A Motherhood I Never Saw Coming

By Kate Callihan

A Motherhood I Never Saw Coming

Thinking about the experience now conjures up all kinds of emotions, both joyful and ones of sorrow. You see I’m a mere eight weeks into a motherhood I never saw coming. My sweet little boy dealt his daddy and me the surprise of a lifetime. Our son, Pace, was diagnosed at birth with Down syndrome. While my pregnancy was by no means uneventful, we fully expected a perfectly healthy little boy when I went into labor on the last Friday of this past summer. When I pulled his body from mine later that night I was instantly hooked. For a girl who didn’t always think of herself as mother material, I had a fierce connection to this tiny human from the get-go. I used to say that motherhood, for me, began when the heartbeat in my belly became infinitely more important to me than the one in my chest. That only became truer when I saw his face for the first time and held him in my arms. We were completely in love and ecstatic to finally meet him. But I knew something else was coming for us.

Sure enough, just twelve hours later , we were left sitting on my hospital bed, heartbroken and more terrified than we could process. We were given the news of Pace’s diagnosis and then sent home to begin our new life. What should have been a time of joy and excitement was also dark and stormy. The next week or two would bring the kind of tears I’d never cried before. Never in my life had my tears taken my feet out from under me, taken the breath from my lungs to the point that I could only sink to the floor of the shower and weep. I was grieving for a son I had not actually lost, but letting go of the baby I had always imagined. Would my baby never be the captain of the football team? Would my son never drive or get married or have babies of his own? My heart broke over and over again to think of such things that might no longer be in store for him…for us.

Rest easy, this part didn’t last too long in the grand scheme. It would take me a few weeks to really see the light, to begin to understand that I had known this little boy all along. The tears dried up, and the drama of it all settled down. In the place of fear came the realization of the beauty that he brought with him into the world. His arrival, along with his diagnosis, showed me sides of myself and my loved ones I’d otherwise never have known. He would bring forth courage and resilience to us all. He would call upon us to show support to each other like we’d never had to do before. In two short months he has changed my family for the better. Holding Pace softens my mother like little else can. She and my sister and father, along with so many other friends and family, showed up for us so quickly; we had a world of help before we’d even asked. My admiration and respect for our “village” is enormous. And my loving husband. Pace showed me just what kind of man I had married. My son allowed me to see that I had married a hero and a man born to be a dad. His calm spirit and gentle strength picked me up off of the shower floor. He held me up until I could do it myself. And I did.

With each new morning I’d pick up that sleepy baby and fall more in love with his face, his hands, even his cry. Less and less I cared about what might be down the road. All that mattered was his smile, and the way he made me feel when we locked eyes. There was no drastic turning point in the way that I felt, just a quiet venture down a sunnier road to a destination of hope and optimism. Before I even stopped to think about the change that was happening, I was smiling and laughing and enjoying motherhood more than I could have ever dreamed. After all, we had a beautiful baby boy to love and cherish. What more could any mother ask for than that? So he will have challenges to overcome and special needs of his own; who doesn’t? Our family will have hardships and triumphs; whose won’t? You see, I came to understand that Pace’s diagnosis didn’t change things all that much. A child’s birth most certainly changes everything you thought you knew, but Down syndrome doesn’t.

The truth is we can never know what is around the corner for us. We will all have events which will alter our lives that we could not possibly have expected. That’s okay. All we can do is live for each day and truly be where our feet are. Be thankful for your child and for the love of your family. Appreciate those who show up for you and for the things that life throws your way. Whatever those things are…say yes. What once seemed scary and difficult will soon be beautiful again. Give it time. Let the emotions come that must. Cry out the tears as there is nowhere else for them to go. Motherhood is probably never quite what we think it will be. For me it’s better than I thought. Perhaps walking through darkness allows us to appreciate the light. Would I have asked for a child with Down syndrome? No, probably not. But would I trade him? Not for the whole world. This motherhood was a surprise, that’s true. But also a true gift.

About this writer

  • Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Kate Callihan is a 29 year old new mother of a two month old boy with Down syndrome. She loves coffee more than wine, running more than shopping, and her little family more than life itself. Contact Kate through her blog, pacebypace.com.

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One Response to “A Motherhood I Never Saw Coming”

  1. Kate your story is beautiful, hopeful and brought tears to my eyes. Blessings to you and your little Pace. Down’s children are so affectionate. You have years of hugs and snuggles ahead.

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