Rob and I created a road map of our life together, expecting things to happen in a particular order. We took an unexpected turn when we became parents after only being married seventeen months. Then the words "Down syndrome" were uttered and my world was completely turned upside down. It would completely impact every aspect of our lives. I did not see it as a bad thing, but rather more like something that makes you stop and catch your breath. It was becoming quite obvious that the Lord had another road map...one that was much bumpier than the one we had planned to take!
I was in the middle of my junior year of college when Dylan was born. I always dreamed of going to college. Growing up, my mom worked as an in-home day care provider so that she could be home with her kids. The backyard was full of toys where I would hold "recess". When "recess" was over, I would play "teacher", summoning the daycare children, my "students", to an old shed where I had set up an assortment of items as tables and chairs which I topped with paper and crayons for their daily lesson. I could not wait to have a classroom of my own someday!
Since my pregnancy was a surprise and I wanted to finish my college degree, we moved into married student housing that was available on campus. My plan was to take as many classes as possible at night so we would not need a baby-sitter. There were plenty of gals around campus who needed a bit of extra money and I would arrange to have them care for Dylan when I had to take a day class while Rob worked. After Dylan was born, I put my plan into action. It was working...but I was quickly losing interest in school. All of my energy was focused on Dylan. When he was just three months of age, therapists started coming into our home. Early intervention was essential in Dylan's development. A funny thing about that is many of the classes I was taking (and had already taken) focused on child development. In fact, the first book I whipped out when we got home from the hospital was my child development book. It contained maybe a paragraph or two on Down syndrome. It was time to visit the library!
With each passing day, it was becoming more and more clear. The Lord had given me the desire to teach, but not other children. My desire was to teach my own son, Dylan, and, if the Lord provided, his future siblings.
I have worked a variety of jobs since Dylan's birth but the desire of my heart was to be a stay-at-home mom – it has been since I was just a tiny girl playing house with my dolls. I make no apology for it. It is who I am...how I am wired. I feel incredibly blessed that over time the Lord has made this dream possible.
I do not know that I will ever finish my "formal" education. I could have pushed myself to finish when Dylan was a baby but for now, he has been my education. I know this has disappointed some of those closest to me, but I cannot ask my self "what if" or worry what others think. My gifts, my strengths, my weaknesses - they are taught to me daily through being a wife, mother, friend and Christian. I know what is dearest to my heart and what I want to do with my life. I am always growing and learning. I can only hope and pray that this desire remains until the day Lord calls me home - MANY years from now!
As Dylan has grown - as our family as grown - we have faced the traditional ups and downs of life. Many times, these ups and downs are more intense as a result of the Down syndrome. With Dylan's age and growth, we have faced unique challenges. Dylan has no sense of environmental dangers: drowning, walking into a street and being hit by a car or even getting lost (just too name a few). As an at-home-mom with multiple children, this can be a difficult. Unless I have the assistance of another adult or individual, it is nearly impossible to do what most would think of as simple task or outing: going to the park, the grocery store or for a walk.
During the week I spend a great deal of time at home. The outings I do take are well-planned and orchestrated. This can be tiresome and feelings of loneliness can loom. I am happy and I cherish the time with my children, but the four walls and roof that surround me can, on occasion, have the feeling of a jail cell. Even though Dylan is now in school a large portion of the day, I have to accept that I have to be available at all times. In these moments and over time I have learned to take a deep breath, close my eyes and talk to God. Sometimes our talks are more like fights and other times there is a great deal of laughter! I have often wondered about this time with God, where He was taking me and why it seemed to be taking FOREVER!
Over the past two years, things have slowly started to change for a variety of reasons. Through the insight of an amazing author and speaker, Jan Johnson, the past nine years have been a time of solitude with God. He held me captive, so that I might be flat on my face, seeking Him in all things. There have been so many times when I wanted to write and share, but had not been released to do so, at least not on a platform like blogging.
The Lord has provided the opportunity for me to share our story many times since Dylan's birth. I have enjoyed these moments immensely. Our story grows and deepens with each passing year of marriage, with each child that joins our family and with all the trials and triumphs that we experience, both individually and as a whole. I have realized that while I love being a wife and mother, I also love to share with others about my journey as a special needs mom and what the Lord has taught me through this experience.
The past nine years have been both incredibly difficult and rewarding. I have learned a great deal and know the Lord continues to work in my life and the life of my family. I was meant to be a wife and mother, but I am also meant to write and share. There is a time to be fed and a time to give. It is time for me to give. I have no doubt the Lord will periodically call me into solitude with Him, but that time is not known. Now it is time to write.