September 26th, 2011.
This day will always be reflected upon as a day of rebirth for me. A day of growth, of expanded horizons. A day of changed expectations and the beginning of a future unknown. Embarking on a journey is always a gamble, but usually you can see where your feet might land. This day is my line in the sand, forever marking before and after.
I couldn't see the ground in front of me. I couldn't see even one minute in the future. This was a day that began a blind journey into an unknown land. Holland, if you will.
This is the day we found out our unborn baby had Down syndrome. It was so terrifying and a day of total unknowns. It marked the start of a journey that would lead us down a road full of both valleys and indescribable joy.
We could never have know where we'd land six years later. Or rather, that we'd never quite land. This journey is always evolving, always growing, and always teaching.
We could never have known she'd bring us such joy. Or that she'd be so full of love. We could've never guess she'd mend our family where we didn't even know we were broken. On this walk of life our valleys are deep. But our mountains are so, so high. We're often taken onto an unbeaten path where we might not quite know where we're headed, but it's probably going to be breathtaking.
She's changed me as a person. She's molded my outlook on life. Through her I've learned patience. Unconditional love. I have learned perseverance. I've learned that judging another person either for their behavior or their choices leaves no room for compassion or love. I've learned to accept help when it's offered and ask for it when it's needed. I've learned that the world won't end if I admit that I'm drowning (still a work in progress). I've met people both in person and through technology that I'd never have known otherwise. Because of her, I'm fortunate to work in a place that values diversity and celebrates the strength of each person individually.
Make no mistake, it is not easy. It can be hard to admit sometimes that this is hard. In all honesty, this is not a journey I would've chosen for myself. I don't believe that "God doesn't give you anything you can't handle". This life can be very hard sometimes and I don't think there is anything shameful in admitting it. It can be lonely. Exhausting. Frustrating. But the rewards are immeasurable. It is always worth it.
Her times of elopement, her tantrums that are far past chronologically age appropriate, her extremely stubborn nature, her impulsiveness. These would try the patience of a saint! But her unending I love you's, her enthusiastic thumbs up or thumbs down responses, her thirst for knowledge, her no quit attitude. Her squinty-eyed smile. Her hypotonia-induced, body-melting hugs. Her willingness to try. Knowing how hard she works for every small gain and seeing her take such pride in her accomplishments. These make everything so gratifying, so incredibly joyful.
This journey is hard. But so, so worth it.
This is Lauren Hope.