by Katie Withrow
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Original Article: Click Here
Originally Published: April 2013
Pulling up carrots is a family favourite. We always plant West Coasts Seeds’ Rainbow Blend. Our almost four-year-old daughter Savan- nah is my favourite harvesting partner. “Loosen up the soil. OK, pull at the base.” Purple, white, orange, what colour will this one be? Her favourite is purple.
I will always remember the day we “found out” about Emmett. I was five months pregnant and in the garden that day, too, while my baby was silently dividing 47 chromosome cells inside of me. Savannah was in her pink swimsuit in her backyard pool. It was June. My husband Andy walked outside with the phone in hand. It was Jill, our midwife. “She says ‘probably,’ not ‘possibly,’” said Andy. I dropped the hose. Tears spilled. We talked. We thought this was coming, but now it was more certain.
Trisomy 21 is the medical term and refers to three copies of the 21st chromosome—most of us only get two. But Trisomy 21 is more commonly referred to as Down syndrome.
Although we used the word “probably” we still didn’t know for sure. His birth day was very much anticipated. We had so many extra, precious and serious conversations with many health care professionals over this baby and it made us want him more than ever. He or she? Red hair, curly? Three pounds, four pounds or five pounds? The ultrasound suggested 4 lbs plus or minus 1. Blue or brown eyes? 46 or 47 chromo- somes? Health issues or healthy? Who is this secret person inside of me and what life will we share together? There were so many questions to be answered.
“The baby is coming soon, Savannah. We must be ready. Are you ready?”
September 23, 2011 Emmett arrived. He was so perfectly tiny and so incredibly cute. The quietest cry, softest hands, tiniest feet. He opened his big beautiful blue almond eyes and looked at me as if saying, “Hello. Here I am. Will you love me?”
My heart answered with a big, it’s-too- late-I-already-do, fears-and-all YES.
Four pounds fifteen ounces. What a big guy! We were ready for a three pounder.
Right after Emmett was born, Andy and I did a lot of staring. Staring at each other. Then staring at Emmett. Here he is.
I will always remember a conversation with midwife Jill when Emmett was just hours old. We sat together, Jill telling me that Emmett picked the right family. That he was one lucky guy and was going to have the best life. We asked big questions together like what it’s like to live in a perfection- and expectation-obsessed society where models are air-brushed and altered in magazines and where carrots that are slightly misshaped don’t even make it to the grocery store. We spend so much energy, time, and money on looking and striving to be perfect.
The idea of perfection is introduced to us at such a young age. We formulate our expectations regarding our future and then spend much of our life disappointed that it hasn’t gone as planned. Jill and I spoke about the idea of opening our hands. Opening our hands to the concept of letting go of control and expectations. Opening receive what is being given to us. Receiving beauty, suffering, relationships and life. Receiving it all. I cried and my hands opened.
Emmett is not who I ex- pected or planned for. Many would not consider him per- fect. But he is a dream. He is 17 months old now and has completely stolen our hearts. He smiles at everything and everyone and is the most lovable, accepting child I know. Savannah refers to him as her “best fwend” and everyone who sees him can’t resist him. He has many fans.
Although our life is different, it is perfect. Different than planned and different than expected don’t always mean bad. We can’t all be the same—we are not. We are all our own unique selves and our diversity makes our families, our community and our world better. Diversity promotes learning, understanding, kindness and caring. Even looking at our world biologically, the more biodiversity in an ecosystem, the healthier and stronger it is.
We spend so much energy and time striving, willing, struggling to make our life a certain way. Having a child with special needs has been one of the most non-controlled experiences of my life. I have given up the need for control and as I have, I am noticing beauty and delight all around me that I missed before. I am now more at peace and more joyful than ever before.
I have learned that I romanticized parenting. Before having children I only pictured the tickle fights, forts, library story times
and baking cookie moments. Somehow my imagination didn’t include showdowns that end in time-outs, try- ing to get our kids to stop picking their noses in public and cleaning up pee puddles at the store. Both of my children have taught me that parenting is about a deeper love than I imagined, a deep covenantal love where you look at your child and say “yes” you are mine and I am yours.
We pulled the last of our carrots last week. Many different colours, many different shapes. We washed them off, placed them together on a plate and admired them—delicious, different, and so beautiful.
Katie Withrow, formerly a geology teacher, now cares for and plays with her two littles in beautiful Victoria.
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