girlfriend is better


“we’re you afraid to get pregnant again?”

some questions tell more than they ask.



a simple answer to a complicated heart.

let’s unmask the question, shall we?

“did you consider sterilization after you had a child with down syndrome?”

“were you so devastated that you didn’t get a perfect baby that you swore off childbearing altogether?”

“did you fear and let fear control you from then on out?”

but here’s the big one.

“how do you suffer?”


mazzy has a couple kids in her class that have been using mean words.

i wrote the teacher a note after i finally got her to tell me what was said.  it was like prying a long sealed paint can lid up and off to get her to say it through her tears.

later i told abe and ella that mazzy needed a friend right now, that kids at school have been unkind.  the next night at dinner we asked her if her teacher had talked to her and the other children.  she nodded and when we pressed for details, she wouldn’t give them.

“mazzy, i really want to know.”

abe spoke up across the table.

“we love you mazzy.  you don’t have to feel embarrassed.  we’re your family.  we won’t make fun of you.”

and i swallowed hard when i saw his words reach her heart.  she stared at the table and she cried the tears of safety, of a safe place and of love.  and she told us, she told us all about it.

when you have down syndrome in this life you learn this sometimes before you take your first breath.

you are unwanted.


but i’m the lucky one.

i don’t like the idea of people with down syndrome being called angels.  it bothers me because it seems a backhanded way of further denying them their personhood.

mazzy is not an angel.  mazzy is a person.

but she is different than me.

she’s kind.  her default is thankfulness and self sacrifice.  she deflects attention to those she loves rather than vying for it herself.  she is loyal and she thinks nothing of her preference when she hears the cry of those around her.

she’s unlike me in this way – love comes easier to her.  

apparently extra genetic material on the 21st chromosome means that god stayed his hand with the rest of us.  the rest of us struggle all our days to love as well.

so no.

i didn’t fear having another baby after i had mazzy.  i felt the providential hand of god in our having her and was pretty confident he wasn’t interested in doing the same thing twice.  he seldom does.

i say to her what every human being needs to hear.

we want you.  you are wanted.  we want you around.

52 replies on “ girlfriend is better ”
  1. Mazzy is truly a precious blessing, as are Abe and Ellabella. I cannot and will not imagine a world without the Neds-Foxes. It would be a cold dreary place.

  2. I agree with you on the angel comment for the very same reason. Great post. You go girl. And Abe…. good on ya kid.

  3. Oh my, this is so incredibly beautiful . . and humbling . . . and convicting. I especially love the way you are making me think differently with these words: apparently extra genetic material on the 21st chromosome means that god stayed his hand with the rest of us. the rest of us struggle all our days to love well.

    I’m so sorry your daughter and your family are bearing the pain of the unkindness and thoughtlessness of others. Lord have mercy.

    So thankful you linked up with Imperfect Prose this week.

  4. my friend zena.

    i love you.

    and what a beautiful daughter. i wept for her through this post, but i know she’s strong. she has such a loving family and a loving God and she’s going to teach people how to love.

    Zena? thank you. from the bottom of my heart. xo

  5. Zena, I work in Special Ed as an asst teacher (5 years and counting) and have had the privilege and challenge of working with a little girl much like your Mazzy. Ours however, is from a home where Dad was a pretty bad dad and mom and son and daughter A came to our school via a shelter home.
    Although she’s been a delightful (and did I say challenging? because of her situation, I’m thinking) child she is lovable and enjoys singing and dancing the most….I tell her close in her ear, because I don’t think she’s heard it enough, “I love you”. And truly I do.

    Thanks for sharing your truth and beauty with us.

    Clicked on over via Emily’s.

  6. What a beautiful daughter you have……having a special needs child in a family changes everything and you find yourself feeling and doing things you never thought you could do. I am seeing my niece, my girl, in a week and I can’t wait. She is our joy… your Mazzy is to you. My prayers are with your family. It takes strength to love that much. Lori

  7. Being hearing-impaired since birth, my childhood was a tour of offices for medical and educational specialists. While it was a gift to receive the resources and assistance I needed to keep pace with my peers, the intense focus on “fixing,” “fitting-in,” and “keeping-up” was exhausting.

    It took me a very, very long while to realize that I, myself, had come to define myself as others did—by what was “wrong” with me. The deafness. The different-ness.

    Where I had always considered myself to be confident, I was shocked to find I had rejected a major part of myself because others had said it wasn’t enough.

