Saturday, September 29, 2007

Twelve rounds

I'm not a fan of boxing. Just can't find anything aesthetically pleasing about the sport. Blood and sweat and funny looking shoes that wouldn't match any of my clothes.

I'm more of a martial arts type of guy. Kung-fu, Aikido, etc. Not karate. Too much like boxing. Straight lines, forward thrusts, the use of brute force.

I prefer the "dance" and circular movements of Aikido, where you use your opponent's aggression against them.

When Silvi throws a fit or misbehaves, I sometimes tell Annie, "Think of the movements in Aikido. Instead of using a 'No' statement, redirect Silvi's aggression in another direction."

Annie prefers the straight-forward upper-cut to the jaw.

Once I pick myself up off the floor, I stumble away and try to figure out where I went wrong.

Annie and I have been going a few rounds these last four weeks since Ian's birth and diagnosis. You can only squeeze a grape so hard before it's skin yields to the pressure and you have mess on your hands. (obscure reference to The Karate Kid.)

She jabs and I counter with a Koshi Nagi throw. I thrust with a Tsuki strike and am flattened by a surprise spinning round-kick. "Foul!" I yell in protest. "You can't do that!"

But all past rules have changed: We are battling in a new arena, and we can't seem to find the rulebook.

Exhausted and bruised, we do not retreat to our separate corners. Instead, we call a truce. It is a draw. There are no winners here.

And then we hear Ian cry in the background, and realize we face a bigger battle, one that can only be won together.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Take this cup vs. thy will be done

So now we wait.

The person in charge of scheduling surgeries is out until early next week. I've got a weekend ahead of me, those two days I race toward yet sometimes dread once they arrive. It's much easier for me to sit in my edit suite and edit a :30 second television commercial, as I have been today, than to face Ian's future.

It's that hiding thing again.

Lots of friends, family and online writers are praying for Ian. Earnest, sincere prayers. The night before his echocardiogram, many family members prayed that the test would reveal that the hole in Ian's heart had closed.

It hasn't.

The question of why a prayer "works" one time and "doesn't work" another time is an ageless question. Theologians, philosophers and lay preachers have written libraries full of books on the matter.

Christ in the garden, moments before his arrest.
"Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
Annie is all about "remove this cup" right now. Make Ian better.

I, on the other hand, don't believe God will "remove the cup," so I'm in the "thy will be done" camp at the moment. Not out of any great spiritual faith, mind you. I like to think of myself as a realist, but that's a cop-out. It's just less painful in the end if you always plan for the worst.

People are praying that the surgery will go well, that the doctors will make the right decisions and that Ian will heal properly. I think, "Why stop there? Pray that Ian's Down Syndrome will go away, and while you're at it, pray that all the amputated legs of injured soldiers would grow back!" I mean, if God can heal "small" things like holes in the heart, surely the "big" things are no challenge for Him.

But then I have to stop myself.

Go back to that garden.

It's a choice I make, to pray that prayer. Not some kind of blind faith. No. I will myself to believe it, even when all the circumstances seem to shout otherwise.

The tension is in embracing both parts of the prayer equally.
"Heal my son, Ian, God."

"Do with Ian what you will, God."
Can I live with that?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A "Routine" Life

I heard the word "routine" a lot yesterday. In the doctor's office, from family members and fellow bloggers. I'll be honest: At first the word really bugged me.

"It's a routine procedure. What we're going to do, Tom and Annie, is take this here scalpel with the size #10 blade and make a a six-to-eight inch gash in the side of your one-month-old son. Then we're going to take these here rib spreaders and ever so gently ..."

Well, you get the picture. The "routine" I'm used to is my daughter's scraped knee, and that still breaks my heart.

But as I've been thinking about the word today, I think I've come to terms with it. "Life is hard," as my Dad often says. And it really is. Pain and grief and suffering, these are characteristics of the "routine" life. If you choose to love someone, you open yourself to hurt and to being wounded. Any day without suffering is outside of the norm - abnormal.

I'm thankful for being reawakened to the "routine" life. The alternative seems to be a dead life.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sad day

Ian's breathing has been labored since his birth, which we had hoped would lessen with time. It persists, and so we took him for an echocardiogram this morning, which revealed that the hole in his heart had grown larger, causing too much oxygen-rich blood intended for the rest of his body to be channeled back into his lungs.

