“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need” – The Rolling Stones
When I discovered I was pregnant with my third child everyone asked me if I was hoping for a girl. My other two children are both boys (Irish twins). Of course, I said no, I just wanted a healthy baby, but that was not entirely truthful. In my heart, I did want a girl. When the time came to find out the gender, my husband and I agreed that this time we would wait and be surprised. We never experienced that moment at birth because in the past we just had to know. The reality is that we really don’t love surprises but this one we thought we could handle.
At the time of the 20-week ultrasound, the technician turned to us and asked if we wanted to know the sex and without even looking at each other we said yes. The allure of the surprise quickly disappeared. The instant I heard it was a girl I began to cry. They were tears of joy and disbelief and within seconds I already formed an image of her in my mind. I had her whole life mapped out. It is amazing how quickly the mind works. Although intellectually I knew that my fantasy of what she would be like was just that, fantasy, I still couldn’t help to think that she would be a smaller version of me (but better).
I remember vividly how we chose her name. We wanted a name that was unique, not too girly, and represented in my mind someone who was strong, independent, and self-sufficient. My husband and I at the time were big fans of the show Alias with Jennifer Garner. Her character was named Sydney and she portrayed a strong female that simply “kicked butt”. It was perfect for my daughter and was consistent with the fantasy life that I had already envisioned for her. A girl who could keep up with her two older brothers. A girl who would be tough, brilliant, witty, and determined. A girl who had a strong sense-of-self and an unwavering self-confidence. I looked forward to watching this person come to life.
For those of you who have read my previous blogs you know this is far from what actually occurred. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl but she turned out to be different than I expected. As the months went on she suffered from neuro-cognitive delays and slowly I knew she would never be able to accomplish all that I had envisioned for her that day of the 20-week ultrasound. I watched Sydney miss every single milestone, not speak till she was 4, suffer from uncontrollable tantrums, and slowly morph into a child with classic “syndromic” features. My desire to teach and provide my daughter with all the skills and tools I thought she needed for a fulfilling life was lost. I will admit that at times it is hard for me to be around other little girls her age and watch them do all the things I had dreamed of for my daughter. Her needs, her desires, her life skills were much more basic than I ever could have imagined.
There are moments in your life when you contemplate who you are and discover how much you have grown over the years. Maybe it is a midlife phenomenon but lately, I have realized just how much I have changed as a person or individual. I am simply not the same person I was at age 20 or at 30. My priorities, values, and temperament are completely different. I am more patient, more tolerant, more accepting, more forgiving, and most importantly more present in my life. At the same time I find myself more strong willed than ever, relentless in my pursuit of securing a safe and supportive environment for my children, and determined to conquer all the challenges that come my way. In short I went from being a quiet, insecure, wallflower to a “butt-kicking”, strong, and fierce advocate. All the qualities I wanted for my daughter, but more specifically all the things that I was not. It is ironic that it was my special needs daughter who taught me how to be “Sydney”.
I think back to that 20-week ultrasound and to the baby girl to whom I thought I would be the role model. Simply put, I did not get what I wanted. I cried about it for a long time until I realized that sometimes you end up getting what you really need. In the end my daughter turned out to be my role model and teacher and actually taught me how to be a self confident, independent, and determined woman.
And for that…I thank her.