I try to imagine what my response may have been if I had a friend who found out the sweet little baby they were expecting had Down syndrome. I had never really thought about it before. I know my response would not have been adequate. It's so hard to know what to say. "It's ok" is completely insufficient, "Oh" seems so abrupt, "I'm sorry" can spur all sorts of unwanted feelings...maybe "We love you" although that doesn't really address the matter at hand. I know I have failed at being there for friends in crisis. I know that I have been terribly at loss for what to say when friends have lost their sweet babies. I have learned how much a meal delivery and a hug can mean. I know how much a "We love this baby and will be there for them no matter what" can strengthen a Mommy who is so numb that she isn't sure her heart is stirring for her child. I know the constant promise of prayer can nourish when Mommies and Daddies have no clue what to pray and stumble upon the simple beginning of prayer, "God, we know...we ask...we...". I think I put on a pretty brave face through it all, life continued, but I often drew on others reaching out to us to get me past the times that I wasn't brave, but scared and lost. After initial stings from others who don't exactly know the right thing to say, you can start to accept that at least people are trying and are coming from a good place. You realize that people aren't being malicious, they just don't know.
There were so many, women in particular, who carried me through my pregnancy and who continue to carry me today. Women who asked again and again how the pregnancy was going, who held my belly trying to feel kicks, who confirmed which hospital we would be at and arranged sitters to come see us. Women who prayed for a little boy and had outfits ready to go for our little nugget so he wouldn't ever face the prospect of wearing pink! Women who begged for pictures of Johnny, who commented on how cute or handsome he was, who fawned over his tiny "babiness." Women who fight over holding Johnny at church, who pass him from pew to pew to get their snuggles in with our sweet boy, who seek us out and say "Let me see that boy". Women who gush over him and laugh at his little expressions, at the raising of his eyebrows, at his stubborn unwillingness to finish his bottle. Women who come over to my house or arrange play dates or girl time just so they can hold Johnny. Women who get mad if I show up to an event without him and are visibly upset that he isn't crashing the party. Women who anticipate with me who Johnny may be, what he might accomplish, and what we will all teach the world. Women who simply whisper into his ear "I just love you" and kiss his head relishing in his sweet baby smell.
I don't know how they do it. If I was in their position, I think I would be so scared. I would be so hesitant. I would be torn between wanting to love and support my friend and sad for their future. I would worry that they would see that on my face, that they would see my concern through their tear soaked eyes and that because of it they may falter. I have never had that. I have seen my friends sad for us, I have seen tears springing to their eyes, I have seen them fighting them back, but I have never once felt their doubt, I haven't felt their despair. They texted messages, sent emails, made phone calls, and burst into the hospital room and our home with utter joy. I rarely had the chance to feel my own concern, my own anguish, my own thoughts of rejection because they were 5 steps ahead of me in a place of joy and happiness and anticipation. I don't know if they were naturally there or if they forced themselves to be there, but I soaked it all in because I needed it. Their hearts were filled with love for me, for Johnny, for our family and through seeing their hearts, I was able to recognize the place burrowed deep inside where Johnny had permanently attached himself to me. Because of the love they were able to show for him without hesitation or abandon, I was able to take the adoration, love, and pride in my son that I felt instinctively and show it socially.
When you see how much others love your children, two things happen. First, you feel love for your children even deeper than before. And second, you feel yourself bonded to the person, that at that moment you would do anything for them, and you can't help but love them in return. Thank you ladies for being my net.