‘That year I’d finally been set free from intensive parenting; I’d spent several child-free weekends meeting up with old friends, celebrating our fortieth birthdays and going to music festivals. Happy. Days. I fully expected more of the same to be heading my way in the coming year.
‘I was not expecting (at the ripe age of 40) to be expecting, but, an over-amorous evening, torn condom and miscalculation of dates later, there I was, stalling for time before peeing on a stick, waiting for the missed period I knew was not coming.
In all honesty, it threw me a little.
‘Having just got my dancing feet back, I wasn’t expecting to spend my days breastfeeding, nappy changing and baby holding. I was the mother of two growing children. The baby stuff had long since gone from our home and I had just gotten used to the holy grail of unbroken night’s sleep.
‘Yet, I found myself embracing this unknown.
‘I had no picture of this new child in my head. Couldn’t imagine us all sitting round the breakfast table in ten years time. Didn’t know how we would fit into the house. But none of that mattered – I was happy to meet whoever was coming our way.
And a good job too, because when my son rocked up 39 weeks later, tobogganing out into the water in the stilled, lamplit room, the curve of his eye and the shape of him told me that he was sporting an extra chromosome.
‘My son has Down Syndrome.
‘This news has the ability to floor parents. Fear, guilt, dismay, disappointment, a huge dollop of shock are common reactions and the moment tends to remain crystallised in people’s memories for years to come. My wonderful midwife said, It’s okay to grieve for the baby you didn’t have, but I wasn’t expecting any particular child. No fantasy baby had been incubating in my mind, so there was nothing to grieve, nothing to mourn.
‘My son was mesmerising – as all newborns are. We drank in this unexpected delight. We saw him.
‘He wasn’t a diagnosis. He was son, sibling, grandchild, nephew, cousin, friend. He was made of human, just as we all are. A unique-once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-come-again expression of the creative force behind life. He was the formless universal intelligence taking shape.
‘My midwife said I was an inspiration for taking my son’s unexpected hidden extra in my stride, it occurred to me that the frustrations and disappointments in life come from harbouring great expectations.
‘When we expect life to look a certain way it is hard for reality to measure up to the masterpiece we have painted in our minds.
‘The disparity between what isn’t and what is can be hugely stressful and upsetting when we don’t understand where our experience of life is coming from.
‘Waking up to the fact that we only ever feel what we think, moment to moment and that the nature of Thought is fluid, ever-moving, transient means that any seemingly insurmountable difficulty is do-able. Because we can always think again. And from the ever present stillness inside, we have all the answers and next steps permanently available to us. It helps to be a little thought less.
‘It takes immense reserves of energy to want a life that isn’t. When we drop our expectations of how life should be, we are fully present, here and now, open to respond to what is in front of us, we find it easier to access our inbuilt clarity, calm and common sense, we have the strength and the courage to allow life to unfold, we find joy in a life we never knew we wanted, we find that life tends to work out. ?
‘My son is growing his own way. He has gifted me the opportunity to see beyond the form of us to the natural born wisdom within. He shows me what it is to truly love unconditionally. ?I never expected that.