As I hurried back to the group from a quick bathroom trip, I took a shortcut through the pavilion. Weaving my way through the picnic tables, I paused momentarily to let another person pass. A woman with a kind smile took the opportunity to say hello.
“This is Easton. He decided it was too hot to walk.” She introduced me to her son, who looked about 11 and had the classic features of Down Syndrome. I sympathized with the kid, because the forecasted temperate 70 degree day soon morphed into a hot 82 degrees.
“Hi Easton,” I said. “I’m Meghan. Today is a big day for you, huh?” He smiled and nodded in response, proud of the day, the day of the annual Buddy Walk, a fundraiser for our states Down Syndrome Congress, the day where he is center of attention, celebrated in a way he should be everyday.
Easton’s mom looked at me and asked, “Are you a mom too?”
I was wearing a light green shirt that announced my membership in team “Jenna’s Journey,” supporting a little girl who I had the privilege to help bring into this world six years earlier, surprising her parents with a Down Syndrome diagnosis at birth. I had also run into another patient who had a huge team walking for her son, another boy who surprised his family at birth with features consistent with Down Syndrome. Both these families rallied support for their children, creating teams with t-shirts and raising money. Having been distracted by the live, in person children with Down Syndrome that surrounded me, I was caught of guard, by this woman’s question.
“Yes,” I said confidently, realizing that I too was a mom to a child with Down Syndrome.
“How old is yours?” She said smiling, happy to know we were both members of the same club.
“She died shortly after birth.”
Her face didn’t fall, revealing the typical horror at the mention of a dead baby. Instead, I saw a shadow of sadness cross her; she was sad because she knew what I was truly missing out on, the joy of raising a child with Down Syndrome. We exchanged a few more words before I departed to rejoin my team. I left her, with a little extra gratitude for opportunity to parent her son and she left me, with the reminder that I too belonged. I am a mom of a child with Down Syndrome. I got to be part of the club!
It was the highlight of my day.
Where do you fit in? What new memberships have you gained in your loss?