It was a bright and sunny day and Mike and I walked as I held this little blonde baby girl on my hip. She had a bright and happy smile and wore her leg braces as she happily bounced when we walked over to the playground area. She went down the slide with peals of laughter. She went in the swing with just a little support behind her and loved swinging. I put her on my lap and brought her down the bigger slides to which we were rewarded with those bright blue eyes and a wide grin. Then we got her back in the car, said goodbye and I brought her back home to go down for an afternoon nap.
This was in the early months of the year 2000. The little blonde sweet girl has Cerebral Palsy and was 2 1/2 years old. I was newly 18 and had been dating my high school sweetheart for 2 years. He'd gone home when we parted ways. I went back to D's house to put her in her crib for a nap.
For several years after that year I spent watching little D we both talked about adopting a child "just like D." She was sweet. She was beautiful. She was perfect. And she was a vessel of God's grace to us as teenagers planning out our lives together.
Little D has two older siblings as well- they're twins that are 8 years older, almost to the day. Mike and I didn't realize it then, but they were wonderful examples, as well as their parents, of acceptance and trust and willingness. Their little sister was different. She didn't talk. She didn't walk. She didn't eat the same way they did. But their acceptance was unfaltering.
Now, as a mom to a 3 1/2 year old little girl with Down syndrome, I realize in the world of parents, families, teachers, friends, church members, and strangers alike... the qualities that this family showed us so early in our relationship were priceless additions to our lives. Not everyone is so accepting. Not everyone is so loving. Not everyone will sit back and not place blame. Not everyone believes that every child is a gift.
I hope one day to share this with D's family. She's going to be 12 years old soon and I only see her on occasion and usually when there's not a lot of time to interact. But this week as I thought about them and their family I realized what impact they had on Mike and I early on in our relationship.
Even now I often find myself saying "that's just like D!" when I see things that Emma is accomplishing or when Brianna was a little smaller and learning to sit up on her own or crawl. My girls, in many ways, resemble little D with her slim build, her light blonde hair and blue sparkling eyes. What a gift, one we didn't know we'd been given when we received it. The gift of knowledge and love that comes from knowing and loving a family that really accepts their child with disabilities as a true BLESSING from the Lord.