Both Hands

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.



  1. My God, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. I want to put both arms around you and hug you tight, and then give you a margarita, and hug you some more.

  2. Darcie, this is beautiful!

    I’ve only known Cassidy for a short time and I get what you’re saying. You have been blessed. Amazingly blessed. She’s taught me a few important lessons, and I am so glad that she, and the rest of you, have come into my world.

  3. Darcie,
    Joe and Isat here and read this together….. In my mind, over and over as I read it I kept thinking… “what an amazing post” It brought tears to my eyes. Your words are as beautiful as Cassidy is. What a blessing she is. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I am so moved by this post. Thank you for writing it. Cassidy is an awe-some child, and you are the perfect mother for her.

  5. So well written, Darcie. It’s always amazing to me how God’s plans, although obviously not what we would choose much of the time, are so much better and more beautiful than our own. You wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to have Cassidy the way she is, but He has taught her through you, and you through her. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post.

  6. Somehow I knew this would be one of your tissue posts, things happen for a reason as we know and I could not be more proud of the both of you and I love you both so much.

  7. I should have known not to read this during school; all weepy and blurry now with mascara dripping giving me that homey Alice Cooper look.

    Absolutely beautiful.

    Happy Birthday, Cassidy!

  8. Beautiful – thanks for this glimpse at your heart and the love a mother has for her child – even when that child isn’t what we expected it to be.

  9. Darcie, that is probably my favorite post of yours EVER! Absolutely beautifully written! You have me in tears right here in the airport! I sure hope to meet that sweet girl of yours! May God continue to bless her! Happy Birthday, Cassidy!

  10. I think that’s the most beautiful post you’ve ever written, and perfectly expresses what so many of us feel about our lives with special needs kids. Thank you. You inspire me.

  11. Happy birthday to Cassidy. Great post Darcie – beautifully written. Every time I read your blog, I find all of these things that I never would have known about you. You’re amazing. Send Cassidy the happiest of birthday wishes from her friends here in New York.

  12. Both hands indeed! I really love what you’ve done here, woven such a beautiful tapestry with your words! threads of love… okay I’ll stop… before I look too much like a dork :) simply put: this was awesome (just like you). Happy birthday Cassidy!

  13. Thanks for writing what every parent feels! I am so glad life dealt me you and Cassidy in both hands! Love you and happy birthday Cassidy!

  14. Darcie, I love you for sharing this with us and love you for the strength and grace you epitomize. I am crying my eyes out, but so grateful for this reminder of what gratitude really is.

  15. WOW. I’ve been reading your blog for some time, and have always enjoyed your posts. This one moved me beyond the point of just reading and moving on – so beautiful. Thank you for being the kind of parent who accepts and learns from the mysteries that He gives us. Thank you for sharing with all of us what it means to truly love a child. Thank you for bringing Cassidy into the world, we are all better for it, whether we realize it or not. Thank you for reminding us that we must always pause to count our blessings. Thank you. I applaud you, with both hands. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, God Bless.

  16. Just absolutely beautiful. My heart aches with joy for you and how happy you are. And how beautiful that girl is.

    Awesome. I just wish I could express how awesome this post is. On some level I get it. Not completely, for sure, but just a little bit. And what you write explains the rest. Do you think it is a coincidence that she was born on Thanksgiving?

    Happy Birthday Cassidy! And happy Thanksgiving to you all!

  17. Praise God that He gave Cass such a wonderful Mama. Thank you for yet another reminder that in the midst of our greatest trials we can find great joy. So beautifully written.
    Happy Birthday Cassidy!!

  18. Darcie, I have read this about 4 times now and have cried every time. You are a gifted writer with a great story to tell. I also shared with a friend who has a 7-yr old son with special needs and she was inspired to write some of her reflections about their experiences and challenges. You just never know how far-reaching your writing may be!

  19. How beautifully written – and what an inspiring story you have to tell. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Sitting here sobbing….You are amazing. Thank you for sharing another beautiful piece of your family, your life, your world.

  21. Darcie, I just read this post this morning and had to take pause. To dry my tears. To gather my thoughts. As a mom of a preemie baby, I felt your pain in the NICU. I’ve been there. And your post reminds me yet again how lucky we are to have such amazing children. Cassidy stole my heart the first time I met her. Thanks for sharing her picture as I was able to smile through my tears. Happy belated Birthday to Cassidy!! She is so fortunate to have you as her mother guiding her with both hands!

  22. Darcie, this is an amazing post, I fought back my tears because I am at work, but I am sitting her sniffling with goose bumps from my head to my my friend have grown into such an amazing woman..but from someone who knew you years ago…had all the faith in th world that you would! Congrats and Happy Late Birthday Cassidy!!

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