Sunday, March 26, 2006


I hope you still feel small
When you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes,
I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance!
I hope you dance!

Those are the lyrics to LeeAnn Womack's song, "I Hope You Dance." Its a beautiful song, and I'm sure most of you have heard it.

To me, it is a song about embracing life, and living it to its fullest. But, I also interpret it as a song about perspectives.

I've told this story many times when I've spoken in public about Down Syndrome, or when I've given a "pep" talk to Dakotah fretting about what someone thinks of her.


My grasp of "Perspectives" changed very much the Christmas before Paige was born.

I was waiting on amnio results to see if she had Trisomy 18; a fatal chromosomal anomaly that would explain why doctors could not find her stomach or kidneys through ultrasound.

I was shopping for toys for Dakotah for Christmas at Walmart. It was the year that the Bouncing Tigger was so popular.

I saw the toy, picked it up, pushed it so it would bounce and sing to me, and giggled a little at how silly Tigger was.

I moved on to a few other toys, and I see a young man in his early 20's come up to the Tigger and do the same thing I did...push it, watch it dance, giggle a little.

Two teenage boys walked by and laughed at the young gentleman looking at the toy. Most likely, if they had seen me looking at it, they wouldn't have given it a second thought.

But, the man had Down syndrome...something that in one second had changed the teenagers perspective of that man. I was a Mom looking at toys for my kids...he was...well, different, and they were snickering at a grown man looking at a baby toy.

Right then it occured to me that he wasn't at all different than me...perhaps he was looking to buy toys for a niece or nephew that he loved dearly. Or perhaps, he had just stopped to smile at a toy.

I never spoke to the young man that day, but I have carried him in my heart for 9 years now. Without a word, he taught me a lesson that I wish I could have learned years ago, when I was a teenager, and like Dakotah, always worried that someone was looking at me, judging me, picking apart what I was wearing or how my hair was.

Perhaps, like LeeAnn's song, he had never lost his sense of wonder...what a beautiful thing that would be!

It was a lesson that has served me well since Paige was born. At the time, the lesson I thought I had learned was that I would give anything just to have the opportunity to have my baby live...and it would be 3 more months before I knew if that were the case or not.

Now, the lesson has evolved. Although most people that we encounter stop and speak to Paige, and tell me how beautiful she is, and have a kind word to share with me, like all new moms of a child with DS, there was a time that I was always so conscious of her having Down syndrome....where I was sure everyone was checking her out just for that reason.

But, I've never once felt uncomfortable or "different" when someone notices Paige...whether or not they notice her because she has Down syndrome is irrelevant to me. My heart swells with pride and I'm always so in awe of her beauty, both inside and out.

Paige never passes her reflection in a mirror or a doorway or a window without stopping to make faces at herself, or to smile and clap or make some silly gesture in the mirror just to see herself do it. She never hesitates to wave at people in the mall, and say "hi"...and she's pretty persistent...she will not be you just better say hi back or get used to hearing her say it, lol.

When music is playing at church or in a store, she loves to hum along, and doesn't care who is looking.

And I wouldn't have it any other way...

Not only do I hope she dances, I am going to stop and dance right along with her.

In 20 years, if you see a short, chubby gray-haired lady dancing with a young lady with Down syndrome to the music in an elevator, snicker all you want...our hearts will be too full of joy to even notice.


Nicole said...

oh oh oh I LOVE YOU! Awesome writing! Thanks for making my day!

Mauzy said...

Beautiful! And we will be dancing right next to you! (without the grey hair though, as I dye LOL)


Michelle said...

What a beautifully written post! I enjoyed reading this and you have such a way with words!

Tara Marie said...

We will be dancing with you....sharing that same joy! and I will have gray hair too....because I already have it right now! lol!!!

Betsy, such an inspiring post.....Thank you!

Jodi Reimer said...

Nice post, thank you.
My son loves that song!