Before Sophia was born, I had no idea what Down syndrome was. I remember when I was told, shortly after her birth, that the doctor's suspected she had Down syndrome, an image immediately popped into my head of what I thought a child with Down syndrome looked like. I wasn't sure if what I was seeing in my head was accurate or not, but that's all I could see, that was all I knew.
Growing up I went to a small school, all my life. It was a private school and a pretty old school. I started kindergarten and graduated high school with the majority of the same kids. Our school didn't have a special education department, we weren't even handicap accesible. None of my friends had siblings or relatives, that I was aware of, that had special needs. No one in my immediate family, except a cousin who was involved in a train accident in his 20 or 30's, had special needs. When I finally started my first job, I worked with a woman who had special needs, Cindy. I loved her! She was the sweetest, nicest, loveable woman I had ever met. To this day I wonder, did she have Down syndrome? A part of me thinks maybe she did, but I just don't know? Shouldn't I know? Anyway, it doesn't matter, she was awesome and I loved working with her and I still remember her to this day and think about her from time to time. There have been other people in my jobs that I have worked with that had special needs, but none of these people have ever really impacted my life the way that Miss Sophia Grace has. She is my inspiration. She has opened my eyes to so much more. She has changed my life in a way that I never would have asked for, but in a way that I would never go back and trade all of this in for the way it used to be.
Because I never had that intimate connection with someone who had special needs, I think that overall I distanced myself from individuals that were "different." I wasn't mean or rude or inconsiderate, but I was scared and nervous and uncomfortable. So the easiest way for me to deal with those insecurities was to smile and just keep on walking. Did I maybe feel sorry for that particular individual and even their family? Yeah, I did at times. BUT NOW, almost 2 1/2 years later I am here to tell YOU, DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR ME, MY FAMILY OR SOPHIA! She is AMAZING! And because of her, our family is BLESSED! There is nothing wrong with her, for anyone to feel sorry for her. She is a happy, healthy, trouble making little girl :) With a million dollar smile and a bear hug that will take a grown man's breath away and the juciest kisses that will leave you begging her for more! Can Sophia tell you her name and carry on a conversation with you? No, not yet. But she can understand you when you talk to her. She can hear the love, and the hate, in your voice when you speak to her. She gets excited about things and about people. She loves to be a part of what is going on around her. She wants to be included, accepted and looked at in the eye. She can see your face and the expressions that you make when you look at her. She can sense what you are feeling and it affects her. She is a person, just like you. She wants the same things in life that you do. Can she do everything that you can do? Maybe not, but I bet you can't do everything that she can do either. Like fold yourself in half at the waist and lay your head flat on the floor!?!? This girl has some mad skills, let me just say that! The point is, Down syndrome is not what our life is all about. It doesn't define Sophia as the person that she is, but it is a part of who she is, and we love that part of her as much as every other part of her! Having a daughter with Down syndrome has made me realize that we are all equal parts in this world. No matter what your abilities are, everyone contributes something and brings something very important to the table of life. We all have feelings, rather or not we show them to the people around us, we all have feelings that are important. We all deserve to be accepted and respected as the individuals that we are.