This is a story of motherhood, a story about what it’s like to be sitting on the other side of the glass.

I sit perched on my seat at the midwifery office.  At twenty-two weeks pregnant, I feel the familiar warmth of the waiting room, and I’m overheating as usual. No matter how many layers I undress, I find it hard to get comfortable. I have sweat through this waiting room many times; during my first pregnancy that culminated with the birth of our beautiful baby girl, and now, for a second pregnancy, when things are different. With the sun beating in, creating a greenhouse effect, the heat feels unbearable in the glass room. 

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Arriving at the midwife’s office in the past, I peed onto sticks to check my sugar levels; I took off my shoes to step onto the scale and make sure baby’s growth and mine were on track. I went to appointments with my husband and sometimes with my firstborn in tow, but this day is outside of those routines, and I am alone. I am there to give blood because there is a concern. 

They think our baby might have Down syndrome.

“Down syndrome?” I said out loud over the phone when the midwife asked me if I could please come in, causing my husband’s eyes to dart across the room, focusing his attention on where I stood speechless, with laser precision. I have a healthy baby already; I’m 28 years old.  There’s been some sort of mistake.  My midwife wanted to perform a repeat ultrasound and asked me to get a blood test done.  This was eight years ago, before the advent of single blood tests that could tell a parent with certainty about a diagnosis.

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I sit in that waiting room at the midwife clinic, boiling, waiting to give blood, when I see another version of myself standing outside, on the other side of the glass.  She is looking in at me. Is that pity on her face? She is the woman I was before the call, before the possibility of Down syndrome came into our lives. I long to be her.  She is free, unencumbered from the weight and the burden of any pending unwanted diagnosis.  She looks like me, but she could have been any woman whose pregnancy is considered normal.  What would she think, I wonder, if she knew the baby I am carrying has Down syndrome?  I am ashamed then, feel the heat and redness of Down syndrome written all over my face, so I keep my chin low as a lone tear trails down my cheek.  I think, you never know what someone else might be going through behind the mask mothers–women–put up.

The test was positive.

And I don’t just mean positive in that our baby would be born with Down syndrome, I mean positive in how this result then shaped the rest of my life. I am still that mother behind the glass, but now I’m sitting in a café, sipping contentedly on my tea misto and reminiscing on the good that has arrived with the birth of each of my three children. I now understand that Down syndrome just is; a genetic variation that has existed through time, irrespective of race, gender or socioeconomic status. I understand that we are more than our status or our physical appearance or our intellect—we are human beings of heart and soul. Every life has beauty, and my daughter has helped me to see that. Could there be a greater gift?

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Now, once again, I’m inside looking out at the girl on the other side of the glass and I’m reaching out to her from a place with no masks. Do you see my daughter the way I see her? I want to ask.

Unconditional love is stronger than hurt and perceived loss, and when we can accept differences in our heart, we have infinitely more to gain.

I pull that girl I used to be from the other side of the glass inside, out from the cold, and I tell her, come, sit with me a while. Let me tell you a story about a little girl whose shown me love. It’s warmer in here.

Adelle Purdham

Adelle Purdham is a writer, teacher, speaker, and advocate for those with Down syndrome. You will likely find her writing her life story or out for a jog in the woods in the vicinity of Georgetown, ON where she currently lives.