It was in the early ‘70’s that I was first exposed to the song. One of my mom’s youngest brothers had come to stay at our home a short period of time after graduating high school. He was excited about this song and artists he’d discovered and was sharing the music with my mom. The song was “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. Hence the beginning of my love and appreciation for Simon and Garfunkel and all the beautiful music they created.
However it would be many years to come before I would fully appreciate the meaning behind their words.
“Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.”
While I’ve had many seasons of sorrow in my life, the most profound, to date, began July 15, 2004. I was two and a half years into my second marriage. This day found me, my husband, my son and a few extended family members at the maternity ward of the hospital, eight days prior to the originally scheduled date, for a caesarian delivery of the baby I was carrying in a breach position.
This pregnancy was not something I’d have written into my life plan, but I do believe, for reasons I still don’t clearly understand, it was a part of Gods plan. At the time of this baby’s birth my youngest child had just celebrated his 15th birthday. My firstborn was stationed in Germany, serving as an Intel Analyst in the Army. Prior to this pregnancy I’d had visions of pursuing the college degree I should have pursued as a youth, but didn’t due to fear and the programing of my upbringing.
As he had no children from his first marriage, my husband was ecstatic about the forthcoming birth of this child; his one and only. I cried the day it was confirmed I was pregnant; mine were not tears of joy. My husband, on the other hand, was so excited he had me use four pregnancy test strips—just to be sure.
Perhaps in part due to my husband’s delight over this surprise in our lives, I soon warmed to the idea of another child, despite the life changes I knew were ahead of me. Due to a curious experience I’d had when my son was only a year and a half old, I was convinced this child would be born a girl.
As with both previous pregnancies, with this pregnancy I was careful to eat healthy and abstain from anything that could or would be harmful to my unborn child. Aside from feeling horrifically nauseous the first few months I had an uneventful and otherwise “normal” pregnancy; that is until the last few weeks when the baby wouldn’t turn into the birthing position.
I was given the option to allow the medical people to attempt turning the baby. I opted to forgo that procedure because, no matter who I spoke with, no matter what I read, I did not feel good about that option.
July 14th I went to my scheduled doctor appointment, after experiencing some pains the day before, and learned that “this baby needs to come now”. So it was the date for her delivery was moved ahead by eight days and we were to the hospital on time that July 15th.
My darling baby was brought into the world and promptly whisked to the nursery without my even being able to look at or hold her. While I was on the delivery table being sewn up, the pediatric doctor and my husband came to where I was lying so the doctor could informed me she suspected our baby might have Down Syndrome and gain my permission to run some tests. In the moments to follow my body went into shock. No matter how many warm blankets, no matter how many reassuring words a nurse offered, I couldn’t stop shaking. I didn’t need them to run any tests, I already knew.
While I didn’t realize the significance as they happened, during those nine months of pregnancy I saw children with Down Syndrome practically everywhere I went. I swear I saw a different special needs child about every time I went to Costco. One day I stopped at a crosswalk to let a group of kids, accompanied by a few adults, cross the street. All of the children had Down Syndrome. Just prior to my baby’s birth I spent time researching for reasons she might be breach. One possibility suggested Down Syndrome; an option I quickly refused to accept.
Of those moments after her birth, it was then that I then knew.
The days to follow were some of the most painful, heart wrenching days of my life. I had to fight to see my baby as, it seemed, the nursery doctors were so reticent to release her. Their excuse was a little water in her lungs at birth, for which they gave her oxygen. But she was otherwise very healthy. As they were wheeling me to my room after delivery, I was the one who said, “Shouldn’t I be able to see my baby?” It was as though they thought I didn’t even want to!”
I think it was day three of her life Brian accompanied Elayna for her first hearing test. As I sat alone in the hospital room I sobbed the tears of a broken heart as I cried out, silently, to God, telling him this was the hardest trial he’d ever given me. In that moment I truly believed this to be so.
And so began a time of silence in my life. While I did not cut myself off from God, I did close off from the world. We’d been living in the city close to shopping and the many other perks of city life I so enjoyed. Three months after Elayna’s birth we moved into a house in a very quiet, rural, migrant farm workers town. The house we purchased backs up to farmland.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, we purchased solitude and silence.
Many are the hours I spent rocking in a chair, holding my infant child as I gazed out across that fog laden farmland simply absorbing and relishing the quiet. No longer did I listen to beloved music contained on dozens of CD’s. The TV remained off during the day. I no longer phoned my favorite sister in law for weekly chats. Brian was away to work most of the day; my son spent his days at school; Elayna and I spent our days at home in the solitude of silence; a reality I didn’t seem to be aware of for the time I experienced it.
Because my child hadn’t died, I didn’t recognize, at the time, that I was grieving. Because I didn’t recognize I was grieving, it wasn’t until much later I came to see and understand the months and years to follow served as a time of healing. I don’t fully understand how, nor do I understand why; I just know that it did. It was an early summer day when I recognized I’d crossed the abyss and was ready to come back and dwell amongst the living.
On this particular day, as I stood at our patio door watching my little toddler joyfully playing outside amidst the wonder of God’s creations, I recognized within my heart this incredible feeling of love for my child. I assure you this was absolutely not the first time I felt the love I have for her, but there was something uniquely different about my feelings just then. In that moment I’d come to a place of true peace about her disabilities, and I realized how much I truly loved her just as she is.
I recognize now, I’d come to a place where at last I could place my hand and my heart, in an act of trust, in God. While I didn’t, and still don’t, understand his purpose in creating my child with Down Syndrome, a condition further complicated with the effects of Autism, he is in control, and I can trust him that ultimately all will be well. In the meantime, I had found acceptance with what is; I was at last at peace about it.
Beginning that day and in the years to follow, despite the inherent challenges of raising a child– let alone a child with special needs requiring additional effort and infinitely more patience on the part of her caregivers; I can find joy in living. Our house has long since been filled with music; with laughter; with energy and fun. Our time of silence had passed; a time that served us well in its intended purpose, until we could leave sorrow behind and find our way back to joy.