I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends…

There is something about the first minutes, hours, even days after receiving a diagnosis for your child that makes you feel immensely alone.  Even with your shell-shocked husband and half a dozen family members standing beside you.  For me, it was this fear that I would never again feel “normal.” That all the play dates and dinners and outings I had envisioned for Lila’s first years somehow wouldn’t happen because she has Down Syndrome.  It sounds silly now, but you never know how you will feel when your world gets turned upside down.  I thought that our little family would be on this journey alone.

(A little background music :))

Boy, was I wrong.


This was our third night in the hospital.  Karen, Tiff, and Erin came to visit and we walked Lila through the hallways on the rolling bassinet they make you push when you want to take your newborn out of your hospital room.  We talked about all of our kids meeting for the first time, how often they would play together. It was the first glimpse I got into how many people would love our little girl almost as much as we did.  Without any obligation… just because they wanted to.

Right away I learned that little Lila’s “fan base” was growing by the minute.  Best friends came from far away to meet Miss Lila.


And those who haven’t met her yet, celebrate her victories with just as much excitement as we do.

She had her first “play date.”


She visited Mommy’s friends at work.


Some of our best friends started to kick US out of the house, so they could hang out with her (and we could go see a movie :))


It’s amazing the feeling a Mother gets when she sees someone hold her child, and love her almost like their own.

“Normal” is a complicated word. And though it may mean conforming to a standard, there’s no one definition.  Each family creates their own normal.  I think that, at first, I was so scared our normal would be so different from everyone else’s.  What I’ve learned is that, because of all the people who love my Lila just the way she is, her life will be so much more than the typical we so craved the first time we learned she has Down Syndrome.  How can it not with best friends like all of this?



What Your Momma Never Told You About Becoming a Momma…

Somewhere between here…


And here…


A lot of shit happens 🙂 I have a few friends about to make this leap, so I thought I’d fill in the blanks, from my limited experience.

(If you happen to be a single guy who has no children, just stop here. I can’t imagine you’d find this amusing.)

*** Everyone is Scared They are Going to Poop on the Table.

When we were in our birthing class, a shy guy raised his last in the last few minutes of class, red-faced, and finally asked the question on everyone’s mind. The delivery nurse who was teaching the class smiled and said, “I”m glad you asked.” She said it happens a lot, but 85% of the time no one besides the nurse and doctor even realize what’s going on.  Apparently, they just clean it up without saying anything and no one “up north” is the wiser. I never had to go through this experience since Miss Lila seemed to want test the waters of this world with her toes (she refused to move out of the feet down position) and we had a C-section.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my own “memorable” experience with that bodily function. Let me just say that going to the bathroom for the first time after having a baby was almost as bad as HAVING the baby itself. Just sayin’. The good news? It doesn’t last near as long as childbirth.  The bad news?  Your family is still probably gathered in your hospital room just a few feet away. 🙂

*** Everything Doesn’t Always Come Up Roses.

We fully expected to have the birthing experience right out of a magazine. If you’ve followed our story at all, you know we had quite the shock when we found out Lila had Down Syndrome just a few hours after her birth, while a photographer from my TV station waited right outside the door to capture the new family of 3 for the evening news. (Catch up here.) What we went through, obviously, is not the norm. Lots of babies spend some time in the NICU, or don’t take to breastfeeding right away, or end up that cute shade of yellow that means they need to spend some time in the baby “tanning bed.”  My point is, just because there’s a hitch in the road you didn’t expect doesn’t mean the way your little one comes into this world is any less special.  You’ll still look back and be so grateful, whatever the circumstances. Trust me, I know.

