There are not words to tell you how much you mean to me. My life was worth nothing before you came along. You have given me purpose, passion and limitless love. For the rest of my life I will give thanks every day to God for giving me YOU!
I love you.