a downsy?

How we label people matters simply because our society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

“Oh, he’s a Downsy? He’s a Downs kid…a down syndrome baby.  Is he a Down syndrome boy? That cute little downs kid! That Down syndrome girl…she just had a Downs baby! Was he abandoned because he’s a downs?”

I know that any parent of a child who’s rocking the extra chromosome is cringing right now.

 

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Seriously, I’ve heard all of these and more! Before we had Lian, I really didn’t give much thought to these phrases and I probably used them a time or two, unthinking, unknowingly. I mean, what’s the big deal, right?

Are we, as parents of children who just happen to be blessed with that minuscule extra chromosome, are we being overly sensitive? Too demanding? Too picky?

Hmmmm….. Let’s just do a little experiment here. Let’s switch Down syndrome with something else.

“Oh, that palsy boy? What a cute, little, palsy baby! Oh, she’s a bifida kiddo. Did you know that Amy has a cancer brother, too? Yeah, she’s a cleft girl.”

No. We would respectfully say, “a little boy who HAS cerebral palsy, a little girl who HAS spinal bifida, Sally has a brother who HAS cancer, she HAS a cleft palate”.  None of these things degrade the value of the person at all.

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For example, above is a photo of Lian, who has Down syndrome, with his grandfather, who has cerebral palsy. Neither of these two men allow their condition to limit whom God has made them to be.

It’s called “people first” language or terminology. And, to be honest with you, I learned this AFTER we adopted Lian, but it makes SO much sense and I’m very grateful I learned it.

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As parents of children who just happen to have special needs, it’s so incredibly important to us that you aren’t counting chromosomes and handing out labels before you first see our child as a person. He’s a person first. A person of value who isn’t defined by a diagnosis, and, in fact, has struggled to overcome, to fight for, and accomplish more in his short life than most of us will in a lifetime.

How we label people matters simply because society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

Their lives are demeaned to the point that these tiny persons are routinely aborted, never given the chance to brighten the world with their sweet spirits and sunshine smiles. These children are routinely abandoned in many countries solely because of their chromosome count.

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“For God sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

So, the next time you see a parent of a child who is obviously blessing all around him with his cute wave, his husky boy hello…Just smile and allow his sweet spirit to lift your day.

I don’t want this defining question, “Is he a Downs kid?” to be the first thing Lian hears every time he meets someone new.

I want him to hear, “Wow, great signing, Lian! I hear that new word you’ve been working on for months! I love your smile! What a strong boy you are! Thank you for helping!”

And if you feel like you can’t possibly say anything nice, just move on. Please!

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Because who he is isn’t defined by a chromosome. If you could just look past the label, you’d see a child with an enormous heart, sensitive to those who are hurting, ready to dole out hugs and light up the room with his smile. You’d see a little boy who reminds us to pray when we forget, who raises his hands to God in worship service when I’m too self-conscious to, who insists on praying for someone who is injured or sick. You’d see a little person who speaks to God as if they are best friends, who commands the rain to stop with all the audacity of being a beloved son of the King, who makes us laugh all day long.

He, and all of our beautiful children who just happen to have Down Syndrome…they are infinitely more than the label.

So don’t introduce them with the label first.

 

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a hundred thousand Hannahs and counting, I see you…

“Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Dear Mamas who are praying, longing, yearning to adopt,

I see you. I was you. I am you again. I was the Biblical Hannah, pouring my broken heart out in my desire to adopt, my face pressed against the cold, stone, temple pillar, nails catching in the cracks as I held myself up.  Lips moving silently, tears streaming… I seemed crazy to those who saw me, knew me. One observer wonders, why do you pray that way? Why do you yearn so strongly that your heartstrings are pulled tightly, stretching, reaching, longing for something you cannot have on the other side of that steep adoption cavern?

