Note to the reader: My class and I are working on our memoir unit. This is my first draft. We talked all about the different forms to memoir and our big goal is to show meaning through our mental pictures. The section that is a flashback about Emma's Diagnosis was from a small moment I wrote earlier in the year. I was really able to explain how difficult I thought this was to write with my students. When they saw my reaction while reading it I think they understood how much this means to me. We talked about the defining moments of our lives and how it has to be the right time to put them down on paper. Some moments are ready and some are not.
My MotherhoodMotherhood seems so easy when you watch from the outside. Each day I “take care” of kids, but I never expected my journey of motherhood to change me so much. At first, the desire to be a mom was so strong my heart would ache to the point I thought my eyes would dry from all the tears that fell, each time I found out another couple’s baby was on the way.
I remember the day I found out I was going to be a mom. Excitement does not begin to express the way I felt. I called everyone to tell about our baby that was to be born on July 4th. Little did I know that her arrival would rock our universe.
Throughout my teaching career I believe that my life has been touched in some way by my students. I also feel that it is important that all children receive the best in education. Many people believe that I only advocate for children because my own child has a disability—but this was a strong piece of heart long before my girls arrived. As a teacher it is my responsibility to speak for a child when he or she is unable to make their voice heard.
My life did change after having Emma. The moment I heard her feeble cry and “it’s a girl” my heart danced with joy. Then my heart actually seemed to stop after we received her medical diagnosis.
******Dr. Saddiqui and his messengers entered my room quietly. He came over to me. “I’m sorry, but we believe your daughter has Down syndrome,” he stated. “We are performing genetic testing and will have the results by Friday,” he continued. As the entourage left the room my mind swarmed with many confusing, racing thoughts. This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening! Not my daughter! This only happens to other people! My silent room was filled with emotional chaos. Outside my room the buzzing of the nurses continued, while the doctor’s voice echoed in my ears. I kept replaying the scene: genetic testing, no eye contact from the doctor, and I knew he was right. Emma had Down syndrome. Tears flowed down my cheeks in furious streaks and my temper flared!
“There is nothing wrong with Emma! How can they even think that? I exploded. I could feel the protective instinct envelop my child even though I had only been a mother for 24 hours.
How can this be happening? How can I possibly wait 3 days to find out? What do I do? Well, I waited. I prayed. I visited my tiny baby. And I waited.
On Friday, the hospital social worker called and asked us to come up to the conference room. My heart was thumping in my chest as I walked into the elevator and then into the room. On the table sat a box of tissues. My heart sank. I gasped. My heart began to break into tiny pieces. My sobs could be heard own the hall.
“Shh…you don’t even know the results,” said the social worker.
I wanted to scream what!!! This is my child we’re talking about! Instead I quietly replied, “True, but I don’t believe the news is what we want to hear.” I pointed to the tissue box and sat down.
A rush of activity caught my attention. Dr. Saddiqui entered the room with an unfamiliar doctor. She was very animated and it was obvious she was talking about my daughter. She turned and smiled at us. Then it seemed the whole world came crashing down around me. While I tried to stop my sobs and tears, Dr. Moghadan tried to explain what it meant when she told us Emma had Mosaic Down syndrome. But, it seemed that someone had pressed the mute button. I could not speak; I could not hear her words. My mind was rushing with many different thoughts. Will she be “normal?” Will she fall in love? Will she walk or talk?
Dr. Moghadan’s words changed me. I was no longer a “new parent,” but a parent of a special needs child. Not only did her words change me, but they changed others. People went from saying, “Congratulations” to “I’m sorry,” as if someone had died. However, I learned a lot about my self that day. I would gladly sacrifice my life to prevent my child from being hurt.
For me motherhood isn’t about just being a mom. It is recognizing that we don’t know where our life journey will take us. If our path takes us on way that seems unexpected we must embrace it; learn from it.
*****After Emma’s diagnosis I received the poem Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley. It expressed in words I could not articulate about how my life changed.
Now when I see tulips I am not just reminded of Spring and the rebirth of the flowers, trees and the smell of freshly cut grass, but the change to my life. My pace. My children’s pace. Don’t just endure hardships, but chose to grow.Welcome To HollandI am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...... When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting. After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland." "Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
by Emily Perl Kingsley
©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.
As a mother and a teacher, my desire to impact others by helping them see the world and others in a different way burns deeply in my heart. I don’t know if my life story will change others, but hopefully the way I choose to treat others through my actions will plant a seed for other people to join me in my heart’s desire.