August Thomas Teravainen will celebrate his first birthday this weekend! Let that sink in for a moment.
Our G-man has had quite a remarkable first twelve months to say the least. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to effectively write a post to celebrate his first year and I’m stumped. I worry I might crash the web site’s server if I wrote everything that’s made me smile, laugh, cry, love him, kiss him, hug him, or be so proud of my little boy since last July.
The discovery of Gus’ diagnosis with Down Syndrome after his birth, and the immediately urgent medical dangers he endured at that time, obviously and understandably dominated so much of our family’s focus when he arrived. Just looking at the blogs I wrote, one can see how much I at least concentrated so much about what we had to learn about DS and all of its baggage. I never overlooked Gus as an individual first and foremost. But my preoccupation about DS was never far from my mind.
As the weeks and months transpired from last July, the dust gradually settled – minus a little hiccup just before Christmas – and (thankfully) our family routines evolved and adapted to the point where we are operating today: situation normal.
So at least with respect to my own feelings and attitudes merely as a father who looks at his son, the part about the last twelve months for which I am most grateful is how the presence of an extra chromosome in August’s body is so rarely in my thoughts. While I intended at the outset not to be so focused on DS, only time would tell if our minds would comply.
Today, when I look at my son when he wakes up in the morning, I see a beaming and energetic one year-old so excited that someone has finally come to get him out of his crib after he’s been calling for so long. When I hold my son around me, I treasure his chubby arms around my neck and his chubbier legs squeezing around me for a tighter grip. When I make faces at and talk to my son, I appreciate every reciprocating smile, laugh, and gesture back at me.
Never in these moments does my mind betray me and say, “But he’s got Down Syndrome!” The thought is just baseless because Down Syndrome as a medical condition or whatever you want to call it, simply has no bearing on that previous instant when Gus and I just connected as a father and a son. I don’t know how else to say it except that when I see Gus, he is my little boy. Not my little boy with Down Syndrome.
Don’t misunderstand me. Our life is filled with reminders of a path that deviated from what we originally envisioned before Gus was born. Ten different medical specialists. Monthly doctor visits. Weekly visits by Early Intervention. Home physical therapy and occupational therapy. Thickener to mix with every bottle. Battles with insurance. The list goes on. But these are the adjustments a parent makes when his or her child is not typical, as I’ve written before. And as I said then, we’re okay because that’s what we signed up for.
I don’t mean to overstate August’s personal triumphs, especially relative to other children who are battling whatever medical challenges they confront however more or less severe. I’m simply celebrating my love, pride, and admiration for a precocious individual whose fierceness of spirit inspires me every day.
A few weeks ago, THE WIFE “checked in” with me to see if I was okay. She wasn’t sure if I was being grouchy as she loves to tease, or if there was something possibly important bothering me. I admitted I was a bit apprehensive that Gus was almost one and he wasn’t crawling yet. The subject came and went without much more discussion, as we reminded ourselves to be patient.
Almost as though the little bugger was eavesdropping on our conversation before, Gus decided to show me after bath time about an hour later how he actually could crawl. He just liked to do it his own unique way: backwards. Some people just like to moonwalk before they dance, or mooncrawl before crawling forward.
Nice job, my little man. I should know by now you’ll never cease to amaze me. Keep up the good work! Happy birthday. I love you.