Sunday, October 3, 2010

Respect Life Sunday-Down Syndrome Awareness Day 3

Today is Respect Life Sunday. It takes place on the first Sunday of October and is an " annual, nationwide commemoration to help bring Catholic Church teaching on the value and dignity of human life to the Catholic community and public at large."

There are many issues relating to respecting life-embryonic research, end-of-life dignity, abortion. And while I am Pro-life and absolutely unwavering in my beliefs, for me today is a day more about LIFE than about being against ABORTION. For me, it is quite simply about celebrating life. I spent it celebrating with my 2 beautiful girls. It was a sunny, crisp Fall day and I couldn't put off the inevitable shopping for tweens that needed to get done. After church we headed to the mall to get jeans for Mira and shoes and glasses for Sophia. The girls strolled hand-in-hand through the mall and we stopped in at the Picture People to look at pictures we took back in July! We giggled at some of their expressions and each girl picked out the one they liked of themselves. We found jeans, shoes, and glasses and did it all without tears! It was a great Sunday.

I really couldn't possibly think about Respect Life Sunday without thinking about Sophia and all of the special needs children around the world. Here in America I guess I would call them The Survivors. Various studies say that between 90-98% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted. Right now, 1 in every 733 babies is born with Down syndrome. 1 in every 100 children are living with autism. I would venture to say that the rate of babies born with Down syndrome would increase greatly if there were no pre-natal tests to diagnose it. There would be MANY MORE people with Down syndrome living in this world. Is that a bad thing? I often wonder what will happen when there is a prenatal test for autism. Will the incidence of autism become 1 in 733 or will it go to nil? What about the other pre-natal tests on the horizon... for addictions? depression? heart disease? cancer? Where do we draw the line? Why DO WE draw a line?

Sophia loves her life. She loves her friends and family. We love her. I feel very blessed with the miracle of her life. And that's what life is...a miracle. Every life.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Conversations with Sophia-Down Syndrome Awareness Day 2

While it seems that we spend a large amount of time trying to teach special needs kid, I am most amazed by the daily life lessons Sophia teaches me. Sometimes I wonder if this is a big trick God is playing on us. Are special needs kids here to teach the whole world lessons? Sophia feels all the same emotions that we feel. The most amazing thing to witness is that there is no filter through which she analyzes them or through which she shares them. When she's feeling mad, sad, happy...she just tells me.

"Mom, I am so mad at you." "Why, Sophia?" "Because you won't let me watch my t.v. show and I really like it." I usually tell her that she can watch it when she finishes her homework and she reluctantly sits down to do her homework. And when I tell her she can now watch it I usually get a "You're the best mom!".

I never doubt Sophia's love for me and I don't think she doubts that I love her. I know this because multiple times daily, she tells me she loves me. We have also been having this conversation for a few years. "How come you love me so much?" To which I answer, "Because God gave you to me and you are my daughter." She responds by saying, "Awww. I love you,too" and encircles me with a hug. Some mornings she wakes up and says, "Do you love me because God gave me to you?" I respond yes and then she points to a picture of me holding her when she was a baby. "I was a baby and I was so cute and God gave me to you." And for me, it is never redundant. She says it with renewed energy every this is a fact she has just learned and it makes her so happy and it is the only thing that matters in her life.

Occasionally I will see Sophia just sitting on the couch crying. When I ask her what is wrong she says, "I'm sad because I miss Auntie Donna". Or, she misses Granny, Mimi, Grandpa Ron, Marley or any of the people/animals in our life that have passed on. Some she has never even met or doesn't even remember. But we talk about them to her and show her pictures and she somehow senses that there is a void in this world left behind by their absence. I think about the number of times in my life that I miss someone and I may even cry. My first instinct is to hide my tears. After all it is the middle of the day and there are people around me and I don't want to explain or be embarrassed or diagnosed as unstable by strangers. How silly really that I feel that way. Am I not entitled to miss people and feel sad because of it? Sometimes I wish I could be more like Sophia.

I think my favorite emotion that I get to witness from Sophia is her joy. Some days we will just be outside playing or pulling weeds. She'll say, 'Wait mom...smell the air." She'll pause and inhale deeply and smile. Then she says, "It's a beautiful day. The sun is out, we're together...the whole family-me, you, daddy, Mira." I know that I taught her to "smell the air" when she was very young but somehow it has stuck and I am so glad because as I age and get busier I often forget to "smell the air" and breathe deeply and thank God for each day.