When Ben and I first found out about Ellen’s extra chromosome, we were in shock. We were also, for several months, separated by an ocean as I was working in New Hampshire and Ben was teaching in Bonn, Germany.
We found out pretty late into the pregnancy. I had been counting down the days to Ellen’s birth. After the news, I sometimes struggled to get through a day.
In the last four months before Ellen was born, sleep was sometimes a relief, but I often woke up and thought, this can’t be happening. Had I only known. I go to bed now every night excited about waking up with my smart, beautiful daughter. Sometimes I can’t wait!
Part of the reason I’ve begun this blog is to offer encouragement to parents, to let them know that together as a community, no matter how many miles may separate us, we can be in this together. Tomorrow I will write about how a fixation I had about nutrition turned into Ben’s and my joining a German website for families of children with trisomy 21. Even though we are now in Hawaii and oceans away from the website’s facilitator in Switzerland, we still gain insights from these people we have never met but to whom we feel connected.
Today, though, I want to write about angels among us whom we did meet. With Ben in Germany, I asked myself all kinds of questions about what an extra chromosome would mean for our daughter. At different times in my life I’ve tried to be prepared for the unexpected. The news about Ellen stunned me in a way I never expected after years of yearning to become a parent. I had also just moved to a new state so that Ben I could be legally married before the birth of our child.
I didn’t know my colleagues that well at my new job when I was plunged into the world of trisomy 21. Nor, for that matter, had I moved to New Hampshire to be with longlasting friends. I wanted to work in education and begin life with our child as a legal couple. At that time, only two states permitted this.
I felt like I was in the twilight zone as I’m sure my husband did in Germany. I reached out to whomever I could. An amazing colleague, Lisa, told me about a close friend, Tisha, whose daughter Greta was born with an extra chromosome. When Ben visited from his teaching post in Germany, he called Tisha who lived in a nearby state. They talked for over an hour. We were invited to visit Tisha and her amazing family.
I’ll never forget arriving at their home. I’ve been married twice (once to a woman and now to a man), and it was like meeting the in-laws for the first time! Within minutes, we were welcomed as part of Tisha’s extended family. Months later, after our gorgeous daughter was born, we visited and stayed at the home where we celebrated Greta becoming Ellen’s godmother.
Greta is a stunning young woman who has a high school degree and is attending college. She writes beautiful poetry. Tisha, her wonderful husband and children, and especially Greta changed our lives. Because of them, we began to think what many parents do when their children are born: that the world is their oyster or at least it can be some day. Today is Tisha’s birthday. Thank you, Tisha and Greta, for your friendship, love, and a gift that keeps us all going: hope.