I see you wipe your tears and walk away, only to repeat the cry through the months, years, over and over again…. silently, aloud, in the whispers of the night, or at the red light when A Thousand Years plays. (yeah, me)

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I see you hinting to your spouse, I see the sadness welling in your eyes when “that” family walks into church. You know what lovely family I’m referring to…the one with the bus of kiddos in various stages of special needs from sundry continents. I see you late at night pouring over photos of children who need you….need a mama, a family. I see the longing in your eyes because I was you, for more years than I care to count or remember. Your phone is full of screen shots, you read bios, juggling a dozen adoption listing access passwords…Red Thread, Reece’s Rainbow, Morning Star, Little Flowers…you know them all by heart. I see you. I know you like the back of my hand, the inside of my coffee cup.

In 1 Samuel, we see Hannah. A woman who had no children, who longed, with every fiber of her being, to be Divinely granted the gift of motherhood. I think we can all knowingly concur, sympathizing with that wail, whether our arms are currently too full or too empty.

That longing is uncommonly hale, compelling us onward into an unforeseeable future. A holy yearning, cherishing an innocent as greater than oneself……to sacrifice, nourish, to love with all your might, a person who cannot survive well otherwise.

And Hannah’s husband asks of her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

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Ah, husbands….we do love you so, and we were certainly made to be by your sides! God knew that you shouldn’t be alone and He sent along us…and we do so adore that you need us, working so diligently to bestow happiness on us, but you alone are not enough, for our hearts were made for so much more than complacency and a life of single-minded love.

Our hearts are so much more capacious than that.

Hannah saw that her aching, childless arms were an affliction….an affliction! “O, Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” There is a wellspring of endless tears for those who are denied their true calling of motherhood.

The grand story is that Samuel was born to Hannah, one joyous year after the sun dried her tears on the temple steps.

What is the absolute favorite verse of adoptive Mamas? Stop and listen, hear it… it is Hannah’s voice softly declaring these words,

“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him.”

The Lord has granted me…please grant it to us, God. Hear our cries, wipe our tears, listen to our hearts.

You, sweet one, I see you…. praying, seeking, petitioning,  looking at little faces in the glow of your screen. I feel your heart squeeze during scrolling…. he’s too thin, she looks peaked, those blue lips, that rash, that bruised forehead, those shadowed eyes……your two simple hands can’t care for them all, but you want just one more…you wish it, sigh it…just give me one more, God, please. I’ll be so tender, I’ll do my best, I’ll guide through the hard spots and trudge though the valleys.

You scatter your prayers to the wind like cherry blossom petals, hoping, wishing, dreaming that your child would follow the petal path back to your arms.

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If you have a pack of bios and you’re praying to adopt, I hear you. I was there. God hears, answers.  If you have one or two heart babes and you’re praying again…I’ll pray with you because I’m kneeling right next to you on those temple steps, my forehead scraping the stone, in petition to the God who sets the solitary in families. He hears us and cares that we care. Our prayers don’t fall to the ground.

I can’t save them all, but one more? If it’s in Your will….

And so….

Happy Mother’s Day…to the praying Mamas-to-be, to the Mamas who have loved, lost and loved again, to the wishing ones, yearning ones, exhausted ones, adopting ones. To the birth Mamas, the foster Mamas, the tummy Moms, the heart Moms. To the Ayis in China, to Lian’s foster mom, Lian’s birth mom….

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Happy Mother’s day through the tears, prayers, and wishes….the longings of our hearts that whisper…just one more.

For this child, I have prayed.

 

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of toddler and teens…

Who’d have thought I’d be the lucky mom of a simultaneous toddler stage AND teen stage? I’ve definitely hit the occasional insanity jackpot, not that I was aiming for it, but it somehow seems to find me no matter how carefully I hide. (was that a mixed metaphor? Jackpots searching for me…oh well)

I know that ya’ll just look at our happy pictures and think, “oooohhh, Cady has it all together!”, but let me just fill you in on what a sometimes typical day looks like in the always strange and exciting opposing spectrums that encircle the lives of toddlers and teens.

It’s a typical day. I’m chasing Lian around, redoing the things he’s undoing, picking up the things he’s pulling out, cleaning, laundry….you know the game. It’s like one giant, happy game of “let’s see how insane mom can get”.

