Seb’s birthday is just two days after Valentine’s Day and the rather brash and inescapable arrival of redness across the land serves as a reminder that another milestone is just around the corner.
At this time of year it is impossible for me not to remember the Valentine’s Day, 7 years ago, when I was fit to burst with bump and excitedly waiting the arrival of our first baby.
We knew we were having a boy from 20 weeks onwards (even though we kept it to ourselves) and so for the second half of my pregnancy I allowed myself to imagine the strapping, sporty teenager my baby would grow into. Hanging out in our kitchen with his mates, helping themselves to food from the fridge, chatting about their day at school before heading off to a game of football or concert. He was handsome, of course, doing well at school, of course, a nice kid, of course, and went off to university before meeting a lovely girl and eventually having a family of his own. (…my kitchen was massive too, of course).
What I failed to factor into my daydream, though, was that my baby had Down’s syndrome. Just 24 hours after he was born, we were told that he had a chromosomal abnormality. The news was utterly devastating. Within the delivery of one sentence all my hopes and aspirations for my boy were shattered and I faced a future of unknowns.
The following months consisted of research. I knew nothing about the condition and so I set about reading every piece of information I could find about Down’s syndrome. I felt foolish for the daydreams I had had, I grieved for the strapping lad I thought I was having and I imagined a lifetime of exclusion and “difference”, being stared at. I FEARED the future and dreaded the day my beautiful baby became a boy, and man.
Bit by bit and day by day the hurt began to lift as I forgot about the written word and fell hopelessly in love with my baby. He laughed, he cried, he ate, he slept. He wasn’t “Down’s syndrome”, or a list of characteristics from a website, he was a boy, MY boy. Seb.
With each year that passes he teaches me something new. Something that no text book or leaflet ever could have. He has taught me about equality and opportunity and how to look beyond labels.
Seb is already growing into the son I dreamed of. At 7 years of age I am immensely proud of him - he makes me laugh every single day with his razor sharp wit, his manners are impeccable (and often commended on), he is driven and thrives on succeeding. He can read and write and he is one of life’s grafters. He is popular and very sporty - don’t get me wrong, he can be a pain in the backside too but, above all, he is a NICE person. I have absolutely no doubt that he will go on to form special relationships and friendships too, that will last a lifetime, and may end in shared living or even marriage. Whatever his path, we will always support and nurture him, just the same as his siblings.
I used to dread Seb growing up. I would cry at the thought of him moving on from the safety and certain predictability of babyhood. But with each step of the journey he fills my being with so much pride I could burst. He is a boy, an individual, not a syndrome. He is a reflection of his upbringing and his typical family life. Our family that is enriched, beyond measure, with him in it.
I can honestly say, as we evolve together, that I am really excited about his future and the man he is going to grow into. I cant wait to see what career path he chooses, hear of his travelling and sporting adventures, laugh with his mates or meet his first love. And he is ridiculously handsome too, of course.
And guess what? He is off to watch a football match next Saturday for his birthday (with his Dad, though, seeing as he is only 7!).
He has shown me what is important in life, and I have come to realise that those hopes and dreams I had before he was born are still the same and, in fact, are the same for all of my children.