On being the perfect person

Since Daniel was born I’ve been told quite a few times that I’m “the perfect person” to have a child with Down syndrome. Here are some of my thoughts on that.

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After the nurse informed us that it was likely Daniel had Down syndrome and left the room, the very first thing I said to Brian was, “I don’t know if I can do this.” And he looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, “Do what?” Because you know, little late to be rethinking this whole baby thing. He’s sleeping in the bassinet RIGHT THERE. And I said, “Raise a special needs child.” I was terrified of the future, of the unknowns that Daniel brought with him. And I most certainly did not believe I was the perfect person to be doing this.

Then a few days after Daniel was born, Brian and I were driving over to see him in the NICU. We pulled up to a stop sign at the parking lot entrance and Brian was quiet for a second before saying, “You know, I’ve always felt like I would have a special needs child.” And I responded with something super eloquent like, “Really?” But OH! Relief flooded through me when he said that. It was like suddenly everything was okay, because I wasn’t alone in this. He was so matter of fact, so sure that Daniel was meant for us. After that, how could I feel otherwise? It was suddenly easy to see that we are the best FAMLY for Daniel.

I don’t have to be the perfect person, because I’m not the only person Daniel has. Obviously I do my best, but Daniel is also lucky enough to have Brian and Kalena and Will and any/all future siblings. I still have my moments (or days) where I feel like I’m doing a terrible job at this. I think EVERY mother has those. Anyway, the point is, 20 months in I STILL don’t feel like I’m the perfect person to have a child with Down syndrome. But you know what? I DO have a child with Down syndrome so how I feel is pretty irrelevant. I’ll continue to do my best for Daniel just like I do for our other kids, and I’ll hope my best is good enough.

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23 thoughts on “On being the perfect person

  1. Yes, I honestly think that is a bunch of hooey (perfect person to have a child with DS), because what of the parents who abuse their children with Down syndrome, ya know?

    I agree, you are the best mother for *your* kids, because that’s just the way it is. 🙂

  2. It’s odd that no one ever looks at their husband when their first baby arrives and says, “I don’t think I can do this” because THAT is when it is scary and hard. I definitely think you have the best family for Daniel, including Brian’s mom. I think you’re doing a great job. I am honored to be his Aunt and am excited to continue to grow and learn with him and you.

  3. I’ve never really liked the “you are the perfect person” statement that people mean as a compliment, but it is a really weird thing to say. It falls into the “I could never handle what you’ve been through” category, which I get a lot. Because everyone deals with what they get, right? However, I know another woman who had a baby with DS and I think she’s a horrible person. But I don’t think she should have had kids at all because she doesn’t seem to like them.

    Anyway, this is a really roundabout way of me saying I really like your way of thinking about this.

    • Totally. I didn’t get a kid with Down syndrome because I’m “perfect” for it and you haven’t been through all you’ve been through because “you could handle it.” That’s just life.

  4. I like Maureen’s comment, reminds me of a twist – instead of “God gives us what we can handle,” it’s “God helps us handle what he gives us.” I always think it’s funny when there’s a situation that’s tough (lots of little kids at home, a special needs child, giving daily self-injections) and someone comments “I could never do that!” Well, if you were in that situation, you could, because you do what you have to do. Unless you’re a mean, crappy mom like herewegoajen knows… but you’re not a mean, crappy mom, thank goodness 🙂 Good post.

  5. Elsha,
    You and Brian are such great parents. I do feel that Daniel as well as all of your children are very lucky. I have a special needs sister Kathleen, and I can tell you she is the glue that holds our family together. She just turned 63 and I believe it is her love, generosity and family that has allowed her to live as long as she has. Her impact on family and friends is remarkable. While I know you face and will face challenges, I believe you and Brian were chosen to have such a special little person like Daniel in your family. Lots of love…Marcia

  6. I loved reading your thoughts on this. I’ve had a lot of people tell me similar things since we got Samuel’s diagnosis. I know it’s meant as a compliment, but I don’t really find it comforting. But you’re so right…whether or not I feel equipped to handle a special needs child is totally irrelevant.

    I like what a previous commenter said about God giving us what we need to cope. Right after we got Samuel’s cardiac diagnosis a friend told me, “God will give you grace you need to walk the path He has set before you,” and I’ve clung to that ever since. It really is a much nicer sentiment than “God only gives you what you can handle.” The idea behind the former is that God will be the one to do the work, while the latter implies that we have to do it on our own strength.

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