I adore holidays, and the Christmas season is a special favorite of mine. My family celebrates both the traditional church Christmas and the American commercial Christmas, and I soak it all up from Halloween onward.
Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved the Nutcracker. At some point, I began to assume that if I ever had a little girl of my own, she would be my Nutcracker partner in crime come the holiday season.
When I learned of Ellie's Down syndrome diagnosis, I thought that dream had died. Would Ellie be able to appreciate the beauty of the dance, or even be able to understand the ballet?
From the time I was 11 weeks pregnant, I started giving up on dreams, modifying dreams, and fearing dreams. Despite my high expectations for the baby I was carrying, my mind couldn't wrap around three things: Down syndrome, duodenal atresia, and heart defect.
Really, with all that, who can care about ballet?
One Saturday in December, I dressed my now two-year old Ellie in a tutu. We drove to our community theater, and sat among a sell-out audience, and my baby girl came alive.
She was excited and engaged.
When you get a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, you start to cross off dreams. PhD? Nope. Doctor? Nope. Those are the easy dreams to give up.
But then, you start to give up on little dreams. A girl who loves ballet? Doubtful. A fun companion? Can't hope for that. A funny and likable individual? Maybe if we're lucky.
Slowly, slowly, the dreams come back. A funny and likable individual? Absolutely. A fun companion? Usually.
And a girl who loves ballet? Oh, I have that.
As the Non-Invasive Prenatal Tests (Harmony, MaterniT21 and the like) become more common, more families are learning about their child's extra chromosome before their friends even have heard the baby exists.
More families are giving up on dreams earlier, but they don't have to give up on their dreams.
What matters most for your child? Happiness? Participation in a faith community? Passion for a family pastime? A life-giving passion for…. something?
Those dreams are realistic. Those dreams are good.