Mirabel Ruby blessed our lives on January 15th, 2010. She is a sweet, beautiful, bright-eyed little girl, who joined her older sisters Eryn and Luciya to make our family complete. Mirabel has Down syndrome, and her diagnosis is why we have dedicated this blog to her. It is a lovely and challenging learning process, and we are excited to celebrate her and see her life unfold.
Mirabel and I went to a lovely baby shower yesterday. She wore a dress that Luciya wore to a baby shower when she was a month old and looked just precious. She was sweet, and everyone wanted to look at her. But I came home feeling a little blue. I couldn't help but feel that people wanted to see her because they know she has Down syndrome. I really can't blame them; I would want to see the baby too, and certainly not in a malicious way. But she's different. And though everyone gushed "She's beautiful" (and she is), she's not beautiful in the quintessential way. Her skin is blotchy and her hair sticks up and she's got the defining characteristics and I know this. There were three other little babies there, all boys. I have a number of pregnant friends right now and they will most likely all have boys. Another thing that sets her apart.
It was hard to try and put a finger on these feelings, because I fully recognize that my family and I are so blessed to be loved and surrounded by an absolutely compassionate community who will support Mirabel forever. I just felt a little strange, a little isolated.
And then, tonight, the girls and I were grocery shopping at Fred Meyer and something happened that I've read about but have not experienced until now.
We were in the meat section and I had just put some sirloin in the car cart (for Luciya must always "drive" at Fred Meyer), when I did a double take of the little girl in the cart next to us. Wait, let me see her ears. Are they small? The way her almond-shaped eyes peeped at me from under her bangs. I hesitated, then cleared my throat and looked at her mom.
"Excuse me..." She looked up.
"Um, does your daughter have Down syndrome?" She nodded. My throat closed up and my eyes welled with tears. "Um, I... I never... my baby has Down syndrome, too."
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "You have a baby! Let me see!" And she went around the cart to look at and gush over Mirabel and then she came over and gave me a hug.
Her name is Amy and her three-year-old daughter's name is Emily (!). And we ended up standing there, cart-to-cart, in the meat section, and talking for fifteen minutes. "I used to do this, too," she said, referring to approaching complete strangers with children with Down syndrome. It was my first time.
And what a wonderful first time experience. Amy was open and kind and realistic and peaceful. Her daughter was as sweet as can be, and Luciya entertained her with bagel crisps as we chatted. I commented on how the local DS infant/toddler playgroup we attended once was more frightening than connecting, and she totally shared my sentiments. She told me of some other local resources. We shared birth and NICU stories. I got to know so much about this woman, and she so easily read my need, and I felt better. I felt good.
Then, on the way out of the store I saw a man holding two little boys by the hand. One of them had Down syndrome. Emboldened, I mentioned, quickly, that my baby has Down syndrome and just moments earlier I had approached another parent for the first time. His wife came out of the store then with two other children in a cart and asked what was up and her husband said "That woman's baby has Down syndrome." Well, Nicole (this was her name), rushed right over to coo over Mirabel. She was warm and jovial and said she was very involved in the community.
It's out there. I felt it -- it's like a sweet, connecting secret that I will be able to have and hold and find, because one in 733 people out there will share in this diagnosis.
And maybe someday when Mirabel and I are in the store a timid mother will do a double take, and approach us, and I'll give her a hug.