Jack Jack’s extra chromosome carries with it a card to the best club I never thought I wanted to join — special needs mom club. I have yanked Jack Jack out of a shopping cart and chased down a mom and young adult with Down syndrome and I have had total strangers come up to me at a downtown fair with a nod and smile and talk about their cousin or brother. No explanation required.
I remember when it happened for the very first time. Our family had gone up to the mountains on the fourth of July. Mr. Incredible’s family have a tradition of all camping together and lots of out of town family show up that we don’t see all that often. Jack Jack was not yet a year old and we were both still in the fog of grief and uncertainty.
We were making the rounds, saying hello when a second cousin of some sort lurched drunkenly at me and demanded to know why I had a baby “like that” cause I wasn’t old or anything. In fact, he told me, his wife was much older than me and none of their kids had problems. Charming, no?
I was pretty much hunkered down in the tent, full of self pity and too much comparison of the other little cousins who had been born around the same time, or even later than Jack Jack, and all the running around and playing and adoration they were receiving. There was plenty of adoration for Jack Jack too, but I focused on my hurt feelings from the negative encounters and was miserable.
The weekend over, we packed up to go and decided to have lunch in a favorite cafe in the small mining town where Mr. Incredible had been born. You know after three days of camping with small children, we were a dirty, smelly mess. The cafe was packed with tourists and it was a long and grumpy wait for lunch.
Finally we were seated, lunch ordered and everyone was happy for the moment. I noticed our waitress, a woman from somewhere south of the border, was spending a lot of time at our table considering how many other tables she had to serve. She kept coming back with packages of crackers and refilling drinks and smiling and smiling at Jack Jack. In broken English she said, pointing to the baby “this one is… is… special?” I was tired, emotionally bruised and had a lot of dirt in my hair. I was brusque. “All my kids are special”, I shot back. She smiled, not taken back by my rudeness and gave the baby a little pat.
Lunch was over and Mr. I took the big kids to the bathroom and I was gathering our things and wiping down Jack Jack when our waitress appeared at my side. She squatted down so we were eye level and she said, “I had baby, like this also. He is my angel.” And she put her hand over her heart and looked at me with tears in her eyes. I put my hand over my heart too. “He had a heart problem?” I asked. She nodded and said, “He is in heaven, only a baby. Your baby, very special.”
She handed me a shoe he’d kicked off and stood up to go. “Thank you” I said, but she had disappeared into the crowd.
I saw my pity party clearly for what it was. My baby didn’t have a fatal heart condition. My baby was loved by his family and drunk distant cousins were not worth my time and energy. This dear lady helped clear the fog away for the first time post diagnosis. She was my angel.