I have this phrase I’ve been saying to the kids for years: "I worked so hard to grow you!" The unsaid followup -- of course -- carrying with it more meaning than what is actually spoken. That is, since I worked so hard to grow you, the least you could do in return is this one teensy weensy thing. I say it when Torri groans about emptying the dishwasher or when Kennedy would rather slip off to bed than give her old mom a hug. I say it when Cassidy refuses to sit still so that I can brush her hair or when Jayce gives his daddy the prized first morning hug instead of saving it for me. It’s always said in jest, meant more as a playful tease than a means by which to elicit actual feelings of guilt.
Last night, as I knelt at Cassidy’s bedside to pray with her, she thanked me, though I didn’t quite catch what she was thanking me for. As with most children with Down syndrome, Cassidy’s speech can sometimes be challenging to decipher, even for me.
“Thank you for what?” I asked.
She repeated the phrase, but still I only understood the thank you loud and clear.
“Say it one more time,” I coaxed, inching ever closer to see her face -- to try to read her facial expression through the dim light of her darkened bedroom.
She looked straight into my eyes and said it once again. “Thank you for growing me,” she said. Clear as a bell.
I remember going to the hospital for that specialized ultrasound, the one at the end of which they asked if I’d like to hear about my “alternatives.” I remember how I left there that day, the disbelief at what they suggested crawling over my skin and seeping into my soul like poison.
And then I remember when -- at long last -- I held her in my arms that first night. Thanksgiving. Fresh off the shock of an unofficial diagnosis, there we were, the two of us closed up in a hospital room while the rest of the world ate their pumpkin pie. I stared into those bitty almond eyes, traced the contour of her jaw with my fingers. It’s going to be okay, I promised, even though I wasn’t entirely convinced of that myself.
Last night, in that darkened room, there we were again -- just us two. I don’t know what prompted those words she said, but I know they stirred something deep in me. I was on my knees there at her bedside, getting ready to talk to God. I can’t help but wonder -- now -- if He chose that very moment to talk to me instead.
Darcie Maranich lives with her family in Tucson, Arizona. Parenting through teen motherhood and Down syndrome give her plenty to write about at Such the Spot.