We Are One by Cady Driver
We weren’t even looking for him when we found him. We were not in the world of blue and yellow, counting chromosomes, and shouting their worth. We didn’t really know it existed.
Nor did we comprehend the tragedy of what the lack of acceptance does to the world’s people.
We were neck deep in adoption paperwork for a little girl from China….anxiously waiting for a match, unaware of the photo that would change our hearts and forever enrich our lives.
While chatting with our agency one day in 2015, they mentioned that they had a list of children that were “hard to place”, meaning that their special needs made it harder to find adoptive families for these children.
Would we be willing to look at the list?
Oh goodness, was I ready for that? My selfishness reared its ugly head in self doubt. Unsure of what that even meant, I sat down at the computer to look at the list of children on the “hard to place” tab.
Hydrocephalus, spinal bifida, cleft palate, Down syndrome and so on…….and as I scrolled, the medical diagnosis’ faded away as the small faces filled the screen. These were just small people. Each tiny person destined to live in an institution based upon an extra chromosome or a plethora of other birth defects, some simple, some complex.
Each life left bereft of family due to the stigma of their worth. Each small human not accepted as acceptable to be a part of what most of us take for granted.
Family, culture, life, opportunity, joy.
The beauty mixed with despair in each photo reached through screen, gripping my heart in a way that devastated my very soul.
And suddenly, there he was. Pleading eyes, full cheeks, sparse hair.
“Are you my mama?” His gaze seemed to plead. And in that moment, I undoubtedly knew I was his Mama, he became ours and we never looked back.
We so joyfully entered the world of the extra chromosome that we all got the Down syndrome tattoo, learning how to advocate, communicate, and meet our sweet boy’s needs.
Deep down inside, though, in the thoughtful moments, I became more and more aware of the stigma both here and especially in other countries that people with Down syndrome face. The orphanages abroad are disproportionally full of children with Down syndrome. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve lived it.
In speaking to another adoptive mama, her daughter’s orphanage had over 500 children in it and 98 of these children had Down syndrome.
And those are just the children that make it to the orphanage. Most don’t make it there.
Even here, in America, acceptance of these beautiful people has taken time through the endless efforts of passionate parents, but there are still many children who are placed for adoption after birth due to a myriad of reasons.
Even here. With all of the resources now available.
Even here, where we adopted Ella, who is also rocking the extra chromosome. This adoption gently lobbed us into the world of domestic adoption with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network.
While we love our sweet and spicy Ella, I know that I am second best for her. The first best for any child is to be with their biological family. The trauma caused by adoption is forever, and we strive to pick up the pieces of our kids’ hearts and lives, but all this heartbreak is preventable once the child is accepted as an invaluable person, regardless of their chromosome count.
The privilege of entering their story is ours, the blessings are ours and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But sometimes at night I wonder. Does Lian’s China mom ever wonder about the handsome, funny, loving little guy that she placed in the baby drop box late one night?
Are we not all responsible for how the these innocents are portrayed so that the next lucky family comprehends their infinite value, confidently accepting the journey as their own?
We shout their worth and teach inclusion, advocate, educate, march and speak.
“Acceptance!” We plead, but what we really mean is “we are one!”
We are one, all human, one kind, loving the vulnerable most of all. This is the message we hope opens eyes.
We are one.
We don’t need acceptance to include someone who isn’t already us, as if they are separate, as if we are accepting something foreign. They have always been us, there is no difference and there never has been.
Maybe when that simple message has washed over the world, there will be no more children with Down syndrome dropped off in midnight drop boxes. There will be no need for the loss of their families and cultures.
They can be assured to live side by side, accepted without a second thought.
We are one.
This is the dream.