In the nearly five years (next month) that I have been Tanner’s mother, I have seen very few real and caring moments. He’s a tough little man our Tanner. His first five years were a struggle to get the attention of those who had no time to give attention. So he became comfortable in his detachment, in his pain that was the result of his attention getting hijinks. It changed his whole being.
“Oh those Down’s babies, they are just so happy all of the time!”
That is a statement I have heard more times than I can count. Usually by well meaning people. They try to be admirable of our actions, connected to our circumstance, or just not rude in an absence of understanding how we could adopt two kids with Down syndrome. I have lived five long years with a little guy with Down syndrome, who most certainly has not been happy all of the time. The struggles with him have been very real, heartbreaking, tear filled, and to be honest, confusing.
I have been pushed out of my comfort zone. I like to have a plan for everything, and within that plan another plan as back up, and if something goes wrong….I research any and every alternative. There are no plans for parenting Tanner. Although over the last couple of years, we have really been working to build a secure attachment.
We’ve worked hard on that one. I’ve cried because it almost seems unfair to only let him shake hands with people who want to hug him. However, he needs LOVE and AFFECTION from his mom and dad. He needs the everyday presence of that love, and to become dependent on that love, trustworthy of that love. It’s a slow process. It is working though. I saw the proof just yesterday.
Yesterday, I gave up my fertility. From the day I got married, I envisioned having lots of babies, loving being pregnant, natural births, etc. I hoped for a big family. I felt like we should let God decide our family, and so He has. I almost died during childbirth with the last two babies, and that is not sensationalistic. With Grace, I had a 104 fever for days that could not be broken with some of the most powerful antibiotics out there. It was scary. With Zeke, I had a uterine rupture. That is the thing doctors warn you about when talking about vbac, the big worry in obstetrics…yeah it’s scary also.
So while I do hold firm that God should be in charge, I also believe that He puts intelligent people in our lives to help us. The doctor I had with Zeke was very much understanding of my convictions, he also said that we “could” have another child, but that he did not recommend it. A uterine rupture is dangerous, another child could kill myself and the baby at any point during pregnancy. I do not live any where near a hospital. For a year I have carried this burden on my heart, could I get pregnant and possibly die right here in front of my children?
Thus the decision was made. John drove me to the hospital, dropped me off, and took the kids to breakfast. When my surgery was over, I was in the restroom, and I heard the children. I specifically heard Tanner, he was talking very loudly, getting overly anxious and wild, and trying to work the nurse over. This is typical of him and strangers. She had given him a teddy bear (as well as the other children), which only heightened his behavior.
And then something magical happened.
I walked out of the bathroom. His eyes turned to me. He completely quieted, stopped talking to the nurse, and his eyes never left me and the IV. Concern and almost tears covered his little face. He asked if I was okay, if I hurt, if I was sick. His expressive speech is limited, but oh how he communicated with me. Not once did he try to work over the nurse like his usual self, it was if no one else was there. He loved me…his mom!
As the parent, I understand that we shouldn’t expect reciprocity from our children. They can’t see past circumstance, they are driven by emotion at their young ages, and we can’t expect them to act in logical or loving ways at all times. However, it feels natural to desire the love of your children. True and authentic love. I’ve had a handful of true and authentic, connected moments with Tanner over the years. Sometimes it feels as though we would never reach him, and that he would be lost to us.
Yesterday was a grace filled moment. In my sadness at losing my fertility, my heart was overwhelmed with love and joy at the actions of my “lost boy.” My boy who gives me hope that he’s not lost after all, and that if we just keep persevering, one day he will have joy in his life instead of the drive for chaos. It was a glimmer of hope.
My son loves me, and I know it to be true. He may show it in the most unloving ways, but he does love his Momma. He does need love from his Momma, and oh how I’ve waited for that day. What a perfect day to see it. God is so very good. He gives us grace in heartache, joy in pain, we just have to see past our own circumstances to really take it in.