Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Reflections from Dad (on his daughter’s first birthday)

on December 18, 2014

Today is THE day.  And while I’ve spent the last year telling people the wrong date over and over, I’m sure I have it right this time. Tonight’s reflection comes from John.  As I write this, he is hanging out with Tessa on the couch across from me and she is over-the-moon happy.  She adores this guy (like we all do).  He told me “please don’t write me a big introduction,” so I won’t.   Here’s his side of the story.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Three things to never say to your wife when she tells you she is in labor:

  1. “You can’t be in labor…I have to go to work today…”

(10 minutes later the pain starts to kick in…I nonchalantly utter the following)

2.“I’ll just run into work and set some things up…you’ll be ok here by yourself with Ellie, right?”

(20 minutes later I place a phone call…I have an important question for my laboring wife)

3. “I’m on my way back from work, do I have time to get a coffee?”

Long story short, I was an idiot for putting my work ahead of my wife and unborn child, even if it was only for a brief hour.  I wish I could go back and hit the illusive redo button on that moment in my life and be a caring and compassionate husband.  Live and learn, right?

When Tessa was born there is a moment of her birth forever ingrained in my mind.  Right after she was born she was taken to the table to be inspected by doctors and nurses from the NICU because there were some concerns during labor. I distinctly remember when one nurse from the NICU looked at me and it was at that moment I knew something wasn’t as it should be.  I will never forget her face, one of sincere pity, one of fear; without saying a word, she said it all.


The nurse practitioner, Amanda, called me over and explained to me they saw many markers for Down syndrome.  She walked me through all the signs and calmly explained to me that there was no way to know until she has genetic testing.  After our discussion I said to her, “Is this something that is certain or is there a chance she doesn’t have this?” My mom had always taught me: In life it is wise to prepare for the worst and hope for the best… but her response didn’t make me hope for the best.

“Again, there is no way to know without testing, but if I would be shocked if she didn’t have it.”

I’m glad she told the truth… and I wasn’t in denial… but I really was sad.  In my arms was a child, who I was supposed to just instantly love, and I couldn’t even see her beauty because I spent all my time examining her trying to make sense of this diagnosis.


People say you love your kids from the moment they are born.  That instantly you become this whole new person who is filled with a unique parental love.  Yeah… for me, that’s a lie.  I contend loving children is a process.  When Ellie was born, I was surprised that I didn’t feel any different.  I mean, I liked having her around and I could honestly say I loved her, but it wasn’t this transformational moment.  Instead, loving your kids is a process.  They grow on you…like a fungus.  Ok, maybe not like a fungus…but the truth is, you learn to love them as they grow into themselves.


Loving Tessa was a process.  I think I should clarify that I cared for her, but seeing beyond her diagnosis and seeing my beautiful daughter took time.  But with every smile, every giggle, every milestone, she has just made my life so much richer.  Both of my girls have made my life so much more meaningful and they both have taught me more than I have taught them in the few years I have been working on this parenting gig.

Ellie has taught me how to have fun and to laugh (and honestly she has taught me what it’s like to be on the other end of smart aleck remarks because she’s already dishing sarcasm at age 3).

Tessa has taught me to love unconditionally and that everything I thought that mattered… didn’t.

Together… they remind me everyday to 1) laugh often and 2) focus on what matters.  What else do we need to be taught besides how to cope with terrible sports teams?


In this end, just like I would hit the reset button on my response to Maggie that morning, I also wish I could hit the reset button on Tessa’s birthday.  If I were to do this over again I would just hold her without fear, or disappointment, or worry… Instead I would hold her and say…

“Tessa, thanks for joining us and thanks for being exactly the way you are… you are what we always prayed for, even if we didn’t know it…”


“…and by the way Tessa, if it’s not too much trouble, can you talk some sense into your sister?   Because she needs it.”

Her eyes would say it all: “Dad, I’m a miracle…not a miracle worker”



4 responses to “Reflections from Dad (on his daughter’s first birthday)

  1. Andrea Wdowiarz says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!! John. You are a wonderful Dad. Your girls love you more than anyone. You are a great helpmate and partner for my little girl! Thank you for who you are! I love you tons!!

  2. Judy Lay says:

    Yep, what Mom Dub said…plus always n forever, no matter what.

  3. Diane flor says:

    God knew Tessa before she was born.He gave her to the perfect parents John you are a special parent,and amazing father.We all love you and Anj.

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