Angel Wings

JJ as a toddler at the beach

I sit at my computer deleting e-mails I won't have time to read today, including one from my Down syndrome support group with the subject heading "New Testing for DS."

***

As a mother of a child with Down syndrome, I get asked the “Did you get tested?” question frequently, for which I reply, “No, I didn't.” And sometimes I get asked, “What would you have done if the test was positive for Down syndrome?” and I respond, “I honestly don't know.” And if someone were to ask me what I thought of this new, early-detection test for Down syndrome, I'd say, “I have to think about it.”

I try to imagine what other tests scientists will come up with for already anxious moms in waiting, and I try to add a little humor to the idea: Announcing the Terrible Two Test! Scientists have discovered a way to inform pregnant women if their unborn child will become terrible at the age of two, giving them advance warning if they test positive, or great relief if they test negative... I laugh at the thought.

It so happens I had a terrible two-year old, and I know the term is a cliché, but honestly, is there any other way to describe your own toddler? Tantrum thrower (wait, that's a cliché, too); I'm the boss of you now; pick up garbage off the playground eater; cup of spinach tosser; swatter of mommy's hand when she is trying to cross a busy street; and pull my diaper off pisser of carpets.

Before my son turned two I promised myself I would NEVER call him a terrible two-year-old, and instead call him a terrific two-year-old. Well, he was a terrific two-year-old who acted terrible....

One night when my terrific-terrible tot was getting his diaper changed and fussing up a storm that warranted ear plugs for the neighbors, my husband peeked his head in the doorway and with the humor that I married him for, said, “Do I hear the sound of angel wings flapping?” I laughed in an instant and my son stopped wailing and started giggling along with me: my husband managed to turn an unpleasant moment into a family gem that still makes us smile today.

But what does this have to do with testing for Down syndrome? Nothing except the ability to discover light camouflaged in darkness, like the 4 a.m. call I got from the hospice nurse who phoned to say my mother just took her last breath when I was two-and-a-half months pregnant with her first grandchild. In the five weeks that she was in hospice, I could not and did not get tested, and later that year I gave birth to an eight pound, twelve ounce strawberry blonde headed baby after 36 hours of labor and an emergency C-section.

The sorrowful loss of my mother during my window of time for a Down syndrome test guaranteed me a blissful yet bittersweet pregnancy and the birth of my special son because I did not face any soul tormenting decision.

***

So now the computer is off for the day. I am out the door to pick up my son from daycare, a short distance away. As I enter the hallway to his classroom, I hear the familiar fussing and wailing noises coming from my toddler, and I smile as I whisper to myself, Do I hear the sound of angel wings flapping?

Lisa Nolan

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