With all of the technology available today, getting an idea of what your unborn child will look like is not an unusual concept. Parents often pay extra for various types of ultrasounds to get incredibly clear pictures of their unborn child. There's no doubt this is fun! I attended a baby shower for some friends and they had a framed, 3-D picture of the baby girl they were expecting. The game was to figure out if the baby looked like mom or dad. They even had a baby picture of both mom and dad placed beside the picture of their unborn child. Many guessed that baby would look like Dad. Now that the baby has arrived, I must agree!
When Rob and I were expecting Dylan, we would laugh, talk and joke about what features we hoped Dylan would - and wouldn't - have from one another. We all have our best and worst physical features and obviously want our children to be the perfect combination of each parent!
In addition to all of those physical features, you think of what your child will be like: their temperament, talents, strengths and weaknesses. You wonder how these things will come to light over time. You wonder what sport (if any) will interest them, what their favorite subject will be and what types of activities they will enjoy most. You think to their future: what college they will choose, what career they will explore and whether or not they will marry and have children. There are so many things parents-to-be wonder and it's fairly typical for it to get discussed non-stop during that nine month incubation period!
From the moment Dylan was born and his official diagnosis was given, we began to wander down a different path. But it was not until I attended my first Down syndrome Parent Support Group that I felt the full impact of Dylan's future and what it may or may not hold.
I attended the first meeting alone, during the week while Rob was at work. I don't remember a ton of details. It was a small group and everyone was curious to hear all about Dylan. He was the youngest one in the group and we were the newest "members" to this "Down syndrome Club", so to speak.
It was an informal setting and I sat there with Dylan and listened to the chit chat around me. Another mom in the group had a young son about a year older than Dylan. I remember nothing about our conversation expect her comment: "You must realize that you need to grieve ‘Dylan’: the ‘Dylan’ you were expecting, but didn't have.”
I think I appeared confused at first, but she repeated her statement and it clicked. The Dylan that was nestled in my lap was not the "Dylan" that I had dreamed about for nearly nine months. My heart sank. She was right. I had planned another future for another "Dylan". The Dylan that sat in my lap was going to lead a completely different life. It would not be a bad life, but certainly not the one either Rob or I had day dreamed about.
Dylan will hold a job someday, but he won't be surgeon. Dylan may choose to marry, but he won't ever be a father. He will not give us grandchildren who might have had his red hair. Dylan may choose to live independently, but close tabs will be kept on him and our "nest" will never be completely "empty". Dylan may learn to drive, but many strings will be attached. I had to grieve the other "Dylan".
I once thought that grieving "Dylan" would be done in one shot. That has not been the case. Grieving "Dylan" is a life long process…at least it is for me. It tends to catch me off guard.
Not long ago, I spent the afternoon with my niece. She is a year older than Dylan. We went to a theatre show, had dinner and talked bunches! As I spent that time with her, I realized how vastly different she and Dylan are, even though they are only ONE year apart. She could readily express her favorite subject, thoughts about her teacher and fellow classmates, make hysterical jokes, and had a purse were she kept her money, iPod, lip gloss and other items. It is these moments where I grieve the "Dylan" I don't have or know. I would not trade the Dylan I do have for anything. I don't breakdown crying or get angry, but I am reminded that the life I lead, that Dylan leads, is not at all what I thought it would be.
I adore my life with Dylan, as challenging as it may be at times. But these are the moments that I have to stop and catch my breath, to ask God again to show me what it is He's doing with my life - my family’s life. I'm only nine years in, but God is revealing a beautiful picture. I will have moments that I grieve the other "Dylan", but my moments of celebration for the Dylan I was given are countless.