I am sitting here on the eve of Seb’s birthday, his 7th birthday. Somehow in my head he is still 4 and his brother is 2 – for no other reason than I cannot believe he has been earthside for 7 whole years.
And I find with all my children it is the night before their birthdays that I am the most reflective. I guess like birth itself, sitting on the cusp between pregnancy and parenthood, tomorrow will be filled with noise and commotion, excitement and visitors, whereas tonight is relatively quiet and calm.
I’ve always maintained that I am glad I didn’t know Seb had Down’s syndrome before he was born. I still believe this. The fear I had when told of his diagnosis is not something I would have wanted to have dealt with at 12 or 20 weeks pregnant, whatever I chose to do.
But as I sit here this evening, I wish I could travel back to the 15th February 2008 and tell me at this exact moment what lay ahead. I wish I could talk to the relaxed, contemplative me, about to go into labour with my first baby, all about Seb.
Because being told after the event is kind of like training for a 10km race and then finding as you set off that you’ve entered a marathon. You’ve no idea how you will get through it, you haven’t put in the groundwork and you just can’t see how you will ever cope. But it’s too late. Panic inevitably sets in and you reach for the jelly beans trying to take control, but failing.
If I could only sit with me for an hour before those contractions began, I would tell myself that I was going to be just fine. That I was having a baby, a little boy that would teach me so much. A little boy that would bring immeasurable joy to my life and enrich it just the same as any child. That he would ignite a passion in me that I had not yet experienced and would give me the same massive highs and lows of parenthood as anybody. Pride and pain, worry and guilt, love and protection. That he would be the typical boy, in our typical family, that I had always imagined.
I wish too that I could have somehow shown me the wide mouthed beam on Seb’s face this evening as I tucked him in bed and he knew it was one more sleep until his birthday. The excitement this afternoon when his brother came with me to the supermarket to buy the party food and found a Star Wars Hot Wheels car that he just had to get “because Sebby will LOVE that”. And the depth of love I have just put into making his birthday cake, something that does not come naturally or easily to me, a cake that I’ve no doubt will look like a dogs dinner, rather than a football pitch, but a cake made with the deepest feelings of love and provision because Seb is such a massive football fan.
It’s such a cheesy line but it is the truest thing I could tell the former me….
“Having a child with Down’s syndrome is the gift you never wanted, but you wouldn’t give back”
But, of course, I wouldn’t have believed me. Then.