If you've been following the heartbreaking story of terminally ill country singer Joey Feek, you've probably already cried your eyes out a couple of times. Today's news that Joey's daughter, Indiana, was caught on video saying "Mama" for the first time is guaranteed to add another couple of tears to the bunch.
Indiana's first words are especially exciting because she was born with Down syndrome. It's not unusual for children with Down syndrome to speak their first words later than their peers, typically between the ages of 2 and 3. Indiana just turned 2 on Feb. 15. Joey has been trying to live long enough to see her daughter turn 2, and we can only imagine her joy at getting to hear those long-awaited words for the first time.
Joey, who is half of the country singing duo Joey + Rory, entered hospice care last November after her cancer treatments were unsuccessful. Although Rory has written about his wife's failing strength on his blog, he continues to capture moments Joey is able to spend with Indiana, sharing the sweet video of Indiana's first words:
Thankfully most first-time parents don't have to deal with a terminal illness on top of their adjustment to parenting. It can feel excruciating to wait until your baby finally says "Mama," even when the words come at just the right time.
If you had trouble waiting until your baby spoke at the average age of 9 to 14 months, imagine the relief special needs parents feel when they finally get to hear those words at a few years old (or even in adolescence!). Milestone charts and timelines are thrown out the window for parents who just want to hear their kids speak someday.
Parenting can come with a lot of idealistic expectations. None of us plans to put on another episode of Sesame Street while we microwave some chicken nuggets, but the reality of parenting rarely looks much like our pre-parenthood ideals. When you add a special need on top of the usual demands of parenting, we special needs parents often find ourselves thrilled when our children achieve basic milestones other parents take for granted. Not every child will speak, and sometimes it takes years of therapies and hard work to hear that one simple "Mama."
For Joey and Rory, the challenges of parenting a child with Down syndrome have likely (and understandably) taken a back seat to Joey's illness for now. We can't imagine how painful it must be for Joey to consider a future for her daughter that doesn't include her. As the singer's life comes to an end, Indiana chose just the right time to call her "Mama."
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