Out of My Comfort Zone
When growing up, I wouldn’t talk to the clerk at our local grocery store. I would just look down at my feet and count the seconds until my mom would say it was time to go. When I was a teenager I was the kid in the back of the class, scribbling in my notebook, praying that the teacher would not call on me. I would walk through the halls avoiding any eye contact, I was content with being invisible. At that time I was labeled the shy girl, but in current times I would be labeled as the girl with social anxiety. I attempted to always take the road of least resistance and avoid conflict at all cost. This method worked well, but it also left a void. If I disagreed with an opinion, I would just stay silent. I never thought my voice would make a difference. While my friends would talk about the careers they strived for, I was afraid to think of the future. I never felt passionate about any particular career or subject matter. I was so envious of the people around me, finding their niche while I just floated down the river of life as I always had.
Then she came. The day I had my daughter, Coraline (AKA Cori), was the day I found my life calling. I was made to be her mother, which I know can sound cliche. Of course most mothers are passionate about their role as caregivers. But my situation was different, my daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect at birth. She came into this world in need of a warrior to stand by her side and help her face some massive obstacles.
I will always remember the moment it hit me. I was holding this new little life in my arms, my mind swirling with all of the medical terminology and events that had been thrown at me right after her birth. Tears were falling down my cheeks as I wondered how I would ever be able to handle having a child with Down Syndrome...and then she squeezed my finger.
She had such a strong grip, she was a little fighter from the beginning. I looked down into her beautiful, almond shaped hazel eyes and it hit me: she needed me to step out of my comfort zone, she needed me to stop floating down the river of life. It was time to go off course, time to face some rapid water and steer around sharp rocks that could throw us off course. She needed me to be her voice, her warrior, her advocate.
I’ve become a person I never even knew I was capable of being. I have handed my daughter off to a team of medical professionals so they could mend her broken heart. I’ve sat through evaluation after evaluation to prove my daughter was indeed in need of services, but at the same time I would have to speak up to prove how much she truly was capable of. I’ve walked into IEP meetings with an overstuffed binder under my arm, prepared to fight for my daughters rights to an education. I’ve stood up in front of a room of teenagers to explain what Down Syndrome is and to educate on acceptance. I’ve seen the darkest side of humanity, individuals who would try to say my daughter has no right to even be alive. I’ve fought for my daughters right to exist. That was never a battle I thought I would be capable of handling, but here I am today; fighting for her right as well as all individuals with Down Syndrome to be treated with respect and dignity. As all humans would wish to be treated.
I was the girl who wouldn’t talk to the register clerk, and now I am the woman standing up against any and all who will try to hold my daughter back from meeting her full potential.
I used to go with the flow, but the day Cori was born I was thrown into the river and emerged a new person. Every day people with Down syndrome face issues far more severe than social anxiety but the Down syndrome community has an army of advocates ready to fight for the rights that every human being deserves but is not given.