My unexpected trip to Holland

They say your wedding day and the birth of your children are some of the best days of your life. I have found that to be true. My wedding day, the birth of my first son, and the first half hour after my second was born were the happiest moments of my life.

Then the moment pauses. The pediatrician examining my son said she had a few concerns: the extra folds around his almond-shaped eyes, the straight-lined crease on his hands, the hypotonia. Immediately after she mentioned the shape of his eyes I knew what she meant.

My baby boy has Down syndrome.

Blood is drawn. An echocardiogram performed. A social worker visits and hands me a packet of information. Another pediatrician confirms the preliminary diagnosis. I want everyone to leave and let me sleep so I can wake up from this dream.

As I held him he looked straight into my eyes. It may seem absurd, but it was as if he was trying to communicate to me that even though he wasn’t the little boy I expected he still hoped that I would love him. And I did. From that first moment I held him I was completely and utterly in love. I knew I would do everything in my power to be a strong advocate for him. To give him every advantage I could.

Less than two days after his arrival we were discharged. (My son was only a week early, and other than being a bit jaundiced, he had no health concerns. I was, and still am, very grateful.) I decided to take him for a walk around the Labor and Delivery Ward to show him off. As I walked along I passed a young man sweeping the floor. He stopped to tell me Congratulations.

He had Down syndrome.

As I turned the corner I broke into tears. It’s terrible to say, but it’s true. You see, my boys were going to be all-American, well-rounded quarterbacks—look out Peyton and Eli! I had laid out their future before one was born and before the other was two. But none of my visions had one pushing a broom around a hospital. I was mourning the loss of the child I had expected. And that was OK.

Once I collected myself, I continued on my walk. I ran into the young man for a second time. I was mad at God; how much more “in-my-face about the future” did he have to be? The young man asked about my baby: his name, weight, number of siblings. Then he congratulated me again, looked at my baby, and said, “He’s beautiful…he looks like me.” I swallowed back the tears and thanked him for his kind words.

Beautiful. Like Me.

He seemed to be referring to not only my son’s sweet face, but also his own inner beauty. He didn’t see the bleakness I saw. He saw a newborn not Down syndrome. Perhaps it’s a gift far greater than tossing a football in the NFL to look at oneself and see the beauty and not get hung up on what society deems beautiful and “normal”. A gift I don’t know how to pass on to my children no matter how hard I try, but perhaps, my son can instill in me.

My mother’s intuition tells me that my son will teach more than I will have ever expected. There will be struggles. There will be tough times. This world can be a cruel place. But something tells me the joys are going to be beyond my comprehension.

He is my pride and joy.
He is my beautiful boy.

(The poem “Trip to Holland” explains the title.


28 thoughts on “My unexpected trip to Holland

  1. He is a gift from God. I believe everything happens for a reason! He has the best mommy in the world. She is a strong, intelligent and loving person. He couldn’t be luckier and I believe that you couldn’t be luckier, either. And I know you already know this. Love you!


  2. This is beautiful. I know this journey you are on, because I had an unexpected trip to Holland myself 13 months ago. I am so glad to have gone!!
    I have found in her short time already she has taugh me, her dad, and her 2 big brothers so much & will continue to not only teach us but everyone else she meets.

    Your story brought a tear to my eyes, so well written. It is OK to mourn the child we thought we were having at the same time we are feeling blessed with such a precious little life. I look forward to reading more of your blog.


  3. From the mother of “crayon on the wall” and nana to her two beautiful grandsons: “Well done, my darling daughter. You have exceeded all my expectations just as both of your beautiful boys will exceed yours. You are the most courageous young woman I know. I love you.


  4. Shannon, this is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for your honesty. You are an amazing mom and both of your boys are precious and beautiful. 🙂


  5. Shannon, that is a remarkable story! I am so glad that God showed you the floor sweeper in the hospital! I wish you all a wonderful life full of Love! thanks for sharing your boys with me on Sundays! You are all very lucky to be in the family together!


  6. What an amazing, honest, wonderful person you are. Being the best mom you can be is hard not to obsess over. Your boys (all of them) are blessed.


  7. Hey kiddo, I think I’m going to use this at an upcoming staff meeting. Sometimes people need real stories to soften their heart, open their mind and close their mouth.


    Your brother.


  8. Parenthood certainly is not a perpetual Pamper’s commercial. Life with kids is messy. (I write this as my two daughters are fighting over a purple pen.) While your family may struggle a bit more, you have the love for your children to make it through as stronger and more compassionate human beings. By teaching your sons to love unconditionally, despite their differences, they grow up to be wonderfully loving and caring young men.


  9. One of your friends posted your link about the young man trying to play football all the way through school on FB, so I came here and have read everything (and I signed the petition). I was really intrigued by this post, having landed in Holland myself. I am so glad you were able to find someone to help you realize the beauty of Holland so quickly. {{{hugs}}}


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