This afternoon, a family member told me that a few weeks ago, a friend of hers had had a new granddaughter, who was born with Down Syndrome. My initial gut reaction was "Oh, no!" which was then followed by-"what a terrible thing to think about the birth of a beautiful child." If I, a mother of a child with Down Syndrome think this way, how would others respond?
As I thought about it some more, I realized that my initial gut reaction was not really about the baby; it was about all the drama and emotions surrounding the birth of a child with special needs.
I still remember when Y was born, how people did not really know what to say to us. Even though we were trying to process things, we still felt strongly that a "Mazel Tov" is in order, rather than any pitying comments. What sticks out in my mind all these years later, is a phonecall from a friend of my husband's who I had never met in person. She called from Australia to wish us well and said "I am so sorry that you are going through a difficult time right now." She was acknowledging the confusion and conflicting emotions we were feeling, without in any way making Y's birth into a negative event.
I think that really lies at the root of my conflicting reactions. I know this baby girl is a blessing. But having been there myself I also know of all the turmoil the birth of a child with special needs causes- the disappointment, anger, mourning, frustration, fear of unknown. My initial dismay was about these feelings, feelings the new parents will have to work through. Along with these feelings also comes love and a connection they feel to their baby, which will only grow.
Unfortunately there is no shortcut. Only through truly acknowledging one's feelings and processing, can one get to a place of love and acceptance. If I could speak to these new parents, I would say, "Right now, things are painful and confusing. You love your little girl so much but you can't help feeling scared and disappointed. Know that this child will bring you unbelievable joy and nachas in ways you cannot even imagine. And most importantly- Mazel tov!"