    The acceptance your daughter has within her family will allow her to accept herself as whole and perfect. She is a lucky, and beautiful, girl.

  8. thanks everyone for your kindness.

    eileen ~ i appreciate your perspective so much. thank you for taking the time to tell a bit of your story.

    ~ zena

  9. So powerful! Thank you for writing on such a beautiful girl and such a beautiful brother and such a beautiful family! I grew up with an extra amazing sister and had the privilege of working with her class and The Special Olympics, to this day I consider children with DS to be the kindest, friendliest and most welcoming children I have had the honor of knowing. One little girl named Jessa, and her demonstration of the purest love, has resonated with my soul for 29 years. When you see the face of God, you don’t soon forget! Thank you!

  10. Thankful today that I am a part of emily’s writing group at IP and that through this place I have the privilege of meeting your beautiful heart, voice and daughter. I want to hear more of your words when you write. This is grace, this is love, this is beauty. Thank you for sharing your story. Or parts of it here. Love to you and Mazzy.

  11. What a beautiful message! Are there any words more powerful or lovely for any of us than “you are wanted”? Thank you for sharing!

  12. “I love you” and “You are wanted”…those words can give you the strength to get through just about everything, especially when you’ve never been given reason to doubt the one saying them.

    I’m sorry other people were being mean to your Mazzy. People can be so cruel. 🙁

  13. I was blessed to have had a childhood friend who loved like Mazzy. Having her as a friend gifted me a special set of “glasses” to see the feelings and heart of every child of God, because that is who each of us are. May God bless Mazzy as she gifts her friends the “love glasses”.

  14. love glasses…i like it. i may never have the ability to love like mazzy does, but i can borrow the glasses she lends from time to time.

    thanks for your story.

    – zena

  15. Mazzy is beautiful, as well as you and your loving, God-centered family. People can be cruel….it is hard not to let their unkind word penetrate our souls……

    But, God is enough! And He takes care of us if we let Him, and He fills us up with His love if we just Trust Him and open our hearts.

    God bless each of you…and yes, Mazzy is awesome and beautiful!

  16. We have a daughter who was given extra genetic material on chromosome 17…..they call this one (PTLS)….she has been a gift to us too. Love hearing about other families sheltering and enjoying their precious kids…. She is our oldest too….she has 3 younger siblings…. God bless. I hope Mazzy is having a good weekend. 🙂

  17. I love your comment about not wanting Mazzy to be called an ‘angel’ because it somehow denies her personhood. My daughter, Julie, is 17, going on 18 she lets everyone know ;), and she has DS too. Other comments bother me too, about people with DS always being happy, or always being loving. You have hit the proverbial nail on the head for me, as to why this bothers me so. Julie is more happy than most, but like all of us, she has other emotions. And she is more loving than most, but she can also be insensitive to others’ feelings at times. She’s just like the rest of us, only her extra chromosome seems to have given her more of the ‘good stuff’ than the rest of us have. There is one thing that I think she has that the rest of us don’t have, and that is a genuineness that is raw and breaks down barriers so many times. Thank you for expressing so beautifully such painful experiences. {{hugs}} to you and your family – from a complete stranger on the same journey. God bless you and sustain you. Til we meet one day.

  18. thank you.

    it’s been a gift to hear your stories and perspectives.

    “a genuineness that is raw and breaks down barriers.”

    so well put.

    – zena

  19. My daughter Sarah is 36 now, and was followed by three siblings, also. She keeps her optimism even when I’m discouraged, and never harbors a grudge toward anyone, not even the 5th grade boys who kept saying to her “ET! Phone home!” and “Hey, Sarah, do you have AIDS???” just to be mean. She can be joyful and stubborn and self-centered but never selfish. Generous to a fault, I see her give away her precious things because she has found out it’s someone’s birthday and she had nothing store-bought for them. I want to grab the precious possessions back for her, but she gives with joy. She recently went through a 14-vertebrae spinal fusion, and claimed to not be afraid because, she said, she didn’t want to worry me. But as we left ICU, and arrived on the neuro floor, she finally looked at me and calmly asked, “Is this where they take you when you are going to die?” She’s a delight, and a consolation to this widow. I’m thankful.

  20. Your little girl is so beautiful…she not only loves well…she inspires love! I love her! Thank you so much for sharing her and your heart!

  21. I also work with one of these beautiful people and I was so touched from your story…you have inspired me to make sure that I am reaching her heart. One day when she was absent I wrote her a short note in her journal. The teacher told me that she reads it every morning when she gets to school (I don’t come in til later). Another reminder of how much we all need to know that we are loved and accepted for who we are.

