(this should have been published on July 6...blame a cross-country move that it wasn't)
Today Hunter turns one. It’s beyond belief that he’s been in my life for a year. Being Hunter’s mother has an odd tinge of eternity about it – impossible to believe he’s been my son for a whole year, or for only a year. Time doesn’t seem to be relative. I can’t remember who I was before Hunter.
I do remember who I was before Down syndrome, though. Early one morning this birthday week, I woke before Hunter did (a rare event, usually to be celebrated by immediately going back to sleep) and lay in the cool blue light of just before dawn, my mind going back three hundred and sixty-five days to a dimly-lit hospital room. I remembered my body, sore and exhausted from toes to scalp, but my heart exploding with joy as I looked at the tiny pink scrap of babyhood under the heat lamp.
I remembered the peace, the sweetness, the worries over small concerns like a cell phone not working.
I remembered the doctor entering, poking and prodding and frowning. And then I remembered his eyes meeting mine only to flick away, and the five words which shattered the future I’d dreamed of into a million pieces.
“Your son has Down syndrome.”
I remembered beginning to cry.
Three hundred and sixty-five days later, those words still slice into me like bullets. Tears well, and I cry. I roll over in bed next to my son who has Down syndrome. He’s sleeping soundly, small dimpled hands folded beneath a chubby cheek. One of my tears splashes onto his nose and his face crinkles up in disgust.
Laughter bubbles up. Because I’m not crying over my son who happens to have an extra chromosome. I’m crying for me, the me in a dark hospital room a year ago, who had no idea how good life was going to be. I want to go back and give me a hug, and then a good shake. “You’re going to be fine!” I would say. “Just fine. Better than fine. This little boy is going to turn your life upside down and a tie a knot in it for good measure – and it’s going to be good.”
And on this birthday morning, life is good. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s also hard as hell. Most of that isn’t connected to an extra 21st chromosome, but some of it is. Being a single mom is hard, and being a single mom of a child with Down syndrome is much harder. I’m not a big fan of Down syndrome, although it has won some grudging respect from me.
But I am a big fan of Hunter. My son is fine. He’s better than fine. He’s supercalifragalistic, with a sprinkling of extraolidocious. In one year he has changed for the better more people’s lives than the average man does in twenty years. He’s funny, brave, charming, and utter perfection.
I don’t know what the years ahead hold, but I know if Hunter keeps being Hunter, they will be just fine.
Happy birthday to the most amazing little stinker this side of heaven.
I love you, Hunter.