Life is going to change. That thought weighed so heavily on me the day my second daughter was born that any shred of elation that would otherwise accompany the welcoming of a new child was drowned by the significance of what I had been told—that she had Down syndrome. In my grief, I drew an imaginary line through January 22, 2010—a bold, can't-be-mistaken line that would separate everything that came before that fateful day from all that I imagined would follow. I was certain everything would be different—that I would have to trade in my life, my comforts, my parenting philosophies, and my dreams for a new set I didn't ask for.
Let me tell you how January 22, 2010 changed my life. A few minor things changed, like balancing two kids instead of one, adjusting to our new in-home therapy schedule, researching the world of special needs, and expanding my knowledge of the phenomenally complex human chromosome. But that's nothing compared to what changed the most the day my daughter was born—my heart. I am more grateful for little moments with my family—like long Saturday mornings when we linger in the kitchen over pancakes and sausage. I am more aware of the many differences that make people who they are—and ultimately how insignificant those differences become when you truly recognize people for their abilities. And I realize I've underestimated my own capabilities and strengths as a woman, mother, and individual able to create change.
Mothering a child with special needs? Well, that's the easiest part. Yes, there are challenges—because life is hard—but we are equipped to deal with them. Loving your child—regardless of how many chromosomes he or she might have or how many times you worry about the future or when and how she learns to read—it's like breathing. It's what you do, without even thinking. You love your child. You believe in your child. You fight to make the world a better place for your child. And that? That never changes.