My sock drawer is stuffed to overflowing; every day athletic socks, fuzzy slipper socks, even a few dressy pair of trouser socks. But my most special collection consists of crazy, colorful knee socks. So on March 21st I had plenty to choose from in honor of World Down Syndrome Day. The ‘LOTS OF SOCKS’ campaign aimed at making people stop and take notice. By wearing socks. “NOT JUST ANY SOCKS . . . brightly coloured socks, mismatched socks, long socks, printed socks, 1 sock . . . maybe even 3 socks for 3 chromosomes.”
World Down Syndrome Day was first observed in 2006 on behalf of an organization called Down Syndrome International. And in 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 21stWorld Down Syndrome Day, promoting global activities and raising awareness.
The technical term is Trisomy 21. Made up of DNA, chromosomes exist in every human cell. Where there are typically 46 chromosomes—or 23 sets—in the case of DS, an abnormality occurs, resulting in 47 chromosomes, the extra chromosome on the 21st set. 3-21. Hence, March 21 is the perfect day to recognize these extraordinary individuals.
Statistics vary, but in general, a child with Down syndrome is born once in about 800 births. Prenatal testing and diagnosis is highly controversial today, as are the deeply personal, subsequent decisions some parents are faced with. I wonder if those parents could see their child 5, 10, 25 years down the road, would it make a difference?
In 2003, pregnant with Haley, I went in for a glucose test. After chugging the sugary drink quickly on an empty stomach, I had hours to wait. Sydney, 3 years old at the time, looked 1½. Elfish, with coppery red pigtails, a button nose and tiny hands, she signed words like more and cookie and please; thank you looked like she was blowing a kiss with her chubby fingers. She danced and sang to the TV in the waiting room, “La-la, la-la, La-la, la-la, Elmo’s World.”
I noticed another mother-to-be studying Sydney intently. I turned my gaze back to my daughter and found myself looking through another’s eyes. Her Down syndrome was apparent, yes. But the light shining from her cherubic presence was undeniable. The woman caught my eye and a knowing glance passed between us. “My baby has Down syndrome,” she said and looked down at her rounded belly. “I’ve been anxious and scared, but seeing your little girl calms my heart. I think everything’s going to be alright.”
I want to tell her, “Oh, sweetie, it’s going to be much more than alright. This child will be everything you never knew you wanted, bringing joy and beauty to your life. And lessons! Lessons like patience, perseverance and positivity. Like laughter, love and living in the moment.”
I can’t imagine a world without Sydney and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate those who have a little bit ‘extra,’ than wearing bright, colorful, unique socks that say, “Look at me. I am who I am!”