"Can I ask you a question?" the lady sitting next to me in the play area at REI said to me.
"Sure!" I replied, thinking I knew what she was going to ask.
"Uh, does your son have.....Down syndrome?" she hesitated, her voice becoming a whisper towards the end.
"Yes, he sure does." I stated emphatically.
"I thought so", she replied with some relief. "My little guy does too. He's 5 months old". She shifted her infant over so that I could see him. And man, was he a cutie!
We introduced ourselves; she and her husband also have a 5 year old daughter who was running around with Owen and checking out the bear cave. They live in North Minneapolis and they hadn't met any other families yet with a child with Down syndrome. She asked me what seemed like a million questions and wanted the name of every specialist Owen sees (that will teach me to be without a small pad of paper in my bag from now on!).
I could totally understand where she was coming from--when Owen was small, I wanted to hear everything I could from someone who had an older child with Ds. I was like a sponge, trying to soak up all of their advice. I still am that way when I read other blogs or join groups on Facebook--I'm always ready to learn from those much further ahead on this journey than I am and to offer friendship and help to those who have just started with their new baby. This membership into a club that I didn't know I wanted to be in is something that I am truly grateful for; I've made some great connections with people that I now consider friends, even if we have yet to meet personally. (And I have a vision of renting an RV one summer and driving around the country to do meet and greets.....so if you see one pull up in your neck of the woods, it's me!)
As time goes on, it's that community that I feel I rely on more and more. It's a natural thing I think to want to surround yourself with people who "get it". I would have never imagined 4 years ago to find that support as I didn't know a soul in the Down syndrome community.......I was just trying to make it through day to day. Now I can't imagine myself without it--I look forward to hearing about infant milestones, seeing first day of preschool pictures and learning about college programs for people with special needs.
A club I didn't know I needed is now one I can't live without......thank you, dear friends!