This is the second post in a 2-part series reflecting one year after we found out our son would have Down syndrome. You can find Part 1 here. Following our diagnosis, we had limitless support from our family, friends, doctors, and our local DS organization. But we still didn’t have our baby in our arms yet. There was so much we didn’t know about him and all we had were statistics and other people’s stories to try to piece together an image of what our lives would look like. Stats and probabilities weren’t really doing a great job painting a picture of the future. Here are some of the things our doctor wasn’t able to tell us about our son that day.
She didn’t tell me about the moon eyes.
Owen smiles with his whole face, but especially his eyes. In fact, before his lips even cracked their first smile, his eyes would let us know he is happy. They crinkle up into thin little crescent moons and stars shine out of them. One smile can make your whole day. My sister calls them the moon eyes. She says I have them too. Shortly after our diagnosis I remember looking at baby pictures of John and I and wondering if this baby will look like any of those photos. He has John’s nose, my lips, and those sparkling almond shaped eyes that are a signature of his extra chromosome, are my moon eyes.
She didn’t tell me that he would wake up talking to himself.
No whining or crying for a bottle. Just babbling to himself. When I go to pick him up he gives me the biggest smile like “Hey you found me!” as if we were playing a game of Marco Polo or something and I finally followed his bubbly coos to find him. It is by far the best alarm clock I’ve ever had.
She didn’t tell me his hair would have its own personality.
To be fair, my favorite ultrasound technician did tell me that she could see some hair on his ultrasound. She was my favorite because she told me things like that. While my very pregnant self was laying uncomfortably on a crunchy piece of paper draped over a thin layer of vinyl and foam waiting to hear the next bad piece of news, she took time out of the routine organ measurements and heart examinations to show me that he has fingers and toes and hair. I didn’t even know you could see hair on a sonogram. She reminded me I was having a baby, not a diagnosis. And he did have quite the head of hair when he was born, but mostly just in the front. At first it would fall into his face and he would look a little emo like an early 2000’s Pete Wentz, especially when all the other short fuzzy hairs on his head spiked straight out. Party in the front, business in the back. But as it has grown longer it’s taken on a more sinister look, like Adam Sandler in Little Nicky. If we brushed it to the side he looked like a politician with a comb-over. Mimi got her hair gel out though and we coiffed it into the kewpie curl you see in the header photo on our blog. Problem solved.
She didn’t tell me that he would like my singing.
Owen is not really a fussy baby. He is pretty chill as far as babies go. One Saturday a few months ago though (I’m pretty sure he was just tired of looking at my mug all day) he became a little whiny. I tried rocking him, playing with new toys, I put on the classical Pandora station which always works like a charm. Nothing. It was too cold to leave the house unless absolutely necessary and I had played all my cards. I started singing “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell and he smiled. I had that song playing on a mix in my car one year ago. It’s funny how songs can attach themselves to a time and place in your head. This is certainly one of those for me. It gave me a lot of peace then and on a cold Saturday in January, it gave my son some peace too. Now we have a catalog of songs I’ve committed to memory and most nights they do the trick when he forgets how to fall asleep. His favorite is “Sweet Baby James.” I put it on a cd for the car and he starts singing when it comes on. He only knows one note but we are working on it.
She didn’t tell me how much he would be into his daddy.
I kinda saw this one coming. John has always been pretty awesome with the kiddos. He was the first one to make Owen smile and the first to make him laugh. John walks in the room and Owen lights up. His eyes get wide and attach to his daddy, ready for some ensuing antics. Just now John went up to get Owen out of his crib because he was “stirring a bit.” John has him bouncing on his chest in a game called “hop on pop.” I love that they already have such a special relationship.
In those first few months after the diagnosis, I wondered whether it would have been easier to have a birth diagnosis, because then I would have my baby in my arms. I would know him instead of imagining him. If someone could have told me any of these things, or slipped me any of these photos, would it have been easier? I don’t know. I have come to realize that I am grateful that I had the opportunity to deal with those feelings before he got here. To not have mixed feelings upon his arrival. To see those beautiful moon eyes look up at me for the first time and know that he was always mine and exactly what I wanted. It has been a blast getting to know this guy in the short 8 months he’s been with us. I can’t wait to see what we add to the list next.