Grown up

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up…We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” Maya Angelou

There are two moments in my life when I remember being truly terrified of growing up. When I was seven years old, I was in bed one night and had convinced myself that growing up meant the end of life. I remember surrounding my little body with stuffed animals and begged God to let me stay little forever. Another moment happened when I was 21 and had just graduated from college. I dropped Nate off at the airport for his flight back to California, and I drove to my new apartment alone. I sobbed for five hours straight. I was terrified of doing grown-up things, like living all by myself and looking for a new job.

Most days I still feel like that 7-year-old kid or the 21-year-old college graduate. But sometimes, I’m pulled back into adulthood and it’s not always a pleasant experience.

Sometimes adulthood has weight to it – real heft. When I first heard the words “Down syndrome” from the perinatologist, I felt like someone had climbed onto my chest. The weight. I knew what that weight was – fear and grief. As the last 20 weeks of the pregnancy wore on, even when we didn’t know for sure, I started to be able to carry the weight. It stopped being so heavy. It was going to be what it was going to be. I know that’s a terrible cliché, but there it is. She was never going to be anyone other than who she was – it was literally written in her DNA. She was born and I was okay. She was mine and I was hers.

But there was one moment in the hospital, when the fear of adulthood crept back in. It was the middle of the night, and we were alone together. I was looking at her sweet little face and I felt pure terror. Not terror of her or her diagnosis or that I didn’t have my perfect child. I had stopped caring about perfect months before. I was terrified that I wasn’t good enough, and that she deserved someone better than me – a real adult.

I now realize that Mia just needs someone who is going to understand. Growing up is going to be difficult, full of challenges, and downright terrifying. We’ll embark on that together. But maybe Maya Angelou is right and she’ll just get a version of my 7-year-old self instead of a grown up. Maybe that’s okay.

We’ve all needed to pull the covers over our head and beg for time to stand still now and again.

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