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“Mom”, says Chloe as I’m laying on the floor fishing the balls out from under the TV cabinet….again. Lian is laying on the floor with me, pointing and directing where mom should put the aforesaid balls so that he can pick them up and roll them under the cabinet again. It’s a fun game, you see. Fun.

“Mom!” louder now, “MOM! I applied to the Royal Ballet School and I can’t get the application to go through.”

“Ok,” I grunt as I heft my aching body off of the hard wood floor. I sit down at the table, scratching my head. Is my hair thinning? Yes. Yes, it is.

CRASH! Lian dumps all of the tupperware out of the cabinet. I sigh, but leave it. It’ll keep him occupied while I figure this out.

“Mom! I need the computer!” my youngest demands. “There’s no ink in the printer and I HAVE to print this!”

I glance over.

“Lian, please don’t put that toy in the dog water!” I say in my best I’m-trying-to-build-attachment, cheerful mom voice…dragging him away and distracting him with a cracker.

“TT, I’ll get dad to order ink, don’t worry” I make a mental note to text Chris. (I forget, as usual)

I shoot an email off to the Royal Ballet Academy stating our issue. The dog starts insanely barking and Lian demands to be picked up.

“Jake turn that thing down, please!” My phone rings. Lian on one hip, Tirzah hovering worriedly over my shoulder with a look on her face says that her entire future will be ruined unless she can print this paper out for class. NOW.

“Good Day! May I please speak with a Mrs. Driver? This is the Royal Ballet School calling”….a very proper British lady is speaking. I suddenly get the urge for a cup of tea and I stand up straighter. British accents have this affect on me.

“Yes!” I pant in what I hope is a proper voice, as I balance the phone on my neck and start kicking the growling dog out the backdoor. Let her eat the mailman, I don’t care.

I’m wildly gesticulating at who knows what, but I feel that more proper behavior is in order from my children and various stinky pets when someone from England is on the phone.

“It’s the Royal Ballet Academy”. I mouth to Chloe. Chloe’s eye widen as if the Queen of England herself is gracing us with a visit.”It’s the Royal Ballet School!” She corrects me. I attempt to roll my eyes at her but I’m afraid it’ll throw me off balance and I’ll drop the baby.

Lian happily reaches over, stuffing the rest of his cracker down my shirt. I set him down and wildly gesture to Jacob to turn that game down or so help me, all of his descendants will feel my wrath. A cat slithers past my leg and yowls at the door I just shut from letting the dog out. Why, again, do we have pets????

“It seems you’re having a problem with the website. You must enter the state code.” She states in her proper British way.

I shake the crumbs from my bra. State code…state code. Lian is babbling. “MA”, he yells at the top of his lungs. State code…..State motto? I think…..ummm….something about fried chicken or pulled pork…a cardinal? I can’t remember what the state motto/code is. Live free or die? No, that’s Patrick Henry. Was he from here? What does the state code mean? I’m failing this quiz from the proper British person. Silly American, not even knowing her own state code! I stammer that question like a slightly distracted idiot.

“What’s the state code?”

“Oh, no”, even her bell-like laugh sounds properly British….”the state code…what is the code for North Carolina? The, what do you call it? Abbreviation?”

Oh, duh, NC. I sigh. Lian is dipping his ball in the dog bowl and licking it. Sydney is outside eating who knows whom…I think I hear the mailman faintly screaming in the background. The mail truck is now honking frantically. I ignore it. He’ll be ok.

“Yes, we shall fix that state code immediately. Thank you so much.” I brightly state as if my side of the phone call is very much in control of the situation.

I hang up, suddenly exhausted and feeling frumpy. I feel that if I possessed a British accent, my world would be calm, orderly,  and I would stand up straighter, my clothes would fit better, my upper arms would not dangle and swing when I wave……or something.

Would my house be cleaner if I had that crisp accent?

Lian is now rolling the wet, dog slobber balls back underneath the cabinet. There’s tupperware scattered everywhere and my son is shooting aliens, but more quietly now.

Motherhood? Who knew, right? I’m thankful that Lian’s cracker as at least dry before he decided to stash it in my clothing. Thankful for small blessings.

Please don’t let the mailman sue me for his heart failure from my dog.

“MOM!”

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