FACT: Parenting is hard as hell. What's hard are things like this:
- Trying to get a four-year-old to take a full teaspoon of wretched, wretched Augmentin twice a day. (Tip: mix it into about a quarter cup of pureed strawberry jam. She still hates it, but with repeated high-fives and praise for being such a big girl who swallows her medicine, she chokes most of it down.)
- Turning off the tv. Maybelle often feels that this is an outrage that devastates every ounce of her being. There are tears. There's negotiation: "TV on! One more Dora!" Fortunately, she usually moves on from this outraged devastation within a few minutes.
- "Oh, God. I poop in the bath."
FALLACY: Parenting a child with Down syndrome is so much harder than parenting a typical kid. Maybelle's my only child, so I can't speak for everybody, but it seems to me that most of the hard stuff about parenting Maybelle is stuff that's difficult for all parents. Nobody likes cleaning poop out of the bathtub, and it did take Maybelle a bit longer to learn to use the potty than many of her peers, but it didn't take her that much longer. Being Maybelle's mother isn't qualitatively different than being the mother to any other unique person in the world.
I'm interviewing parents for my book A Choice with No Story: What Prenatal Testing and Down Syndrome Reveal About Our Reproductive Decision-Making, and one dad said, "the hardest part about being a parent isn’t her diagnosis or medical condition or cognitive delays or what have you, it's really about dealing with acceptance in society." I agree with that: Maybelle's differences are simply differences. It's societal stigma that frames those differences as "problems," and that stigma creates problems for me as her mother.