"There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
Leonard Cohen's Anthem
After four children, I have learned that my expectations are not always my children's expectations. With each child, I can't help but package up my hopes and fears into little bottles to store carefully. And as these wee beastie babies get older, they push the bottles away, casting them to the ground. Sometimes these bottles are hopelessly crushed, beyond repair. At other times, I am able to glue them together into something new, something that is a bit of my desire and a bit of their desire. They are cracked and not so perfect but that's okay because that is what it really means to be in a relationship with other humans. When it works well, we are not wed to what we desire but rather we merge into something that is sort of like compromise but more like hope.
Jude was born really quickly on Sunday evening. I had been having contractions all day but didn't time them as they didn't hurt and weren't regular. By three, I was starting to get nervous because they weren't stopping. I had H drive to me a gift giving event (the community here in Athens put together a really wonderful plan to help out each other with Christmas gifts). When we got home, I decided to start timing and got on the yoga ball a friend loaned me. The contractions were starting to hurt, and the pain intensified really quickly. One minute I was able to breath through them, and the next, I was almost moaning. H got ready, and as we were getting ready to walk out the door, I was already in my labor trance. I was yelling at H to hurry because I knew it was going to be fast. We had to drive even though we had planned on walking because it was pouring out. I rode on my knees, hugging the seat and begging H to hurry. He kept asking for directions and I could barely talk or think. The short walk from the parking spot to the elevators was interrupted by two really intense contractions (there was an old man waiting for an elevator and he looked totally painced when he saw us coming...lucky for him I had to stop to breath through a contraction). When we hit Labor and Delivery, I could no longer talk and was sweating. I made it to our room, sat down on the toilet and my water broke. I got up and announced "I have to push NOW!" And I did. About four pushes later we had Jude.
We knew Jude had Down syndrome. And I thought I was prepared. Those bottles remember. When I looked at her all I could see was the Down syndrome, and it was a shock. It was a crack in my expectations of how I would react. Of course it was not the shock, a woman feels with a post natal diagnosis but I wasn't expecting it to be a shock at all. I didn't feel like I didn't love her, or that she wasn't mine....I just felt this distance. I am aware that this could be from the shock of such a quick birth (I thought we had at least a few hours to go) but I'm honest enough to admit that some of it was the shock of seeing those features, and sadly my inability to see Jude. But as the night wore down, and H stopped his usual baby hogging (that man loves a baby and it is, in my opinion, one of his sexiest attributes), I was able to just be with her. I first noticed that when she was sleeping she pursed her lips into a little kiss just like R used to as a newborn. When she was getting ready to squawk, her face got all red and crinkly like Piper. The shape of her lips were similar to Camille's and her tiny size reminded me of my sweet first born, Umberto. And as the night turned into the day after, the light did come in, and suddenly Jude wasn't the face of Down syndrome. She was Jude. The beastie who completed our family. She was what we needed and were waiting for even though we did not know it.
Jude does have Down syndrome but that is not her only qualifying characteristic to being human. She, like the other beasties, will surprise us with her own expectations of herself and her world. Her light, shining through my cracked bottles, will join with the light that we already have let into our family. She will have different, sometimes harder, challenges of course. We are not naive. But we are hopeful, and we all feel pretty damn lucky that this sweet baby has graced us with her life. I hope that we're worthy of such grace.