The fourth day of November is special for our family because that was when Miss Heidi Ann Pearson decided to be born.
Apparently, she couldn’t wait another month for her real due date on her father’s birthday. No, she wanted to begin her influence Nov. 4, 1987.
Honestly, it’s been an adventure right from day one. Heidi was nearly born in a cold, cramped ambulance driving at night on the freeway surrounded by miles of sagebrush, some deer and lots of moonlight. At least she waited until our ambulance detoured to the nearest hospital in Nephi, Utah and let me deliver there.
I’ll always recall that night when the on-call doctor softly told my husband and me, “Yes, she’s premature, but after careful examination, seems very stable overall. However,” he paused, “it looks like your baby has Down syndrome.”
Well, Heidi really surprised us, but walking with love and commitment, we started the journey together. At first there were smooth stretches in unfamiliar territory, with lots of support from everyone in the neighborhood, church and medical field. Then came bumps in the road with unexpected health detours, steep climbs during difficult meetings with the school system, countless sharp curves of sheer exhaustion, and more than one cliff-hanger with Heidi’s safety — when she would run off with her head down.
Her personality of sweet sunshine and hugs gradually became dim, cold and mysteriously repetitious and difficult. Heidi was eventually dual-diagnosed with Down syndrome with autism. But there was no devastation; I was actually thrilled “it” finally had an official name. She was 13.
Life actually got much harder before it got better, but today, I want to reminisce about some good times.
I fondly remember a simple Saturday morning in November when our four daughters were young and climbed on our big bed together to snuggle. We loved it.
“Mom, why don’t we play that thankful game we played last Thanksgiving?” Torey asked. She was becoming a natural-born leader. “Remember? Everybody think of something we’re really happy and thankful for, OK?”
“OK,” Holly exclaimed, always trying to fit in with her sisters. “I’m first! Ummm… I’m glad for my big brown rocking horse.”
“I’m next,” Lacey giggled, “I love tuna fish sammiches.”
“Alright. I’m thankful for Cheeko, our cat,” Torey shared.
“Smile, and say ‘Cheese’ ladies,” a tall, dark and handsome man said as he slipped in holding a camera.
“Dad!” everyone squealed in unison.
“Mister, I don’t have any make-up on,” I said like any normal, red-blooded, self-respecting woman. But I knew it would be funny later, so I let it go.
“Dad, come play,” Holly said as she bounced on the bed as 6-year-olds do. “Your turn!”
He sat on the edge of the bed, smiling as he pulled little Heidi closer to him so he could kiss the bottom of her chubby, warm feet. “Let see, I’m thankful for my job, our warm house, and our horse.”
“Say only one thing, Dad,” Lacey cautioned like the 9-year-old policeman she had become.
“Mom, your turn,” Torey countered. After all, this game was her idea.
With so many wonderful blessings in our full, rich lives, I recall being especially flooded with gratitude at having a whole new world open up before us — within the beautiful realm of Down syndrome.
“I’m so very thankful for Heidi and her Down syndrome.”
After it spilled out, it surprised even me. It was true, I had been changed forever, in a positive way.
“Mom,” Torey asked in a serious tone, “if I had a magic wand and could heal Heidi, and you wouldn’t have to do her exercises, meetings and stuff — would you do it?”
I thought it over. I knew we would always have to be an advocate for this special child. I knew there would be extra expenses and sleepless nights over the years. Still, I intuitively knew our family would have opportunities to stretch, bond and become stronger. It wouldn’t be easy. I’d witnessed other families fracture and fail. However, others with disabled loved ones pull together and remain tender while being tough, and true to each other.
I answered wholeheartedly, “Sweetie, no magic spells. We can do this! I think life with Heidi — Down syndrome and all — can be a good experience for us.”
And I meant it.
Looking back over Heidi’s 29 years, I see a true-life adventure. Tears of joy, tears of heartache, broken bones, broken promises — but no broken home. Flooded home, yes. But flooded with faith, fun, friends and families, too. As Heidi’s robust health and well-being broke down, my trust of modern medicine also broke down. Gratefully, we gradually rebuilt my precious teenager’s body, mind and spirit embracing natural methods, which also healed my soul.
Because of Heidi, songs were composed, poems penned, and books written. Student aides became Special Educators. Families welcomed special-need adoptions. A thriving health food store evolved from lessons learned through Heidi.
Happy birthday, Heidi! Mom’s really proud of ya’.
You are the real gift.
Elayne Pearson, C.A.S., is a special needs preparedness specialist, author and holistic health consultant. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or see her website at www.hiddentreasuresofhealth.com.