Polly’s birthday, thoughts on celebrating with Down syndrome
Her first birthday and my struggle with Down syndrome
My daughter Polly’s first birthday was a great celebration. We had cake, and family, and friends, and ice cream, and pizza, and happiness. Lots of happiness.
But we also had uncertainty, a bit of sadness, insecurity, uneasiness.
Polly was born with Down syndrome, and on her first birthday, I still battled fear every day. What would life be like for my daughter? Would she do well in this world? Would she have friends? Would our lives be normal? I struggled. Oh, how I struggled because I loved my daughter more than life, but I wasn’t sure if the world would love her.
Polly’s sweet cousin Kendall sat next to her at our family party that day. Just six months older than Polly, Kendall’s development and ability were undeniable. I watched both girls grab handfuls of cake and smash it into their faces, and wondered, “what will Polly’s life be like compared to Kendall’s?”
Her seventh birthday and my thoughts about Down syndrome
Fast forward seven years. We prepare for Polly’s seventh birthday party, the first ‘school friend’ party we’ve thrown for our sweet girl. All the girls in Polly’s first-grade typical classroom receive an invitation. We plan snacks and land on the theme of ‘arts and crafts.’
RSVPs roll in. There will be a full house.
The day of the party, Polly can barely contain her excitement as she waits for her friends to arrive.
And as an added, extra special treat, it works out that her cousin Kendall is visiting from California and gets to be a part of the party!
Girls arrive. They craft. They eat.
They sing “Happy Birthday.” They watch my little girl open homemade cards that say things like, “Dear Polly, I’m glad you are my friend.” They ooh and ahh over opened gifts.
Polly’s friends pile around her. They celebrate her. Happy to be at a party, happy to have friends. Just like my girl. There is no difference. My heart is full. Polly’s smile is a mile wide.
What I’ve learned about Down syndrome
That first year, and time and again here and there through the years, I’ve wasted space in my head worrying about Down syndrome.
I should have, instead, just enjoyed my daughter. I should have known that others; both kids and adults would see so much more than just Down syndrome when they look at Polly. They’d see love, and joy, and life. And of course, they would want to be her friend.
And you know what? Polly and Kendall’s lives are similar. They both have loving families. They both participate in extra-curricular activities, they love dolls, and Strawberry Shortcake, and basketball.
And they both have friends.