When Ellie was a newborn I read a lot of books that could all be described as an introduction to Down Syndrome. Suggested reading on most Down Syndrome websites and forums. Many of them talked about there being two stages of acceptance with this diagnosis. Personally I believe acceptance isn’t so rigid but the books needed more concrete definitions. The first, they said, was when you receive the diagnosis. Since this generally occurs either during pregnancy or within the first few weeks of your baby’s life it is a fairly private acceptance. You are allowed to go through your own process privately. Then, the books describe, there is another acceptance, when the world starts to see your child as different. The physical characteristics of Down Syndrome aren’t quite as noticeable early on but as children grow their features become more prominent.
People have always told me that Ellie is beautiful, because she is. Sometimes people linger a little too long with words waiting on the edge of their lips. Sometimes they look at me and I notice a slight tilt of their head or eye contact that lasts too long and suggests something more. It doesn’t bother me, I just notice something extra. Recently, however, people have been making comments. Nothing cruel, all positive, but the outside world is beginning to acknowledge our diagnosis. A woman in the checkout telling me she loves people with Down Syndrome because they are so loving, a stranger at an art school saying her daughter attends daycare with a boy who has Down syndrome, or the lady behind me at the pharmacy telling me her aunt has a very rare chromosome disorder somewhat similar to Down Syndrome. I nod and smile at saying things like, sometimes I think Ellie knows the secret to life, or isn’t that nice, or we are so lucky with how much research has been done with regards to Down Syndrome. It doesn’t bother me at all, I find it interesting what people will share with a stranger and what makes them start a conversation. I actually find myself frozen when I see another person with Down Syndrome. I follow them around the store secretely wishing I had the courage to tell them my love for an extra chromosome. The only negative that sits being deceitful in the back of my mind is the thought that if kind people know then so do hurtful people. It makes me wonder if someone will be inclined to say something rude. It makes me want to hide from those people so we never have proof that they exist. But I can’t. And I can’t hide Ellie because I do think she’s beautiful, and I think her eyes are enchanting, and there is a hopeful part of me that sits on my heart that thinks maybe Ellie has the power to change these people’s minds.