I believe everyone is constantly growing and changing, even as adults. Each day we experience new things, and in turn sometimes change how we view the world. When choosing "growth" as the word to describe this past year, I don't mean to imply that we didn't grow and change during the first year of Charlotte's life, or that we aren't going to experience growth after this year. However, the amount of growth during these past twelve months has been incredible, and I feel like it is the dominating theme this year.
A few weeks ago I was in the kitchen making dinner, while the kids played in the living room. Mike had just gotten home from work, and we were talking about our days. I was telling him about something that had happened with a friend of mine, and as I described to him who I was talking about, I said, "you know, the one who has a child with Down syndrome?" He stopped me, and said, "do you realize that is how people are going to forever describe us to others?"
It is something I had never thought about before, and a conversation that a year ago would have made me really upset. However, the thought left my head relatively quickly, and my initial thought was that there are much worse things people could use to identify us by! At that moment, I realized how far I had come in my acceptance of those dreaded two words, Down syndrome, that had left me feeling so broken nearly two years ago.
Yes, yes indeed, I have grown this year. Some of my growth is due to having Charlotte as my daughter. I feel when you have something life changing happen, you learn to cope and in the end adjust and apply what you have learned. Of course, some of my growth is due simply to another year passing; another year older, another year wiser.
During this past year, life became normal again. Doctor appointments slowed down, Charlotte was healthy, and my every thought wasn't about Down syndrome. I started to be able to look past the scary junk associated with Down syndrome and enjoy life.Yes, I still questioned choices we made as far as therapy (too much, not enough?) for Charlotte, and wondering if we are doing enough with her at home; but I am quickly brought back to reality by those closest to me who are constantly reassuring me to trust my instincts.
My relationship with my husband has never been stronger. I know it is cliche, but I truly do love him more every day. The year after Charlotte was born was incredibly tough on both of us individually, but together we were strong, and today we are stronger still. We have settled back into our crazy little life, and work together, for the most part pretty dang seamlessly, to raise our three kiddos to the best of our abilities.
I know I have said it before, but I will say it again, Charlotte has taught me to be a more patient, less judgmental person. I am learning not to sweat the small stuff (while, at least not as much!), and focus on the important things in life. I have had a few relationships change since Charlotte's birth, friendships that were once there, not anymore. This year I have come to terms with that and realized that life is not static, it is changing, and while sometimes it can be painful, it keeps moving forward and every now and then it is okay to forgive and forget.
And finally, on the eve of Mother's day, I think it is appropriate to conclude with how I have grown as a mother. The most important job I have ever had, and it is continuously proving to be the most challenging, yet most rewarding. I have learned to appreciate the interactions between my children more and to have more confidence in my decisions regarding child-rearing. I appreciate the individuality of each of my children, and thoroughly cherish the time the five of us spend together.
So, to our friends (you know, the ones from the beginning of the Growth: Part 1 (Charlotte), the ones who have a daughter with Down syndrome ;-)?), in comparison, year two has year one beat in so many ways. Enjoy it.