He'll need heart surgery to repair it. Probably within a week or so.

I'm not fond of the "life with a child with Down Syndrome is a roller coaster ride" analogy. This isn't a ride, and if it is, I want my money back.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Now I've gone and done it

Pictured on the left is the actual 4-foot longboard that I bought on Craigslist last night. Fine. I've thrown in the towel. I'm in the middle of a full-blown mid-life crisis. But at least I'm not cruising Used Car lots, sitting behind the wheel of blindingly red sports cars, right? Or hitting on the bewildered waitress at our Applebee's restaurant? Cut me a little slack.

And you know what? It really does work, this reverting to your youth thing! Silvi and I drove out to buy the skateboard last night from a guy who moved here from California. It was a dripping wet humid night after a big thunderstorm, just like the ones in Florida when I was young and thin and could ride my skateboard around the deck of our pool for hours in a hundred percent humidity. As Silvi and I drove home in the dark, the music up loud, windows down (out of necessity; air conditioner is on the fritz), the longboard in the front seat next to me, there were exactly three whole minutes, the length of a song, when I felt exactly how I felt on those warm Florida nights.

(For those not familiar with soulboarding, check out this video on Youtube. Or you can look for the fat guy lying in the grass gasping for breath down at Lake Harriet.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Three weeks

Who was I three weeks ago, anyway?

I don't even remember that guy anymore. Will the "pre-Down's diagnosis Tom" make another appearance, or, like New Coke and Michael Keaton, is he gone forever?

This "new" Tom knows only that he needs to keep writing, to frame these days lest they evaporate as quickly as Britney Spear's career. (I'm in the mood to write analogously today, if you haven't noticed)

In the last three weeks, I've:
  • been introduced to Down Syndrome, really for the first time in my life (other than half a day spent filming a Special Olympics event for a science program nearly 15 years ago.)
  • experienced the shame of feeling relieved that Ian was asleep when I introduced him to my co-workers. He looks "normal" when he sleeps.
  • learned that the word "normal" is a loaded and imprecise word.
  • had to face all my insecurities about standing out in a crowd.
  • been introduced to a new and insightful group of online writers who share many of my feelings and experiences.
  • been dismayed by lack of fathers who write about their experiences raising a son or daughter with Down Syndrome. Come on, dads, it's OK to be a bit mushy when it's your kid; your wives dig it when you show some emotions from time-to-time. Trust me on this one.
  • felt like a project. "Tom and Annie need our help. They need our prayer. What must they be going through?"
  • been incredibly grateful to so many people wanting to offer us their support. To the people who cooked us dinners, sent us money or cards or cards with money (always a favorite), stopped over to see Ian, and even gave us a second car. (More later on how funny it is to see my wife driving a 1992 Buick Park Avenue. Sorry to all the environmentalists out there, but doctor visits trump CO2 emissions these days.)
  • experienced more jealousy than when I was dumped by Trish in the 10th grade. "Why do they have a "normal" baby?" (There's that word again.) "I would be a much better dad than he ever could."
  • experienced shame because of jealous thoughts.
  • been avoided by some people at my work who now seem afraid of me. I'm not going to break if you talk to me, people.
  • avoided talking to some people at work because they are now giving me sad, puppy dog smiles all the time.
  • tried not to pay too much attention to Ian at the expense of spending time with Silvi. Then have felt guilty for spending too much time with "normal" child at the expense of showing affection to - what do I call Ian - my other child who is a child first (I've been reading, can't you see?) and happens to have been born with Down Syndrome which is NOT a disease but is just a wee extra chromosome that just happens to muck up just about every part of living a "normal" life. Sorry. I started feeling sorry for myself again.
  • met my new son and have fallen in love with him. (That's for my wife, but I happen to mean it.)

Happiness is...

...riding a pony for the very first time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Where men hide

A few weeks ago I was thumbing through a book called Where Men Hide about the physical spaces that men gravitate toward when they want to escape the dullness or responsibilities of everyday life. This book asserts that when men gather, they prefer places that are "dark and dirty," congregating in "deer camps, cigar bars, strip clubs, garages, locker rooms, and even barbershops." In my circle of friends, I would have to add second-hand bookstores, pubs, cinemas and cafes, the darker and more cluttered the better.