***Get Ready to be Judged. A Lot.

Every Mom (and Dad and non-parent) has an opinion about how to birth/raise a child that is NOT their own. My doctor told me our best plan of action was to have a scheduled C-section. I STILL had people raise their eyebrows at me and say “Uuuummmm, are you SURE that’s what you want to do?” And that’s just the beginning. To schedule or not to schedule, to swaddle or not to swaddle, to rock to sleep or not, all seem to bring that same raised eyebrow look from someone. I think Lila’s good friend Ally says it best…


And then one day, it happens. You catch yourself looking at some other Mom while YOUR eyebrows start to inch toward the sky. You can’t BELIEVE they don’t schedule/swaddle/rock, or fill in your own blank. For some reason, it’s just become part of our culture to make Mother’s feel badly about their choices, and to be honest, there’s enough Mommy guilt inside of each of us to last a lifetime. We don’t need any help in that department.

***Baby Boys Don’t Own the Rights to Peeing on Mommy (and Daddy)

It was, perhaps, what I felt was the best-kept secret of raising a little girl.  Here I was, a new Mom of barely a week, getting ready for one of those middle-of-the-night feedings, when my daughter peed ON THE WALL!  In a rookie-Mom move I took the dirty diaper all the way off, folded it and threw it away before putting the new one on.  And my little “angel” brought her knees to her chest, swayed side to side, and peed straight up in the air and all over the pink taffy colored walls of her “perfect” nursery, even spraying the mirror above her changing table. This experience was quickly overshadowed a few weeks later when the same thing happened again, but pee was not the ingredient of choice this time. (What can I say? There’s a lot of dealing with poop in motherhood.) Her method was the same, but the result was that yellow-colored newborn poop all over her little WHITE Christmas tree beside her changing table (picture taken before the offending incident.)


I woke Daddy up for that one, because I just couldn’t go through that moment alone!

***Surround Yourself With People That Build You Up, Not Stress You Out

Whether it’s your pediatrician, your Mom, his Mom, or one or two of your Mommy friends, some people just will NOT get what you are doing. It’s not the end of the world if you have to feed your baby formula, or with a bottle, or at 2 hours instead of 3.  Some people will scowl at those dirty dishes in your sink or the pile of laundry that needs to be folded.  Do whatever it takes to limit your time with the people that make you feel bad about yourself, it’s just not worth it.  (And if it’s your pediatrician, for goodness sakes find a new one.  Their job is NOT to make you feel like you deserve the worst mother of the year award.)

*** Get Used to Eating Your Own Words

I looked forward to being a Mom decades before I actually became one. And I just assumed I had it all together. I had a lot of thoughts that began with “I will never…” The truth is, someday you probably will. Whatever it is. Change your child’s diaper in the middle of Target. Did it. Breastfeed in a public place. Did it. Have your newborn out in public past 9 pm. Did it. Go to the bathroom AND wash your hands, all while holding a sleeping baby (I know, I know.) Unfortunately, did it. Clean off the baby’s passy in your own mouth.  Haven’t done it yet but probably would if the situation was desperate enough.  And the list goes on and on.  The truth about motherhood is we’re all just trying to make it through the day without seeing this face…


while maintaining the same amount of hairs we started with. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.  No matter how much we thought we would keep our cool before we made it here.

***Comparing Can Only Lead to Problems.

Lila is 5 and a half months old and, if positioned in the right way, can sit by herself for a few seconds.  See?


Some babies do this earlier, some much later.  Lila sees an Early Intervention Teacher once a week, a physical therapist once every three weeks, and a feeding therapist/occupational therapist once a month.  They are amazed at her progress. But in the days of Facebook, it’s easy to get a little discouraged even when you’re beaming with pride. I try to remind myself that, Down Syndrome or not, someone will always be a little bit ahead of you. But the same holds true when you look behind you. Ten years from now, it won’t matter when our babies first crawled or sat up or said their first word. Shoot, we probably won’t even remember. So, I’ve decided to try to celebrate instead of comparing. But sometimes I still forget.

We’re all just trying to keep our heads above water. It’s a hard job, no matter what country we live in, or what parenting philosophy we subscribe to. At the end of the day, we all figure out what’s best for our little families. And, who are we kidding? A few years from now we will look back at ourselves and laugh.  A lot.