Sunday, September 11, 2011

Before... and After

Before the actions of hate struck fear and then sorrow into our hearts, only one of our combined eight children (who range in age from 24 years to 22 months old and have all been to NYC) ever saw the Twin Towers in real life.


When TK was in second grade, my husband took her into NYC for a day of fun and adventure. A few months later, she started third grade and life as we knew it changed forever.

She doesn’t remember the trip, nor does she remember how our day played out on 9/11. At that time my husband and I had not yet even begun the talks about creating her younger siblings and her older half siblings lived far away and only came to visit NYC after 9/11.

This morning I made our children who live at home watch some of the 9/11 anniversary specials on t.v. They fussed, bored and antsy to get back to their cartoons and computers. They could not feel my sickened stomach as my memories flooded back. They could not feel my sadness as the victims’ family members shared their stories. For them, 9/11 is a page of a history book, as Pearl Harbor once was in my mind.

For me 9/11 made all historical accounts of war and tragedy real, tangible, things I can now truly envision and feel when I read about them or visit sites like Babi Yar. But for my children, before and after 9/11 is all the same to them, and a part of me hopes nothing ever changes that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baby's Got Down Syndrome, 4: She's Got My Legs

I watch her tromp across the kitchen floor after her pink ball. She has on navy blue shorty shorts and tiny boy-looking New Balance sneakers. I am captivated by the shape of her legs. Those sleek calves, rugged knees, and straight-lined thighs... How can it be that she has legs just like mine?

By the end of my pregnancy, I had so many fears about what a child with Down syndrome might be like. Surely this child would be chubby and have a flat face. Stubby limbs, a giant tongue, droopy everything... Isn’t that what the literature from the doctor’s office said?

And then I delivered a baby that looked like... a baby. She was fairy tale pretty. Three years later, that baby is gone, replaced by a little girl with my legs. But something still isn’t right. Meningitis turned her mind into a labyrinth. Words cannot escape, images are lost, neurons get rerouted. This is not the typical development of a child with Ds, is it? Specialists brushed off my concerns contributing every difference in her physiology to the extra 21st chromosome.

On blind faith we adopted two more little girls, a three year old and an infant with Down syndrome from a village orphanage in Ukraine. The moment Masha and I locked eyes, she burst into a smile and reached for me to pick her up. She then wriggled away and ran for the swingset. From there she rode a tricycle down the walkway, and then she took her baby stroller for a walk. A little while later she climbed into a real stroller parked on the porch and began strapping herself in.

Later on I found that Masha will brush my hair, try on my shoes, dress and undress herself, and sing into a pretend microphone. She puts her plate in the sink, carries her own backpack, plays soccer, and plays tricks on me. She feeds her dollies, enjoys tea parties, understands English, and picks berries with her brother Jade.

Life with Masha confirms what I have wondered about, suspected, worried about... that Kimani’s brain trauma changed everything for her. Thus it is bittersweet for me to know that children with Down syndrome are so very much like ordinary children.

Baby's Got Down Syndrome, 1: Lunch at Pizza Hut

Baby's Got Down Syndrome, 2: Crossing the NICU Styx

Baby's Got Down Syndrome, 3: Seeing in the Raw

This is the final article of a four-part series.