Steve was born in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a most bitter winter's night on the way to the hospital. His birth certificate lists under "Hospital Name" the two country roads nearest to the place where my husband pulled the car over and our baby Steve came into the world. Babies arrive when they need to arrive we discovered that night. At the moment of his birth there were no doctors, no nurses, no monitors, no soothing ice chips in a cup, just Mom, Dad - and God. He was definitely seeing us through, seeing Steven through, of that we are certain.
It was the front passenger seat of Ron's company car where Steve made his entrance to the world. My husband had recently picked the vehicle up and I wasn't yet familiar with the seat levers and gadgets so I never did figure out how to recline the back in time for the standard "birthing" position. Steve came into the world with me sitting bolt upright in the front seat. Somehow nobody panicked during all that, but instead we felt a calm, a peace, there in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night with this new gift from God. Ron and I cleared Stevie's air passages right away as he wasn't breathing and then we heard the miracle of a new life cry. That baby of ours made it, our Steven made it, safe and sound, 10 fingers, 10 toes, the familiar baby Meier round face.
We eventually did make it to the hospital, Steve and I by way of ambulance (after Ron put the call in to 911 from the old-fashioned "bag phone" popular in 1996) and Ron followed in the birth-van. Steve wasn't allowed in the nursery with all the other babies because of his outside-the-hospital-birth, which was fine by me - I didn't want him out of my sight. That night after they cleaned Stevie up and did all those newborn assessments the doctor brought us the news that our baby's facial characteristics and his low muscle tone meant our baby had Down syndrome. That news landed on me the same way as if the doctor had announced our baby had brown eyes. Brown eyes, Down syndrome - they are part of our Steve. Our Steve. He'd made into the world after a dramatic entry and after the several miscarriages I'd had over the years. This one, this little baby, he'd made it - he was here, safe and warm in my arms. I was one very happy Momma.
The next morning the hospital social worker stopped in. I thought it was odd - I hadn't done anything wrong, just given birth the night before and now had my beautiful baby resting comfortably in my arms. She was there, she informed me, because he was a special needs baby and she wanted to go over my "options." My mind raced - I didn't know what she meant - "options." In a very clipped, business-like tone she proceeded to outline my "options." The three of them. "You could put him up for adoption. Institutionalization is another option. Or you could just bring him home."
I wanted to scream at this woman. "I'm holding this precious, beautiful baby in my arms who was born a few hours ago and you're saying horrible horrible things. Get out! Get out! Get out!" That's what I was screaming in my head, but no words came out. The blankest of blank looks spread across my face. She left shortly after that but not before placing a packet of materials on the table. And they said horrible horrible things too. The book about Down syndrome opened with the statement, "Life expectancy is 9 years for individuals with Down syndrome." I wanted to scream again - at the social worker. "Why are you bringing me these terrible things??" But she was already way down the hall and besides that my brand new baby was still snuggled peacefully in my arms - he was just hours old. I remember just staring at his beautiful little face and seeing nothing but a miracle, a precious life, a precious gift. I saw the upside.
Now at the age of 20, Steve is a high school graduate in his third year in the Post-Secondary program in our local public school. He refers to it as "his college." He, like his brother Tommy, is a Special Olympics athlete - track & field (he won a gold medal in the 100 meter dash), basketball, and bowling. Steve has volunteered at nursing homes and rehab centers, helping in the dining room and the laundry room. He's been an usher at church. He helps me prepare dinner and vacuum the floor and set the table and make beds. He listens to his favorite Top Twenty radio station. He loves dancing - prom, school programs, our family room. Every night when I read to Steve and Tommy from a chapter book (we recently finished the unabridged Swiss Family Robinson), Steve is the one who stays attentive the whole time, regardless the length of the chapter. He's learning to play the piano. When someone thanks him for something he'll reply, "It was my pleasure." At 20, he still hugs and kisses me good-bye when I drop him off at school. Steve lives life on the upside - Downs just happens to be a part of it.
More than 20 years have passed since then and I'm still seeing the upside - everyday - because Steve lives with us, always has, in spite of it being last on that social worker's "options for special needs parents" list.