Yesterday, as I quickly ran into my neighborhood grocery store to pick up some cookie dough to bake cookies with my family, I ran past a mom shopping. She has a beautiful little girl who looked about 4 and she was actually 4 as she later told me. Her mom was a beautiful lady with long curly brown hair and a kind smile. In her shopping cart, was a baby carrier with a nice chunky little boy in it. At first, I smiled at how well behaved the young girl was while her mom grocery shopped. When I would go out with Jeremy, he acted like that maybe 1 time for every 4 or five times, which is why I mostly grocery shopped alone. As I grabbed what I came in for, I turned down the aisle and headed up towards the checkout lanes. I walked past the lady pushing her cart again and I got a good look at the little boy. He had Down Syndrome.
I remarked to the Mom was a beautiful little boy he was and she was very nice and smiled but I'm sure she was curious why I would pay such special attention to her son who clearly had special needs and not to her normal daughter who was just cute as a button and eager for my attention. She told me both of their names and ages and while I wanted to talk more, my eyes and attention just kept going back to Bode. He was 10 months old and as tears filled my eyes, Bode's face went into a huge smile at me.
I felt I needed to say something to this Mom, so I carefully explained that we had a daughter with DS who had passed away. She said she was sorry and I smiled at her and told her she was very blessed.
There are many times that I miss Savannah, but right here and right now, I was faced with what would have been my worst fear - having a child with special needs and being judged by the community around me. When I was pregnant and test after test seemed to indicate that Savannah had DS, I grew unsure of myself. Was I strong enough to be the Mom of a child with special needs? How could I protect her from ignorant people? How could I watch her struggle as a child not being able to do things that her brother could do? What was going to happen after Eric and I were gone? Who would take care of her? What would her life as an adult be like? Would she ever find true love, get married, and be able to have children?
As I looked down at the beautiful bright blue eyes of Baby Bode and his face lit up into a huge smile at me, I was face to face with something that for the last 3 years I have dreamed about and at times, would have bitten off my own arm to experience. All I saw in Bode's eyes was unconditional love and hope and a life full of possibility. The Mom looked relaxed and happy to be shopping on a Thursday night with her children.
Whether or not Savannah was born with DS was irrelevant. We had accepted that she would have it and planned for her to have it. We loved her because of it. When Savannah was stillborn, it was devastating. Whether she did or didn't have DS didn't matter. But throughout our experience, Savannah opened our hearts and minds to children and people with special needs, especially Down Syndrome. We were ready. We were prepared. We would have been good parents to her, especially if she had Down Syndrome. No one wants to have a baby with challenges and struggles. But I didn't see Savannah's life that way. I saw her a life full of possibilities and hope. I saw the opportunity to educate others and do something wonderful. But I was never given that chance. She was never given that chance.
Even now, three years later, I miss Savannah deeply. I miss the lifetime of memories that we didn't get. I wonder all the time what she would be like as a 3 year old. Would she be in dance class? Would she have liked preschool? Would she have let me paint her nails or teach her dance or gymnastics? Would she still tolerate me with my hair bow obsession? I still cope and deal with all that we lost that day. Tears still fill my eyes and my pillow when I think about what could have been...what SHOULD have been our family right now.
And I know many of you are thinking to yourself, "But you have another daughter, a new baby that you can have those experiences with. Get over it." But I can't. It's impossible. I can't forget or get over Savannah. She is ingrained in my heart and in my thoughts. She was my daughter, my oldest daughter and her life ended far too soon. It ended before it even began. As I looked up at Bode, I saw the love in his eyes and his smile warmed my heart. Those were the things that I miss the most about Savannah - those are the little things I would have given anything to enjoy and savor.
So to anyone who thinks that I am not grieving correctly or I need to move on, live my life and feel my feelings and you will never say that to anyone ever again. You simply cannot understand that pain and hurt and the deep sorrow a Mother feels when her child is not here. I absolutely adore Jeremy and Irelynn and I cherish every single second with them. But there is a bright eyed little girl missing from our family and a lifetime of experiences that were stolen from us that we can never get back. I was ready to be the Mom of a child of special needs. God made me ready. But I wasn't given the chance. I was never allowed the opportunity to show my capabilities in times of challenge. Why? We loved Savannah unconditionally. I would have given my own life in a second to take her place. I would give my life today for her or for any of my children.
To Bode's Mom, God Bless You! God Bless You for choosing life for baby Bode. I'm sure you were encouraged many times, as I was, to terminate your pregnancy because he had Down Syndrome. God Bless You for putting your baby's life above your own, accepting and loving him, and being the best Mommy to him. And God Bless You for running into me and allowing me the privilege of experiencing Bode's smile. It made my heart warm in a way that I couldn't have imagined.