The average person wouldn’t know that Emmy has Williams syndrome. First of all, it’s a rare (1 in 10,000) genetic condition that most people haven’t heard of. And, secondly, to the untrained eye, she outwardly looks and acts like any other child. If you’re not an expert on genetics, you probably would have a hard time picking a child with Williams syndrome out of a crowd.
This applies to many other syndromes as well. Since finding out that Emmy has a genetic condition, I’ve met other families who have revealed their own child’s diagnosis. And, just looking at them, I would have had no idea.
So I don’t have to tell anybody.
Nobody needs to know.
It can be a secret between me, my family, and the school system.
These ideas went through my head in the beginning, when we first found out. Especially because a doctor told me that I shouldn’t reveal her diagnosis until I knew someone really well. She told me that people can be confused and, later, cruel. I became terrified that other people would hate us; hate our family — just because we were different. I had an image of everyone gathered at a neighborhood picnic, and our family showing up. In my head, I saw the heads in the crowd turn to look at us and whisper among themselves that we were “that family.”
I saw it because I knew it.
When I was growing up, we had people in my town who were different. And everyone knew who they were. There was the guy who always walked around town because he couldn’t drive — because he has special needs. I always saw him at the park and the coffee shop. I was aware of the fact that he was different. And I wasn’t anywhere near as open-minded and curious as I am now.
When I was growing up, I casually noticed him, but I never spoke to him. I should have said “hello.” I should have been friendly and welcoming. I have learned SO MUCH about other people and their differences since finding out about my own daughter. That has been one of the many gifts she’s given me.
Recently, I drove around my old town, and I saw that very same guy walking down the street. I swear I cried at the wheel. All of a sudden, I became more aware of who he was. I became curious about his story. And I also reflected back on the kindness of others. I thought about the people who had talked to him at the coffee shop and shook his hand at the park. I now believe that there are more loving and caring people in this world than there are cruel people.
I believe that those who love will embrace our family enough to drown out that small faction of cruelty.
So I write this blog and share our story, loud and proud.
The response has been incredible. I don’t feel like “the others.” On the contrary. I’ve been so moved by the number of people who have accepted us — and appreciated us — just as we are. This is my family. This is reality. I can’t change who we are, and I don’t want to.
When I found out about Emmy’s diagnosis, I had some incredible phone conversations with other Williams syndrome moms, which I will never forget. I remember telling one of the moms that I was too scared to reveal Emmy’s syndrome — too afraid that the other moms on the playground would ostracize me.
She replied, “If that happens, you need to silently thank them. They’re showing you who they are — right off the bat, and you wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with them anyway.”
I take that with me. She’s absolutely right. I wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with those people anyway. And the people I have met as a result of sharing Emmy’s diagnosis? They’ve been amazing.
So very true- and it is a daily thought process for us too. And surprisingly I have found that the more I share our story about Tyler, the more parents come forward and say their baby had a Congenital Heart Defect too! Or some other rare thing they were born with. It kind of makes you feel not so alone! The one’s that have ‘normal’ children always say they can’t imagine what we’ve been through… and they are right. No one can ever know until you go through it… but I can say we’ve never felt snubbed.. yet. I am sure once Ty is in school, that could change as some kids are just mean. I don’t think you have any reason to hide it either! Look how beautiful your little girl is – and what a story she will have for when she is older 🙂
I’ve definitely found that the more I share, the more others share in return. It really helps all of us feel less alone. 🙂
Maddy saw the pic and before I could even read the post she yelled “It’s Emmy!” 💜 It was great meeting you in Kentucky!
AWWW! I wish we had gotten to spend more time together! Maddy is so sweet. 🙂
Awesomeness. I have similar thoughts. I’m proud of my baby. When others are rude, mean, or otherwise negative… It says more about them than it does us. So far, I’ve come across very few people that small. Most people have been wonderful.
Thanks for sharing! So happy to hear that most people have been wonderful. 🙂