As I sat with my growing belly, full of anticipation for the arrival of my firstborn, the possibilities were endless for this little girl. Maybe she would lean toward the arts and be a dancer, writer, or musician. Or maybe she would take after her great-granddad and become a scientist. And maybe one day she would be a mother too. Dreaming about the future was fun and exciting. But then she surprised us with an at-birth Down syndrome diagnosis.
Special needs were never included in my dreaming sessions.
All of the sudden, my hopes and dreams for this new baby felt taken away in an instant. They were replaced with questions and fears. Is she healthy? Will this impact our decision to grow our family? Will she be able to go to college or get a job? Will she live with us forever? I collapsed into a pile of tears. I felt paralyzed by this news. I was just getting started on my motherhood journey, and now it took a twist I didn’t expect.
But soon after we received this life-altering diagnosis, a sweet nurse approached me to check on how I was doing and said, “You just have to take it one day at a time.”
I took her up on this advice. This gave me the ability to move forward. I could make it through just one day. And it continues to shape my motherhood journey, years later. And I’m so thankful for it.
Taking it one day at a time helps me stay present.
Because my daughter has Down syndrome, she lives on her own developmental timeline. It’s a slower pace. When living in the moment, I’m able to see her developmental delays through a different lens. Worrying if she will ever talk only makes me miss out on how much she is able to communicate without words.
I’m finding that dwelling on the future—on the things I have no control over—only holds me back from living a full life. When I dwell too much on what I do not know, it strips me of the joy today. Instead of fretting about the what-ifs, I get to know my daughter each day. And knowing her is the best way to combat my fears for her future.
When facing hard challenges in motherhood, taking it one day at a time has given me endurance. My second child was born prematurely at 32-weeks and stayed in the NICU for 66 days. Those first 66 days of my son’s life felt incredibly void of movement. As if we were in a stagnant pool. Constant waiting. No control. Deep grief. I painstakingly felt every moment we were apart.
Taking it one day at a time allowed me to persevere. It let me celebrate the triumphs of getting my son off oxygen and the feeding tube. It gave me hope on bad days that tomorrow could be better. Knowing and trusting that God would give me the grace and strength to face each day got me through this very challenging season.
When I take it one day at a time, I live at a slower pace.
This meander allows me to appreciate all the little things and focus on the right things. Instead of worrying about the repercussions of a later bedtime, I enjoy the extra snuggles. The sound of giggles and little feet running around the house are sweeter. Time is savored at every phase. We aren’t hurried.
I’m able to focus on who my children are becoming instead of what they will do or accomplish. And the pressure for my children to quickly reach milestones fades away. Because when I know who my children are the comparison game stops, and I can better guide them to reach their potential, not what the world says they should do.
But most of all, it gives me extra perspective on what matters most. When I was thrust into the world of special needs parenting, I thought everything changed. I thought my daughter’s bright future was taken away. But taking it one day at a time slowed my heart and mind to discover my purpose in motherhood didn’t change when we received the Down syndrome diagnosis. It was always to teach my children to know and love God. That is the good news, the bright future for my children. And no diagnosis would change that.
Mothering one day at a time is a gift. There is more joy and less fear, more celebration and less worry. And even on the hardest day, there is hope because His mercies are new every morning.