As we celebrate Seth’s 3rd birthday, I have a very strong mix of emotions. There is a combination of happy, sad, emotional, nostalgic, and longing tears, but most importantly, of grateful tears.
I am so blessed that I have him. He truly is a gift from God. He has brought so much love and happiness not only to our immediate family personally, but to our broader church family, to the special needs community, and also to the whole world! You see, he is a delight. Everyone delights in him. They can’t help but smile when they see him.
I particularly remember walking the streets of downtown Seattle, pushing him in his stroller, and he was waving to everyone we passed. I watched their faces. Nine times out of ten, they couldn’t help but smile. I started counting. During our short little walk while Daddy was working, he made over 20 STRANGERS smile! I quit counting, and just enjoyed the fact that this little boy, this little sweetie that some people would deem “not compatible with life”, a life that some people would destroy, brings SO MUCH JOY to those around him. Just to the general public! Does he not make YOU smile?
Through this little boy, I have formed a bond with the special needs community as a whole. I have come to understand families with children who have a diagnosis that people don’t understand, that people don’t get, that people avoid. It isn’t easy to comprehend what they are going through, until you are there with them, in the trenches. I have learned SO much about not only Trisomy 21, but about so many other diagnoses. A family member said to me a year or so ago that “now all of your friends are people with a kid with Down syndrome. “ It hurt for them to say that. I hadn’t ABANDONED my friends and family. I had GROWN it. Why couldn’t this person see that? Why is it so “obnoxious” that I have these new friends?
These “new friends” understand what is going through my mind on a much deeper level. They are there themselves. It is a whole new world, that those outside of can’t fully comprehend. Don’t get me wrong, my family and friends have always been there for me, supporting me, and helping me, but they haven’t been in my shoes, yet. They haven’t faced this new life with all of its unknowns and doubts and fears. It would be like joining the military, or the ministry, and not being friends with other soldiers, or other ministers and people in other churches.
You connect with these people because you are in the same situation. Some of them have years of experience, lessons learned, heartaches felt, tears shed to share with me. I have gleaned so much from the special needs community, that I am glad that I am able to give back just a little when I share Seth’s triumphs and accomplishments. My family and older friends rejoice with me, but my special needs community sheds tears with me, because they GET IT! They KNOW how hard it is to REACH those milestones!
I have “new friends” who have children much older than Seth, who have helped pave the way for so many things that are SO important in Seth’s life. I am thankful for those science fanatics who have learned how to create vitamins specifically for kids with Trisomy 21, who have put together lists of supplements, who have learned how to redirect the brain to build new bridges so that he can accomplish new milestones, who have spent their lives trying to protect the unborn from being destroyed because of fear of the unknown. THESE are my “new friends”! Be glad that I have them in my life, that we are walking this path together! For the sake of my son.
One of the biggest blessings in my life is the fact that my family has always been involved in the church, since I was an infant. My dad went to Bible school when I was a tiny tot, and went on to be a full-time pastor when I was eleven years old. I was raised going to church and meeting new Christians from other churches. That’s how I met my husband! As I got older, I was blessed to meet people from churches around the United States, and in more recent years, I have been blessed to meet people from churches all over the world! I thank my dad for creating this love for other Christians in other countries!
I tell you this, because now, Seth is loved ALL OVER THE WORLD! He has families not just in every state in the United States (especially in Alaska and Oregon), but in Ukraine, Poland, Japan, Hungary, Bulgaria, Russia, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Philippines, India, Ireland, Germany, Brazil, Egypt, South Africa, Pakistan, Malaysia, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, Chile, Indonesia, Portugal, Turkey, Mexico, Ecuador, Singapore, South Korea, Czech Republic, Argentina, France, Lebanon, Norway, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Kenya, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Iran, Kosovo, Bangladesh, Panama, Kuwait, Bermuda, Sweden, and England who love him, are inspired by him, are challenged by him.
Finally, Seth has changed our family. He has opened our eyes to the needs of others. He has opened our eyes to the plight of a whole generation of unborn children who are killed because of the unknown, because their parents are scared of what they don’t understand. I now have a passion to help them understand, and to not fear it, but to embrace this new adventure that God has laid before them with their own precious gift.
Family members have asked me if it seems like there are more children born with Down syndrome now than there were a few generations ago. I think it is because social networking makes the world seem smaller and more connected. You hear of more stories, and meet more people. Once your eyes are opened to something such as Trisomy 21, you see it everywhere. Also, my husband and I have talked about the sad fact that the reason that is seems like there are more instances of special needs in the Christian and homeschooling communities is because we are families not aborting our babies because of it.
Seth has opened our family’s eyes to the need for supporting those who are diagnosed both before and after birth as well. At the tender age of 11, my daughter spent a lot of her time creating a video to share withthose who were new to a diagnosis. She created this video in the hopes of it helping to change the way the world sees a Trisomy 21 diagnosis. You can watch her video here.
One of my sons remarked to me a few days ago that his understanding of Trisomy 21 has changed with the life of his little brother. He thought all kids with T21 were the same. He didn’t realize how different they all are, how smart they are, how fun they can be. This young manis going into the military. I look forward to seeing how God will use Seth in his life to go forth and change the world, and be able to connect with others in a new and different way.
Another one of my sons is going into the medical field. He already had a heart for helping others. He adores his baby brother and would give his life for him. God only knows the ways he will be able to be more compassionate, more endearing, more capable, and more knowledgeable when it comes to his work in the medical field with this newfound understanding of children and adults with special needs.
I also have four other sons who are more aware of their surroundings. They ask questions about others and are friendly and caring to those who may appear to be a little different. It seems as if every time we go to the park, other parents and grandparents compliment me on how nice, loving and accepting my children are toward others. They also have a bold understanding of special needs, and share with strangers that their little brother has special needs, but “he is learning REALLY FAST!” They get excited with each new word that Seth is able to say, and every new feat he is able to accomplish. They have learned to slow down and enjoy the little things. They will be better friends, neighbors and eventually fathers because of it.
Yes, Seth is making a difference, one smile, one milestone, one trial, one triumph at a time. And this is just the beginning.