Why do men (I realize the pitfalls of generalizations) retreat to the shadows and filth when life becomes uncontrollable? Think of Homer Simpson in Moe's bar or vying for membership in the secret Society of the Stonecutters. My wife is constantly opening the blinds or turning on lights. Doesn't she know I'm hiding? As a video producer and editor, I spend most of my days in a dark edit suite, creating new worlds that I get to control. Maybe that's why we like the dark. It's more than just a place to hide, but a place to start over, to create life the way we imagine it should be.

And the filth? I think I'm just a lazy bloke. I haven't shaved since Friday morning, for St. Pete's sake!

So where am I hiding these days, the days that are full of uncertainty and health problems and paperwork and physical therapists and all the decisions that face new parents with a child who has Down Syndrome? Under the covers. "Dad, the sun is out!" shouts my two-and-a-half year old.

"Just a few more minutes, baby." I'll work on being Superdad next weekend*.

*Why are weekends often so difficult? Film director M. Night Shyamalan once said that it's when the emotions are a little closer to the surface. I tend to agree with him.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Meeting Ian

It's taken me a few weeks to get to know my son.

Since he was born on September the 1st, all I've really known is his condition, called Down Syndrome. His condition and the health problems surrounding it.

I was with Annie in the delivery room. I helped bring Ian into the world. I overheard the doctor whisper the words "Down Syndrome," not to me, because I was holding Ian, but to my wife, exhausted and spent by the delivery. I remember looking down at my son, and noticing his eyes for the first time. Were they always that shape, or did they change because the doctor uttered two little words?

Ian struggled for breath, and they rushed him to Intensive Care. Annie and I were left alone.


That's what you first feel. At least I did.

I wept. I couldn't stop crying. I asked Annie to call my parents because I knew I couldn't say those words. "Ian has Down Syndrome."

The nurse came back and then I felt the second emotion: Shame. I'm sorry, nurse, that I put you through this by having a Down baby. I'm sorry that you have to try to be extra considerate and that you may have to stay late because my baby is having complications. I'm sorry that you are struggling not to pity me, that you have to keep saying over and over that he is a beautiful baby when you may or may not be thinking that he is a beautiful baby.

He is a beautiful baby, by the way.

The next time we saw Ian was through the plastic shield of an oxygen tent. Wires everywhere. Beeping alarms. Nurses scrambling, trying to reassure us while their forced smiles told us that we needed to be very worried.

The first night. I slept on the floor on a mat next to Annie's bed in the hospital room, the same room where Ian began his journey. We cried together. I woke up often. We visited Ian sometime in the early hours. It was still dark outside. I don't remember.

I went home to take a shower. The hospital was only 15 minutes away, and I need to clear my head anyway. My daughter, Silvi, was staying with my parents.

I was alone. I sobbed in the shower.

The next two weeks seem now to have passed quickly, but that is what happens to all painful memories. They take on a life of their own, transcend space and time, write their own narrative.

I read to Ian through his little oxygen tent. C.S. Lewis. Another man who understood loneliness, and grace. I looked into Ian's face, searching for clues. Who is he? What will he know? Will he love me? How will he live?

He is home now. The tubes are gone, the beeping alarms are quiet. He will live, the doctors tell us. I get to hold him. He sleeps in my arms.

I begin to see him for the first time. Ian. My son.

I begin a frantic search on the web. I must know. Everything. I buy books, lots of books. I reach out to other online writers in similar situations. Some of the responses give me hope, some enrage me. I'm sorry. I know you're trying to help. Words are slippery things, like a wet bar of soap.

It's only been a little over two weeks. How is it possible to be in such a strange land so quickly? It reminds me of the time Annie and I landed in Macedonia at night, and how shocked we were when we opened our hotel curtains in the morning to the sight of the tall, slender minarets sprouting from the many mosques decorating the city.

I don't cry any more. We took Silvi and Ian down to the lake last night. A perfect fall evening. People stopped and smiled and cooed and chatted.

