1. My life does not go as I plan. I used to think that the plan I had for my life was really good, and because it was good, it wouldn't change. Little did I know that there was a different plan, one that would turn the first plan on its head. I've learned that the unknown can be really scary, and who wants to plan for the unknown if it's scary? Turns out the unknown was actually a gift. A gift I really love.
2. I can have more children. After I had Elias, I was devastated by the thought of not being able to have more children. I assumed that I wouldn't be able to care for my son if I had more. I remember a sweet lady telling me that the best thing I could do for Elias was to have more children. She was right, he thrives with his siblings. He needs them, but they also need him.
3. My marriage doesn't have to fail. Some people wonder what it is like to have a child with Down syndrome and have a healthy marriage. "Won't your child take away the extra time you need to put into your spouse? Marriage is hard enough, how will we survive with a special needs child?" Although there have been more stresses on our marriage since having Elias, he has not been a burden, but has drawn us closer together. In times of weakness we have learned to lean on each other and lift each other up. Our marriage has been tested and become stronger, and we have never laughed harder.
4. I have learned to love others in a deeper way. I now notice people I would have looked away from. I have learned to love and value others with special needs instead of feel intimidated or nervous around them.
5. I've learned (and am still learning) to find contentment when life seems hard. This one I will learn until the day I die. When I notice that I can't do the things that other families can do, I often have to work through self-pity and jealousy. When we've been trying to reach a goal for Elias and it seems like it will take years for him to reach it, I can get frustrated. It is easy to be content when life is going my way. But to be content when my heart feels broken, when comparison robs me of joy, and when self pity sucks the life out of me, that is when I have to fight for contentment. I have learned to trust God in a way I never knew. It is a common scene to find me crying out to God asking him to help me be content, because I can't find it on my own.
I have experienced so much joy in the last six years, but it hasn't come without a struggle. These are just a few things that I have learned. If you are on the beginning of your journey of having a child with Down syndrome, you probably have a lot of questions. Feel free to email me and I will try to share my answer with you (and others)!