Thursday, January 27, 2011

On This Day

On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder and the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, "Life will never be the same."

Because there had never been anyone like you ever in the world.

So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name.

It sailed through the farmland high on the breeze...over the ocean and through the trees...

Until everyone heard it and everyone knew of the one and only ever you.
-Nancy Tillman-

Six months....One hundred eighty four days.... Four thousand four hundred sixteen hours.....just yesterday....a lifetime ago....

On July 27th 2010 my son Austin Bradley Harrison came bursting into this world. I plan to always remember it as the first time he proved someone wrong. The doctors had decided he wasn't ready to be born. Austin had different ideas.....Those moments are a blur in my mind, a collage of sound and pain. People screaming.People running. Someone saying...“Don’t push.” “I have to.” “The Doctor's not here” “I can’t wait.”  My boy made his grand entrance on a gurney. And as I pushed his slippery body into the arms of the closest nurse my world stopped.
They gently placed him on my stomach and my heart sank. There was something wrong.  He was almost silent while they cleaned him. There were no tears or protests. And over a room just moments before filled with chaos, an unnatural hush had fallen. And the silence hurt. I screamed “why isn’t he crying', and no one said a word. No one said a word as my in-laws rushed into the room moments after he was born. No one said a word as I withdrew from my son and told myself I was just tired. No one said a word. But I knew. I looked into my son's dark almond eyes and I knew. Everyday for the last nine months I had been waiting to hold this life in my arms, but somehow now I couldn’t bear it. So I spent the night on Auto Pilot and waited for someone to tell me I was wrong. Morning came and with it our pediatrician. I remember a nurse came with her and stood by the door. There was no turning back; my life was spinning out of control. I heard my Doctors wavering voice and couldn't focus, I only heard Trisomy 21. Trisomy 21. Down Syndrome. My baby had Down Syndrome. My brain shrieks, “There must be some mistake.” The Doctor left us. My heart was breaking, and we just sat. My husband and I sat not saying a word. The unknown is frightening, and we were plunging head first into the abyss. After all what did we know? Our experience was limited to a teenager who occasionally sat a few pews in front of us at church. I was so sorry for him and his family. After all Down Syndrome is horrible. Isn’t it?
Soon we were home. Still I was numb.... I think I smiled. I think I spoke. I think I prayed. But I don't remember. I know I mourned. I watched life happen around me. Others were here to carry on when I could not, as we waited for a blood test to prove what I already knew. And they came. And they were positive. And I cried. I cried such horrible gut wrenching tears that I thought my eyes might swell shut. I cried on the floor in my room while my Husband held my son and his Nana held us all and his Granddaddy struggled for words to help us. "Children, at least you got to bring your baby home." And he was right. Over the next few days I watched my other children with their new brother. They didn't notice he was different. Their love was untainted by stigma and stereotype. I watched them and I was ashamed. I examined myself and came up lacking. My babies, my most beautiful precious possessions made me open my eyes and see my son. My son. Not his diagnoses. And I fell in love. I spent hours examining him, searching for the thing that made him different from you and me. I will tell you what I saw. The cutest chubby little hands, with one line straight across his palm. My palm has two lines. A flat profile with an adorable little button nose. My nose is by no means small and cute. And his eyes, his amazing little almond shaped eyes. They're not like yours or mine. When Austin looks at you with those eyes it's like he can see your soul.
The heartache and the anger I felt in those first few weeks is but a distant memory, like faded writing on the yellowed page of a weathered book time erases all. But occasionally I pull out this "book," and reverently stroke it's tear stained pages and pay homage to those precious moments. Because as much as I gave birth to Austin, he gave birth to me. 
My baby has Down Syndrome. I can say that today and feel almost nothing.  Just like I might say my baby was born with Diabetes. It's scary at first yes. It effects our lives in a big way yes, but does it define my son? The answer is no. My boy can do anything. There may be days when he has to try harder, but I will be there fully present ready to help him every step of the way, and he will continue to prove people wrong. My son and others like him are ambassadors to this generation. They are here to shatter stereotypes. It's happening now. They are small business owners, and artists, ballet dancers, and chefs, and yes even college graduates. They have social lives, and passion, and they fall in love. See them. They have the weight of the world on their shoulders as they struggle to overcome cruelty, ignorance, and prejudice. Help them. Reexamine what you think you know about Down Syndrome. I did. We all fear what we don’t know. So help educate. Pass the word. Change the world.



