What happens when an introverted mother feels the need to advocate for her son? She finds herself in a bit of a pickle.
I have been an introvert for as long as I can remember until about four years ago when my son was born with an extra chromosome. This was the moment that would eventually be what I consider the catalyst that put me on the path to advocacy, completely out of my comfort zone.
Let me go back a little to explain the type of introvert I was. I had my six or seven friends since I was a little girl. I grew up with many cousins, all close together. I consider these girls my sisters from other misters. So much so that I ended up with 17 bridesmaids at my wedding. Yup, I was that girl.
However, when it came to interacting with others, I was extremely introverted, unless I had the help of some liquid courage. If I had a class in high school without any of my close girlfriends, I would strategically bring a book to read in the corner while I waited for class to begin. In college, my own future husband tried to get me out of my introverted shell by attempting to talk to me in the morning before our 8 a.m. class began, almost always striking out. (Obviously, his attempts were not a complete failure since we eventually married four years later).
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Fast forward to 2017. I was still a happy introvert, with my family of three—a beautiful baby girl and my husband, both of whom are extreme extroverts.
If you were to put them next to anyone, they would talk to them about anything. Complete opposites from me.
Then, in October of 2017, we received a prenatal diagnosis that our son would be born with Down syndrome. I crawled into my nice little cave and somehow processed the news with the outpouring of love and support from my family and friends. My husband handled it much better than I did, but I got there eventually.
A year later, on Halloween, I was dressed up as Flounder from The Little Mermaid carrying my little Sebastian, our 7-month-old boy who happened to rock that extra chromosome. I walked next to my daughter, aka Ariel, and my husband, a.k.a. Prince Eric. It was then I decided, I was going to start an advocate Instagram account for my son, for parents who find themselves with an unexpected diagnosis, and for others who need help fighting against stereotypes placed on them by society. That’s a pretty big undertaking for someone who is an introvert, so I’m not exactly sure where I got that courage from. If I had to guess, I would say it’s that unexplainable, unconditional love we innately inherit when we become parents.
Fast forward to the present day. I find myself sharing with strangers more about my life, my thoughts, and my family than I ever could have imagined I would share. I am happy to share my thoughts through typing out words, but that’s where I draw the line.
I like to call myself a behind-the-scenes advocate.
My face makes an appearance every now and then, but for the most part, I just let my son demonstrate how there’s #nothingdownaboutit. It’s safe to say I have held on to a little bit of that girl who prefers to keep to herself. I still find it extremely uncomfortable to walk up to people I just met and start a conversation with them. I still would much rather grab a book or watch a movie without having to talk to anyone.
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Just the other day, I was walking with my daughter along the beach when she spotted a little girl about her age playing on the shore. She was with her mother who was watching nearby. My daughter grabbed my hand and said, “Come on Mami! Let’s go make new friends.”
I stopped, looked down at her, and asked myself how it was possible that she was my daughter. I smiled and said sure, but the reality is I had no intention to strike up any conversation with the mother.
There are times when I wonder how I can possibly advocate being how I am. Yet, here I am.
I think our kids can make us do things we never thought we’d do if it means they can have a happier life. I think you can very easily advocate without saying a word out loud. I don’t need to go to the other extreme just to shout out that my son, regardless of his differences, brings value to our world. I can do this by opening up our shell a little and sharing glimpses of our lives. Don’t expect me to start talking to everyone about anything, I’ll leave that to the extroverts, but do expect me to mention the important stuff.