My Best Friend’s Journey
My story with Dana began some 17 years ago (wow, was college really THAT long ago?!)and over the years we have been on many journeys and adventures together. We have been side by side from our days at U of I, to moving to the city and starting our careers, to meeting our husbands and starting our families. Dana is one of the people in my life with whom I’m closest and that is a gift for which I am truly grateful. We’ve had many life stories together in those 17 years, but nothing prepared any of us for what we learned back at the end of 2008.
When Dana and Tony first shared with us that the doctors found a heart defect during the 20 week ultra-sound I remember feeling shocked and an immediate pit in my stomach. What does this mean? Can it be fixed? How will it affect their unborn daughter? What can I do to help? There were so many questions. The days between the ultras-sound and when they had the amniocentesis seemed like years. I remember Tony calling me from the car to tell me that, “Yes, our daughter has Down Syndrome.” I was speechless. I felt helpless, I was at a loss for words; the pit grew and all I could wonder was “WHY?” The “bubble” that we lived in throughout the better part of our lives seemed to have been burst open. I remember crying and my heart aching and hurting so badly for my friend, her husband and her baby.
I quickly realized that my best friend, who I’ve always known as a rock; strong, faithful and optimistic; needed us to be that for her more than ever. Our tight group of friends rallied around Dana and Tony and as forcefully as the diagnosis hit me, it hit me that this unborn little girl and her family have so much love and support around them; they would not be on this journey alone. It also hit me that perhaps the reason I was so stunned and “smacked upside the head” by everything was because I probably didn’t know as much as I thought I did about what this diagnosis was all about. “Probably didn’t know” soon turned into “I didn’t know.” After reading and educating myself more about Down syndrome, I realized all of the stereotypes I had allowed myself to think were not reality. It was those stereotypes that lead to such fear and angst.
When Kelsi was born she immediately took up a special spot in my heart. Watching Kelsi grow over the last 3 years has been, and continues to be, a great privilege. She has a way, an aura, about her and a shine in her eyes that immediately draws you in. She’s filled with love and compassion and that is evident so early on in her life. I see that love come out so authentically when I watch her interact with my own 2 kids and her older sister. From such a young age you can really see empathy in her when she knows another child is hurt or sad. She will also defend and stick up for herself in the sea of toddlers that is our circle of friends! From Kelsi’s soft side also comes one tough cookie. Her first year was not an easy road and her strength is inspiring. This week she started preschool and I couldn’t be more proud! This is a big step for her and I look forward to watching her grow, learn, progress and thrive in her education. She is no doubt going to make such an impact on this world and I’m so happy to help share and spread her story.
Kelsi’s strength and determination have been a source of hope for her parents, friends and family as well. Thank you both Dana and Tony for you strength, bravery and wonderful friendship. Thank you for taking the initiative to start and create Kelsi’s Corner. She is very blessed to have such courageous parents who can help share her story; the ups and the downs, the truths, the milestones, and everything in between. I too feel very blessed to have you all as part of my life as well… an extended family if you will!
Kelsi has already profoundly impacted our lives, and we can’t wait to see how many other lives she touches. She has already taught me more than I can imagine, and I so look forward to everything else we will learn throughout our lives together. Thank you for having me as a contributor to Kelsi’s Corner. I’m so grateful to be able to share a little portion of my own point of view. You can always count on me to be and advocate, a cheerleader, a friend, an “auntie” and whatever you else I can be for you all and for Miss Kelsi. My love to you all!!
Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your heart and candid feelings. I know has been an emotional journey for all of us- one filled with many ups and downs. I could not have gotten through it without you and the support from my friends.
Kelsi loves you, Auntie Amanda!
Last but definitely not least… no blog post is complete without a photo! So proud…