I’ve been in sort of a funk the last few days and I’ve been trying to pinpoint why. It hit me square in the heart while I was replying to a friend on Facebook about Rowenna’s first birthday party.
I think I’m afraid for Rowenna to turn one. She’s finally reached an age where people are starting to ask uncomfortable questions and she’s at an age where the delays are more obvious. Upon hearing she’s 11 months old, typically I’m asked if she’s walking yet. I have a pat response for these scenarios.
Random stranger: “Oh, 11 months old? So is she walking yet? <insert ridiculous story about how their child or grandchild walked at 5 months or something>”
Me: <smiling weakly> “No, not quite yet. That’s ok! Buys me time to baby-proof the house. Ha ha!”
Random stranger: “Ha ha! Yes, just wait. She’ll be walking in no time and giving you trouble!”
Oof. Punch in the gut. Rowenna is nowhere near walking. She doesn’t crawl – she doesn’t even army crawl. No, she’s perfectly content to roll her cloth-diapered behind around the living room and smile at people until she gets what she wants. (We have a combination of low muscle tone and Rowenna having her daddy’s chilled-out attitude going on here.) But since I personally feel that I don’t need to broadcast to the universe that Rowenna has Down syndrome, I choose the path of least resistance and let strangers make these comments. It’s just easier to follow the social contract here. Kind of like when someone says “How are you?” you know you’re supposed to say “Good, thanks! And you?” no matter how you’re really feeling.
Without doubt, Rowenna is going to walk someday. The mantra in the Down syndrome community is that our kids will achieve things in their own time. Believe me, I get it. I know it’s true. And most days, I’m patient. Most days I’m content to have a baby I get to snuggle a little bit longer. Most days I am actually a little grateful that I haven’t had to baby-proof the kitchen and that if I need to shower I can put her in her crib for 10 minutes without worrying she’ll climb out.
But right now I’m staring down a milestone. Rowenna is nearing her first birthday. Until now it’s been sort of easy to forget about the delays because she’s little. She’s a peanut who looks barely big enough to roll around much less be able to walk. Since I’m a first time mom I don’t have an inner time line for when things “should” happen. I don’t have another child to compare to. But staring down her first birthday and knowing what typical babies generally do around this age, it has hit me just how much Rowenna isn’t doing right now.
I don’t want to be sad about it, but I am. I question whether or not I do enough with her during the day, whether or not she gets enough therapies, whether or not I’m cut out to be her momma. If people are already asking about her walking and talking at 11 months, what are they going to say when she’s 18 months and not walking? 24 months and not talking? How long will I be able to half-heartedly laugh off peoples’ questions and comments?
Yeah, I know the answer is grow a thicker skin and don’t bother worrying about what strangers have to say, but I’ll bet there are some mommas out there who understand what I’m trying to say here. It’s all those little things that add up sometimes. I’d love to be able pick up a gallon of milk without someone wanting to say something about Rowenna. It hasn’t happened yet, though. Honestly, every single time I’ve left the house since she was born, at least one person has said something to me about her. People like to be nosy about babies – I know this isn’t a phenomenon unique to Rowenna or Down syndrome. It’s just that when you’re so stinkin’ proud that your baby has finally learned to sit up on her own and here someone is asking about whether or not she’s walking…well, it’s like a balloon deflating just a little bit. It’s not that those people mean to be malicious, or that I’m not proud of Rowenna, it’s just a reminder of the…otherness of this life.
Upon further reflection, I realize how blessed I am in my circle of family and friends. No one in my support system has ever asked me if Rowenna is doing something. Everyone has been content to let me share her successes as they come along. It is a huge relief to me to know that when getting together with the people I love I won’t have to smile politely and say she isn’t doing something yet. So to my family and friends who read this blog, thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving Rowenna for exactly who she is and not worrying about who she isn’t.
And on that note, I’ll end with a milestone we have reached. Rowenna is cutting a wee little tooth. Bottom front. I can see that little tooth just waiting to pop out and enhance the incredible cuteness of my baby girl. I will post a pic when I can get one – Rowenna has been chiefly concerned with smiling big and sticking her tongue out, completely obscuring any view of her new tooth!