I went back to work on February 26th. I was extremely nervous, which can be expected, but not for the reasons that you think. I did not have to hand my son over to a babysitter. My husband, who runs a restaurant, does not work until 2pm every day. So, all I had to do was leave Nicholas with his dad in the morning, which gave me peace of mind.
I was’t nervous for the normal “what is my son going to do without me” reasons. I was nervous because I knew that for the first time, I would have to talk about Nicholas’s diagnosis to people outside of our circle. I was scared that I might cry if I talked about it, and I was also afraid that those tears would be misunderstood as disappointment in who my son is. I wondered if I would be defensive about it, or extremely touchy when people had misconceptions about Down Syndrome. I have never had to to do this before, and the uncertainty was terrifying.
We live in a small community where news spreads quickly, so I knew that a lot of people probably found out about Nicholas’s Down Syndrome during the five months I was out. I wondered if people thought it would be a touchy subject. Honestly, my head was spinning so much I didn’t know what to think.
World Down Syndrome Day, as you may know, is on March 21st. As it was approaching, I wondered if I should do something on my son’s behalf in the school. I very shyly reached out to a sixth grade teacher who I knew sometimes made custom t-shirts for certain school events. I don’t really know her personally and I was expecting to be gently turned down. But, a few hours later I received an enthusiastic response that just changed my whole outlook on the celebration!
Making a few t-shirts soon turned into a school-wide fund raiser. The students paid 25 cents to “rock their socks” for Down Syndrome, and the teachers paid 15 dollars for t-shirts. Together, we raised $733.50 for Gigi’s Playhouse in Syracuse! When it was time to take the staff picture, my husband and son came there to surprise me!
Here’s a picture of me rocking my socks and sparkly shoes with my custom mommy t-shirt!
My fears of people discussing my son were washed away by the excitement that people felt to celebrate him. Everyone was emailing me and asking me to send them pictures of Nicholas to include in their lessons about Down Syndrome that day. There were even students that I have never met passing me in the hallway saying things like “your baby is so cute” and “your son sure loves oatmeal!”‘
At the end of the day, I received a ton of feedback from my fellow teachers saying that their students didn’t even know what Down Syndrome was. I like to think that now, if they see a person with Down Syndrome out in the world, they will know that they are more alike than different!
I know that early on after a diagnosis, it is really hard to talk about it. You don’t know what to think, and although everyone is just trying to be supportive, you get really sick of hearing “everything will be okay!” You are still too shocked to see meaning in those kind words.
Just know that it gets better! The more you get to know your amazing baby, the more you realize that he or she was meant to be yours! Nicholas has already caused such a ripple of kindness in our community, and I am honored that I was chosen to take this journey with him. So, after you endure the dark days of shock, get ready to do some serious baby bragging!