Hi, Ian. I'm your dad. It's nice to finally meet you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Room for honesty

My former pastor and spiritual mentor perfectly captures some of the issues I've been wrestling with lately (he's writing about the recent death of his friend and co-worker).
Are other religions as honest in their scriptures? I'm not enough of a student of comparative religion to know. But over the past few days, as my own emotions have ranged from grief, to confusion, to anger, to rejoicing and celebrating fond remembrances, to praising God, and back to grief again, I'm asking the question: do other faiths have space for this the way Christianity and Judaism do? Consider Abraham's doubts, Jacob's wrestling with God, Job's faith and anger, Jeremiah's lamentations and despondency, David's Psalms, John the Baptist's question of Jesus: "Are you the One or should we wait for another?". The Bible is full of honest doubt and wrestling. I love that, and find that somehow, I'm more persuaded of the truth of it all precisely because of the honesty of it all. What's more, having been given permission to grieve and wrestle by those who've gone before, I have no problem laying it all out and being honest with God.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Brother and Sister

My struggles with Bibliophilia

I go to a bookstore at least three or four times a week. That doesn't include my time spent reading online or looking for used copies of Peter Kreeft's works on Amazon. (For those not familiar with Kreeft, he is a Catholic philosopher and professor at Boston College known for his wit, apologetics and love of the ocean.) Before I had children and when my wife worked in retail and my Saturdays belonged to me, it was my common practice to sit and read in our local bookstore for eight hours at a stretch. (I once worked with a former supervisor of said local bookstore and she informed me that I was the kind of customer she and her co-workers despised. I rarely buy new books, and why should I when I can get it for half-price from global monsters like Amazon? She should have said something and maybe I would have stopped highlighting all of Emmanuel Levinas' works.)

And so when my bibliophilia is allowed to run unchecked and it's the day after payday, I buy books. (My wife wishes I would spend more of my paycheck on new shirts, but have you seen what patrons of second-hand bookstores wear?) When Ian was born on Saturday at 12:45pm, I only managed to wait 22 hours to buy a new (couldn't wait to search Amazon for this one) copy of Babies with Down Syndrome: A New Parent's Guide. (Did I buy any books when Silvi was born? If not, why not? Is it because she was born without that blessed - or cursed, depending on the hour these days - extra little chromosome? Sorry Silvi, I owe you a book.) A day later and I bowed before the Amazonian god to purchase Critical Reflections Of Stanley Hauerwas' Theology Of Disability and The Man Who Loved Clowns, which I understand is a classic in DS circles.

I read the first three chapters of Babies with Down Syndrome before passing it over to Annie to finish for me. Maybe I stopped too soon, but chapter three focuses on all of the things that could go wrong with Ian. Ian may have trouble hearing, seeing, swallowing, running, breathing, he might need heart surgery, get Leukemia or Alzheimer's or both coupled with Autism and... I mean, come on! Give the little guy a break already.

As is often my habit when using the salving relief of words on pulpwood, I moved from that depressing book about reality - the concrete, if you like - to the abstract world of professor Stanley Hauerwas, one of America's most influential theologians, fervent pacifist and a voice for the disabled. One could argue, though, that his is not an entirely abstract perspective in that he has been championing the rights of the mentally impaired since the 1970's. Abstract thought only remains in the abstract when there is no one to put the ideas into practice. And that is why I am turning to Hauerwas and others like him, such as Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, a home for those with mental challenges.

Putting ideas into practice. Right after I finish reading another book.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Making Life Decisions

Man, I've got to shake this off! Yesterday was my "pity party" day. Poor Tom. Moping around, throwing tantrums, little fits that would make my two-year-old daughter proud. Reading depressing poetry. Blogging about it. I'm resolved to not blog when I'm in one of those moods again.

I'm blessed. I've got an amazing wife of 14 years, a beautiful little girl and an incredible new son. No more pouting.

That said, I wonder if anyone has some advice about making life decisions after learning your child has Down Syndrome. The reason I ask is that, even though it's only been two weeks, I've found that I've lost some interest in abstract philosophy, which is rather unfortunate being that I've just started a company to teach philosophy.

