Fourteen years ago, just as the world was changing its mind about winter and allowing the mellow rays of spring to warm the earth again, a brand new mother was grieving.
Everyone had congratulated them on the happy news that she and her husband were expecting; they were no longer in the first flush of their youth.
The pregnancy was uneventful, with just the usual discomforts accompanying the first time mother through the long weeks of waiting.
So the baby was coming a month early. Everything would be all right, though, they were sure. One month early is nothing to worry about.
And then the looks, the whispers, and the words that brought their hopes and happiness crashing down. “You had a Down syndrome baby. I’m so sorry.”
They left the hospital with empty arms and aching hearts. A mother bereft, a mother with no child. The couple went back home to pack away the tiny bed and clothing they had prepared. “A sad misfortune to have an abnormal baby; we had no choice,” they told themselves. As springtime blossomed all around them, they felt the pain of loss as if their much-anticipated infant had died.
Little did they know as they signed their parental rights over to the government that the “Home for Medical and Social Care for Children, the City of Pleven” would fail their daughter profoundly on every level. She would barely survive the “care” of the “caregivers,” weighing just seven pounds when at age seven she received the lifesaving gift of a baba for a few hours each week.
Every year on Katie’s birthday, I wonder…
Does her first mother still remember her? As winter turns to spring, does she still think of that painful juxtaposition of new life and loss?
Katie is fourteen now. She has matured so much over this past year in spite of the difficult emotions she has been grappling with over the past six months or so. We notice that she is more calm, more serious, more focused, more aware than ever before. She has more self-discipline and is less ruled by her sensory and attachment issues. She shows far greater understanding of what is said to her and what is happening around her. Continuing to bloom and blossom, before our eyes she has matured out of babyhood, through her childhood, and is now just beginning to emerge into young womanhood.
Katie’s story epitomizes new life. The miracle of life out of death! How appropriate it is that this child was born with the coming of spring.
Stephen was only three years old when Katie came home to us; now he is seven and can read books to her.
He was the birthday clown who greeted her when she got off the bus yesterday!
Katie’s gifts were ready and waiting. A male black-capped chickadee found her new bird feeder this morning, but we probably won’t see much action out there until the siding job is finished.
An essential oil diffuser isn’t an interesting gift for Katie, but it is improving the atmosphere of her new room now that her potty is in there! I like all the fresh citrus scents for this purpose.
Some simple gifts for a girl who has everything! The Pantone colors mini board books are a great addition to her collection. Her favorite gift is the puppy dog flashlight from Grandma and Grandpa; it kept her awake pretty late last night!
I love to see the calm, focused look on her face as she listens to me explain things to her. A few weeks ago, I began talking seriously to her each morning as I take her through her routine. In terms she can understand, I remind her of her various behavior goals and encourage her to be a good girl with no hitting, no biting, no throwing, and no stimming. “You can keep your hands down at school, Katie. You can keep your hands to yourself at school like a big girl!” And so on. Once she’s home, I can read how she did in her communication book and praise her to high heaven about her good behavior at school. “Good cooperating at school, Katie! Good calming down at school! Good using the school potty! I’m so proud of you!” Or whatever is appropriate that day. We also pray for her each day. It is making a noticeable difference and we are so thankful for this!!
“Good job putting the bow on your hair! You look so cute!” I helped her put the first one on and she tried to put the second one on herself with only a verbal prompt. She doesn’t like things on her head any more, and typically removes them quickly. I was proud of her for continuing to focus on her gifts and leaving the bows on her head for a long time before pulling them off.
Peekaboo forest animals book. She likes lift-a-flap books but the paper ones don’t last around here. She especially liked the big eyes of the animals that are hiding in this book.
I was so proud of how she handled the unwrapping process. In the past, the crinkling paper would very quickly get to be too much for her. Last night, when she started to wave it around and get over-stimulated, I reminded her to calm down and showed her how to put the paper down next to her. At first, I gave her hand over hand prompts, then only verbal prompts, “Where does the paper go, Katie?” And before too long, she placed each piece in the pile by herself with no prompting at all.
She caught on to this toy right away but needs assistance to play with it successfully. You can see she is taking this very seriously! She actually put one branch on completely by herself, a real accomplishment for her!
“Look, Katie! You’ve gotta look!”
All the older kids missed her party this year due to work and other commitments, but Daniel came home in time to see her opening her last few presents. He’s a caring brother to Katie even though he no longer helps with her. It always melts my heart to see the kindness of her three biggest brothers toward her.
Just for fun, Katie’s last five birthdays~
2012, age ten~
2013, age eleven~
2014, age twelve~
2015, age thirteen~
2016, age fourteen~
And one more to show you her beautiful smile!
Happy fourteenth birthday, sweet girl! It is a privilege to be your family!