When she first came along–on a Thanksgiving morning ten years ago–I loved her with the whole of my heart. With my eyes. With my mind. With both hands. With one hand I held her close, and with the other, my fingers lightly brushed her forehead, her almond eyes, her bitty nose.
When the doctor came to me and told me she had Down syndrome I cried. I brought both hands to my face and cried cried cried until every last tear had run dry. Until every last muscle in my body ached under the weight of those tears.
A woman whose skin was as dark as I’d ever seen–a nurse–came to me. She took my hands–both hands–in hers and then she prayed. She prayed for unending moments. She prayed aloud, in an accent so thick I could barely understand her. She prayed desperate prayers on my behalf. She prayed in circles and backwards and forward and around again until my head grew light and my soul felt faint. In the end, she gave me hope. Faith renewed.
Once she left I felt stronger. I used both hands to steady myself. And I finally stood up. I finally readied myself for the baby I hadn’t expected.
And then they came, once again, and whisked her away. Off to the NICU. Off to wires and steel and beeping. Off to tubes and needles and lights. Off to repair a hole in her heart that, left untreated, may have given her wings. Only I wasn’t ready for her to go. Not yet. Not again. And, arms outstretched, I reached out for her. With both hands I reached for her.
I went to her, there in the NICU. With both hands I cradled her. I dutifully–hopefully-pumped and labeled and stored milk that would help her heal. Because that was the only thing I could do.
In the NICU I watched a premature baby grow sicker, weaker, dimmer by the minute. I watched her parents work their way through a loss I’ve never known. And when that baby left this Earth I brought both hands together once again. I fell to the floor of the lactation room and asked why, oh why. And then–like a schoolgirl–I came to my knees, both hands pressed together under my chin and thanked God for the child I hadn’t wanted, but would love nonetheless.
And in the years since, I’ve been busy. Both hands full. Occupational, physical, and speech therapies. Books on IEP’s, and teaching reading, and behaviors. Diapering. Medications. Visits to specialists of every shape and sort.
Here we are, ten years later: the number of her years with us takes up both hands.
Thinking back to that first night I couldn’t imagine what this day would be like. How she would change us. What she would teach us. The ways in which she would bless us. Both hands aren’t nearly enough to count it all.
There are days, no doubt, when the load is heavy. Days when both hands don’t seem sufficient to pull her along. To push her. To guide her in the ways she needs.
And then there are days like today. Days when I look back and marvel at just how far we’ve come. With little more than faith, and all the tools both hands can carry.
These are the days when both hands return to a familiar fold. When my head bows and my eyes fall shut. And I thank Him. For knowing what I needed when I didn’t. For blessing me so profoundly in a way I never would have accepted of my own accord.
I hold her with both hands.
And I thank Him for allowing me that. For entrusting her to me. I praise Him. With both hands.