The day after Ian was born, I, not knowing the first thing about Down Syndrome, googled the condition. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I didn't search for medical information or living with a "disability", etc. I researched Ian's potential ability to grasp abstract thought. One of my dreams has always been to share a deep appreciation of film, music, Story, theological and philosophical discussions with my children. One of my favorite things to do is to sit in a cafe and talk about the Big Questions.

Ian may never be able to participate in these kinds of interactions. I'm OK with that - now. I really am. But it leaves me in a quandary: What will I care about in the coming weeks and years? Now that I want to experience life with Ian and Silvi, to share in the things that they enjoy.

I was just wondering how life with Down Syndrome changed what you care about... and how it will change how I view life and the things that matter.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I'm convinced that poetry can only be fully appreciated when it is read out loud. I've often tried to read poetry at home or online, with faltering success. I have a book of Francis Thompson's poetry that sometimes speaks to me. Or Rainer Maria Rilke. But it's not the same as hearing the poem read by a born orator.

I'm also convinced that poetry can only be fully appreciated by those who have endured the crucible of suffering. That seems to explain the reason why I've paused in the poetry section of various bookstores this week, looking for relief, or the right words, or... what? I don't know. But the poems I happened upon have seemed more, well, alive to me these past two weeks.

One of those poems captured something of the spiritual battle that is going on inside of me. It's called Thou Art Indeed Just by the Victorian poet and Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins. It's a plea to God, written during a time of deep spiritual depression.

Listen to the poem if you can. Or read it below.

Thou Art Indeed Just

THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Healing and breaking

Ian may be coming home this weekend. He is feeding well, and we get to hold him for extended periods of time in the family room, which gives us time to be with him in private. Annie and I feel like we've been holding our breath for the last two weeks. My sister's daughter, Hannah, died inexplicably in her sleep a few years ago (not related to Down Syndrome), so I think that I was preparing myself to deal with Ian slipping away as well. Now that he appears to be healing, I am slowly beginning to feel again. And the life that we face raising Ian is becoming all too real. I oscillate between telling myself that it won't be that hard, then lying in bed watching reruns of The Office for hours on end.

It's been especially difficult this week because two of Annie's sisters also had babies in the last ten days. Healthy babies. "Normal" babies. I'm very happy for them, but deep inside there is a voice that whispers, "I did something wrong. I waited to have Ian until I was too old." I feel like I'm betraying Ian. I apologize to him. "I'm sorry, Ian. I love you just the way you are."

I wish I didn't have these thoughts.

I look around the ICU and watch as other parents sit with their newborn babies. "I'm a better parent than he could ever be," I tell myself when I see a young dad in a muscle T-Shirt try to quiet his baby. I try not to think about it. I read to Ian. He's coming home. Home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Response, and a congratulations!

To say that I was simply amazed at the response to my previous post would be putting it lightly. To all that commented, thank you for your encouragement and insights. I spent some time with many of you (on your blogs) last night and it did help to quell some of the feelings of being alone on this journey. I wish I could respond to each person who wrote, and maybe I will in the coming weeks as soon as Ian leaves the hospital and we can establish something resembling a routine. Again, thanks for the words.

I also want to welcome my niece, Lucy P., into the world. Congratulations Jon and Sharon (and Lucy's older brother, Caleb)!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Twenty-one percent

Ian is finally off of oxygen and is breathing room air. "Twenty-one percent", as they say in hospital lingo, which is what we all breath. We're still not sure if that means coming home this week, but that is what we're hoping for. All the trips to the hospital has been a bit taxing, especially for Silvi. I'm back at work today. It's hard. I know that most people don't know what to say. I don't. I just can't stand to hear about how "happy" Down Syndrome children are, or about "God's perfect plan", etc. I just want to sit next to Ian and read to him. It's safer there. I don't want to face the real world; the looks of pity; the endless suggestions for "maximizing Ian's potential;" the "extra special gift" that Ian has for us. That all may be true. I'm just not there yet.

