I will be the first to admit, I was worried when I found out the baby I was carrying in my womb would be born with Down syndrome. I didn’t have much experience with different abilities in my lifetime and my head was overcome with worry. At the top of my list was the sibling relationship this baby would have with my other two daughters.
As I dreamt of life ahead, I wondered if my older girls would except her for exactly who she was. I wondered if they would love her as much as they loved each other or if they would be there for her when she needed them the most. Would they be able to have the same relationship I had with my own sisters or would it look differently just because she had Down syndrome?
I wondered if they would always see her as different. Would their view of her be through the lens of Down syndrome? Or would they truly know her as Bernadette?
The day the girls met their baby sister, was one of the most magical moments. I still remember that precious moment as if it were yesterday. After the whirlwind labor and delivery and Bernadette being in the Intermediate Nursery, I had been so distracted by the intensity of the situation with the looming possibility of having to be transferred to a different hospital for a higher level of care, I completely forgot about my worries until the girls arrived the next day to meet their sister.
Daddy brought them in, one at a time. The oldest first, followed by the middle. I heard them coming down the hall as I sat with my tiny newborn, snuggled in my arms attached to the monitors by cords that left us situated in one position.
I could hear their excited chatter and giggles as they each proudly walked through the hallways. Both sets of eyes sparkled like I had never seen them before from the moment they walked into the room. Their soft hands reached out and gently caressed Bernadette’s soft, wispy red hair. Their big blue eyes were wide with excitement as they inspected the newest member of our family.
Tears welled in my eyes as I turned their new baby sister towards them. My worry melted away before my own eyes as I saw them intently gaze at her. The twinkle in their eyes comforted my heart and I knew their love for her was instant. Unconditional love in the most purest human form.
The girls did not look at her and see Down syndrome. What they saw before their eyes was their new baby sister we had all been praying for. Several weeks had passed since we shared with them they were both going to be big sisters. Several tears had fallen since the day we found out she had severe heart defects and entered into a season of unknowns. And yet, here we all were, there to witness this very moment I was uncertain would even happen in the first place. Everything about it, perfect in every way. Deep in my heart, I knew Bernadette’s sisters would be there for her from this very moment on, for better or for worse, through the ups and downs of life, through whatever may happen, they will always have her back.
Bernadette just turned two. I almost can’t believe it. This tiny but oh so mighty littlest member of our tribe has fought harder in her lifetime than anyone I know. She has a personality all her own and is the very piece of our family we didn’t even realize was missing.
Her sisters absolutely adore her, more than anyone else. They play with her, feed her, change her diaper, dance with her, and read to her. They argue over who she will live with once they move out. They celebrate every single victory, big or small and are her ultimate cheerleaders.
I often think back to the early days shortly after the diagnosis and chuckle to myself. I didn’t think it was possible for the girls to see her through a lens other than Down syndrome. But they do. They see her as one of them and love her just as they love each other.
I cannot wait to see what the future holds with these girls, once they are older and when Bernadette is in school with them. I am nervous but excited. I know they will look out for her in any way they possibly can. She has already taught them so much. So much about different abilities and inclusion and unconditional love. The best part is, they listen to her. She affects the hearts of those girls in ways I never could.
I don’t worry about their relationship anymore. I am thankful for it. The more I watch them with each other, the more I know that Bernadette has given us all such a different perspective, one I wouldn’t trade for the world. She is teaching all of us how to love each other, deeper and deeper each and every day.
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About the Author:
Trista is a warrior mama raising her girl tribe in sunny California alongside her outnumbered husband when it comes to all things girl. She’s a Jesus lover, coffee drinker, mama runner, and special needs advocate. She shares her heart with all listening ears, will cry or laugh with you, and has a love for hoodies and healthy food. Her journey into the world of different abilities has just recently begun and while she has been a mom for a handful of years, her youngest who rocks an extra chromosome has captivated her heart from the very first moment their eyes met and is now changing her life in big ways. Her blog will take you on a journey with her as she discovers life through a new lens, with God by her side and coffee in her hand, grab some tissues and get ready for some laughs as she brings you through the ups and downs of this crazy thing called motherhood.
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