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A grandmother's story.

A Grandmother's Story

"It's a boy!" the voice proudly announced over the phone. My heart pounded with joy. My first grandchild had been born. I had been waiting so long for this day. I was more than ready to be a grandmother.

As I drove excitedly to the hospital, I envisioned holding the baby for the first time, realizing that this was my daughter's child--a part of me. I dreamed of quiet moments when he would snuggle up next to me while I read him a story and of a peaceful hike in the woods with him on my back.

When my daughter handed him gingerly to me, I felt a proud joy flow through my being. I already loved this little boy who lay peacefully in my arms, tentatively surveying his new environment. There was so much to look forward to. I felt complete.


The next morning became a nightmare. My daughter called to tell me that William had Down syndrome. I was stunned. All my dreams seemed to be exploding and crashing in my mind. I told my despairing daughter that I would call her back.

My immediate reaction was one of complete denial. No. This was impossible. There must be some mistake. I beat my fists on the table and yelled at no one in particular. Why did something like this happen to Lisa? Why her? Why me?

Finally, tears replaced my rage and I sobbed uncontrollably. This was not what I had been so excitedly awaiting. This was not the baby we had all dreamed about. That baby had not been born.

When I finally brought my emotions under some semblance of control, I called Lisa back and was able to be more empathetic in her time of disappointment and grief. I was tortured by the fact that my daughter was suffering. I couldn't fix things; this was not going to go away. Lisa was experiencing the same emotions as I was but with the added, agonizing pain of a mother. She, too, had to go through a period of rage and denial.

As I hung up the phone, I felt utterly helpless. That night was particularly dark for me. I ranted and raved until there was no more rage left inside of me. Over the next few nightmarish days, I wrestled with my emotions, while trying to support Lisa as best I could. The reactions of friends and family to the news were varied. There were many who could not handle it and either withdrew or issued hurtful and vindictive statements. Yet, there were those who were there when I needed them.


I went to my grandson and held him. I looked into his piercing, blue eyes. He returned my look with total trust. As we sat there together, a warm feeling of acceptance was growing inside my heart. This was a present I had been given. It was not what I had asked for or anticipated, but here was an adorable, little human being who was completely dependent on the love and acceptance of the people around him.

It was not possible to push a button and adjust immediately to the shock of it all. Yet, I knew that I wanted to accept this baby as he had been given to us and that I would. I immersed myself in literature about Down syndrome. I felt that if I understood what it was and how it occurred that it would be easier for me to grasp it. For some reason, this worked.

Soon after his birth, William's parents learned that he had a serious heart defect and would need to have a heart operation when he was strong enough. By the time they received this news, Lisa and Tom had found the most astonishing strength from within. They accepted William for who he was and were totally committed to doing the best they could to make him a happy and productive human being.

They received an incredible amount of support from their friends and family. Although there were peaks and valleys, they always seemed to be able to keep moving ahead. Various Down syndrome groups contacted them immediately and gave extraordinary amounts of encouragement. Hearing from other parents of Down syndrome children made it all seem more doable.

As I saw my daughter grow in her total acceptance of William, my heart lightened. Now I was able to be a grandmother.

Three months later, William, who had not been able to gain weight due to his heart condition, went into the hospital. There began a grueling six weeks of waiting. Pneumonia, ear infections and scheduling problems postponed the operation time after time. My daughter and son-in-law lived in the hospital with William, pouring out their love to him. Two operations were needed to correct his heart. William is tough and he came through both without a hitch. the tension was over and William went home.


The emaciated baby that had open-heart surgery five months ago is now a strapping boy who rolls over, sits up and babbles incessantly. His interactions with people are loving and trusting, because we all love him for who he is.

When he achieves a milestone in his development, we cheer and rejoice. It doesn't always happen on schedule and sometimes it doesn't happen at all, but William is a gift that I will always treasure. He has taught me to accept people for who they are and not what I think they should be.

This little boy is the joy of my life. I thank him for all he has given me so far in his short lifetime. I look forward to being his grandmother for many years to come.

Charlotte Streeter Goodhue has just retired after 27 years of teaching first grade. She received her B.A. from Smith College and holds a M.A.T. from Manhattanville College. Goodhue lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, John. She has five children, John Jr., 38, Peter, 36, Carlye, 34, and Lisa, 31, Amanda, 26, and one adorable grandchild, William.
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Title Annotation:grandson with Down syndrome
Author:Goodhue, Charlotte S.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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