  1. Wow, what a post. He is gorgeous! I know those feelings you speak of, and I know what you mean about it now feeling like nothing. It's amazingly normal!

  2. What an awesome story! He is beautiful :)

  3. I'm a BBC mom, from July also. This post brought me to tears. What beautiful words you have written about your son! I'm so grateful that while he might have a difficult life, with many challenges, he was thankfully given an amazing woman as a mother. Congrats on your beautiful baby boy!

  4. Beautiful story/life and a beautiful baby boy. My family said our final goodbyes to our beloved Aunt Dianna (Di-anne) Monday (she was Downs). She lived to be 54 years old. She loved a lot of thing, mostly dancing, babies, and being treated like a princess by her parents and her 9 siblings (and their families)! She was a treasure, hold yours tight! - from a BBC July 2010 mom

  5. Beautifully written! You are an amazing woman, mother, wife, daughter, sister, human. I hope your story reaches millions; I hope your story inspires those millions; I hope your story changes the world, softens others hearts, and opens the eyes of the harsh people plaguing this world with their judgment, lack of compassion, and inability to accept each and every being as they are...unique.

  6. this was beautiful and inspiring. lovely story and you are such a good advocate for you son!

    you should check out she has an amazing birthstory of her daughter nella who has downs. you are both amazing writers!

    oh, i'm a bbc mama who lurks too!

  7. Thank you for sharing your beautiful baby boy with us...Your story brought tears to my eyes.

  8. Everytime I read your posts my dearest sister, I cry. I cry not only because I am your sister, But your words have meaning to me. To hear of your struggles makes me want to hold you and to be close to you. The meaning of your words could change how people feel about Down Syndrome. I love you so very much!

  9. I have an Uncle with Down's - he is the glue that holds my extended family together - he is the only thing we all agree on. He is lovely. He is almost 50 now and slowing down but still delights us by sharing love with 'his' people.

    I hope there is room to type this story ...

    Chris (my uncle) worked at a church run workshop making the communion hosts. He train/bus/walks in each morning. I worked until recently at a local hospital a short walk from my home. Chris and I would often cross paths in the morning and share pleasantries. You can't see Chris without him asking about the whole family in turn (it can take some time!).

    Before my now husband and I were married we lived together and Grant would sometimes walk with me to his work. Chris would cut him out of the conversation by standing between Grant and me. He wanted nothing to do with this interloper. Nothing was ever said.

    Then we got married. Chris of course was a cherished guest.

    The next day, as is traditional in NZ, we had a barbecue at our home. Chris (all 5 foot of him) came bounding up the stairs "Where's Grant!?" Out by the barbecue, Grant was carefully grilling the meat.

    To my amusement, Grant was assaulted (the only word for it) by a waist high crushing hug. He was now married and therefore acceptable to Chris.

    Good luck! I hope you find the strength and the support to focus on the joy that is a Down's family member. I know my whole clan are better people for the gift of Christopher John.

  10. It's only just begun, Julia. He will teach you patience and calmness that only he can understand. You will learn as much from him as he will from you.

  11. Julia, that is the most touching story. I am not, and choose to never be, a mother, so I can't empathize at all with all the scary and wonderful things children make you feel without even trying. Your reaction to the whole thing doesn't surprised me at all though, since I remember you being one of the most extraordinary people I had ever met. You are still gorgeous, by the way, and your family is absolutely beautiful. You should call me if you come home for Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Julia Day. And email me.

  12. What a story. You are the same amazing person I have know for many, many years. I just want to give you a hug right now. Glad you shared, you are such an inspiration Julia. Keep in touch and love to those amazing babies of yours!

  13. Beautiful. Just Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  14. I just found your blog and I really enjoyed this post. I am currently pregnant with our little girl who will be born with down syndrome. I often wonder what it will be like on the day I give birth. I have been given time to begin to deal with the emotions from learning Isabelle will have down syndrome but I am unsure of how I will react when I come face to face with it. Thanks for this post.

  15. This had me in tears, very beautiful!

  16. We were there three days before you! Our Owen was born July 24th, and I have blogged about his birth story too, the only difference is that we had to stay in the hospital for 3 weeks after delivery. We had no clue Owen was going to have ds... and how blessed we are!!! (I love your story btw, beautifully said!) I have to say, our boys could be twins! It is uncanny the resemblance in Austin's picture to our Owen -- If you are on Facebook my name is Liz Vacek Shaw! God Bless You and Your family!