I wish that Annie, Silvi, Ian and I could crawl into one of those inflatable bouncy castles and hide from the world.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thanks for the comments

Just got in from another day at the hospital. Thanks everyone (those I know and those who just popped in to offer kind words) for your comments, emails, thoughts and prayers. Not much has changed over the last 24 hours; just more waiting. Long days. Sad nights without Ian here with us. I'll post more after a good night's rest.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


The nurses have been able to remove the IVs from Ian this morning because he is getting enough food from breastfeeding and the bottle. I got to feed him yesterday for the first time (bottle feeding, mind you) and he sat on my lap for over an hour, searching for my eyes, giving me smiles that I refuse to believe were gas-prompted. We still don't know when he will be able to come home. The "hole-in-his-heart" needs to close so that he can process enough oxygen without an external source.

I've been reading The Magician's Nephew to Ian. I can't prove it, but I think Ian hopes that Uncle Andrew gets what's coming to him as much as I do.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Holding Ian

We got to hold Ian tonight for the first time since Saturday. It was amazing. He's such a cute little boy. Silvi also held him (while sitting in my lap) and didn't want to let him go. Gave him lots of kisses and kept saying, "It's OK, Ian. It's OK."

And it is OK. He's processing oxygen much better, and has a healthy appetite. We got his lab test results tonight and it confirmed that he does indeed have Down Syndrome. And so we welcome the Ian we never expected, but who has already captured our hearts in these last few days.

I'll post more pictures in the coming days. Thank you all for the thoughts, words and prayers. I can't wait for you to meet our new son.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Our beautiful son Ian

Our beautiful little boy, Ian, joined Annie, Silvi and I this past Labor Day Weekend. He was born on Saturday afternoon at 12:45pm, weighing a healthy 7 lbs. 10 oz. Annie did most of her labor at home Friday night until the contractions told her, "Hey, get to the hospital!" She was only too happy to comply. Mom and Dad Eckblad picked Silvi up from our apartment at 7am and took her for a McDonalds breakfast while Annie and I drove through endless construction zones and bumpy roads to the hospital. Halfway there, Annie told me to, "Stop the car, NOW!" I pulled over and she got out to walk off the pain from the contraction. I followed her down the sidewalk, the open car door skimming the pavement. A few minutes later and we were back on our way over the graded road. They admitted us immediately, but because the contractions were still 10 minutes apart, didn't react with much urgency. That is, until they discovered how dialated Annie was. They were pretty amazed that she was only hours from giving birth with contractions spread so far apart. They rushed us up to the birthing room and started Annie on her legal Crack injection, the epidural. A few minutes later and Mommy Annie was drifting into anesthesia heaven.

The doctors and nurses were truly angels, and I'm not saying that lightly or in a weird way. There was so much peace surrounding Ian's birth, so much "Presence." From our caregivers, from our extended family waiting to hear from us, from God. Peace. Annie did not experience any pain, and there were no complications this time like there were with Silvi. Ian came into the world with a cute cry, fists pumping the air, little toes wiggling. Annie held him. I rocked him in a nearby rocking chair. The nurses took his weight and measured him. They all marveled at his blond hair.

Then one of the doctors gently told us the she thought that Ian had Down Syndrome.

The shape of his eyes and ears. The "simian" crease on both his palms. His little gorgeous flat nose. The space between his big toe and the rest of his other tiny wiggling toes. His large tongue. The bulge on the back of his neck. I hadn't noticed any of those things. I saw only my son, Ian.

Then they told us that he wasn't breathing correctly and took him from us.

That was Saturday around 1:30pm. We got to hold Ian for less than an hour before he was placed in an oxygen "tent." He requires a constant stream of oxygen in order to breath. His blood is too thick, they tell us. They thinned his blood. They performed an echocardiogram to make sure his heart is not deformed, an all-to-common struggle for Down Syndrome children. His heart is strong. They checked his lungs. They are clear and appear healthy.

They tell us to give him time. A nurse and a doctor with Down Syndrome children search for us to comfort and help us. Everyone is very encouraging and understanding. All of Annie's family and relatives drop in to greet little Ian into the world, to be with Annie and Silvi and me. Silvi is captivated by Ian. She likes his blue pacifier. "Ian has an owie," she tells everyone she meets.

We're not sure when Ian can come to his new home. Hopefully in a week or so. This is uncharted territory for our family, and it is scary. But my beautiful son Ian has a gift for the world. And I am excited to see what it might be.

Introducing Ian Thomas E.