  22. Our eighth jewel has an extra chromosome. Her little sister, our ninth, is God’s perfect plan for a forever friend. God saw to it we were launched into a ministry of teaching the lost and ignorant. Somedays, we don’t like it outside our walls. It is tiring, ignoring the stares and stereotypes. But it is a journey we walk together holding the Creators hand tight….one I would NEVER trade for anything. Sometimes we just plain don’t know how to walk…..but it is then……we are carried….and we rest knowing wisdom is just around the bend.

  23. Wow, this post really touched my heart! You see I too had a daughter with Down’s Syndrome and she was beautiful. Unfortunately for us (or fortunately for her depending on how your faith guides your perspective) God felt she was needed elsewhere. As a result she passed away during my sixth month of pregnancy and was born still during the pinkest, most girlie month of the year.

    She was my middle child, snuggled between two boys, and never once did I think I would never have another. As a matter of fact I knew I would. I allowed myself time to grieve her absence in my arms and to allow my body to recover, but never once did I contemplate being finished with new motherhood. I got the same questions you did, the same hesitant, fearful sighs when I spoke of the next pregnancy but I held ground. No one was going to tell me my daughter was a mistake, a close call, or a message that I should stop. I carried her under my heart, I held her in my arms, and I cherished every minute I had with her. If given the choice that I could have her here right now I would without question.

    I have a different challenge to face with my daughter, it’s called silence. Your beautiful daughter is here lighting the world with her energy and her gentle heart. She is tangible to all, even to those who are less than compassionate. My daughter is easily swept under the rug by some around us, never mentioned, almost like a dirty little secret. I speak of her often, her brothers know all about her, even though one was only 2 when she passed and the other yet to be born. I smile when I think of her. I regret nothing. If given the chance I would do it again just to have her here for the time I was allowed.

    Even if it means enduring the stupid questions, the judging comments, and the side ways glances, they are so worth it. Please tell your daughter she is so beautiful, she is a light in a dark world, and she is a blessing. No matter what anyone says she has value, and many talents of her own. I pray her bullies grow out of their narrow minds, and that she grows to know how worthy and lovely she is.

  24. Beautifully and perfectly written. The first time a lady practically ran me down in a mall as I pushed our little girl (with the same extra blessings) in her stroller so that she could tell me she was “God’s little angel”, I felt sick. I knew she meant well, but I just wanted to run away from her. That little girl is now 19 (and as another commenter said, she lets everyone know she’s about to be 20 even though it’s many months away) and her capacity to love and to forgive so easily speaks to me daily. It breaks my heart in so many pieces to see her trying so hard to fit in when really we would all do better to fit into her heart and her love for everyone she sees. Her lack of judgment on others. Her lack of filters that makes me realize that I think through filters I wish I could rid myself of more easily. She has 6 younger siblings and 1 older, and I tell them all the time that they should learn from her. That we all should. I hope we are. Your Mazzy is beautiful …and so blessed to have such awesome siblings! I’d like to hug your Abe and your Mazzy…and you!

  25. Beautiful! My sister, who is 33, rocks her extra chromosome! She has taught me what it means to love unconditionally. She taught me patience. What beauty really is. And what it means to give your whole heart in worship! She learned to worship with dance. Sacred dance. Believe me, when you see a 190 lb woman with Down’s Syndrome dance at church for the Lord… you will say you’ve never seen worship more beautiful than that! Is this what it will be like in Heaven? No, she is not an angel. She is a vessel for His Spirit. We all are, but are we so willing to let Him move us as she does?
    I am proud to call her my sister. Your children will feel the same about Mazzy. It is an honor.

  26. We all need to know we are wanted and loved. How much more when you feel you are different. My son grew up in a school that accepted children with special needs and I was happy to see that he showed them caring so much so that he was being followed around by one little boy who needed special tutoring. Patsy

  27. Thank you for this post! I never comment but just read but you really hit the nail on the head, we too have a Timmy and you perfectly express, why I want to punch someone in the head, when I hear he is your angel, or he is so happy all the time, or he is so special. Yes he is so special, just like our other 5 before him and 1 after. And you have said it. It feels so dehumanizing to Tim when people say those things, not because they are being unkind because I truly believe they are coming from a place of kindness and love, but because Tim is TIM, a person, happy and sad and angry and hurt and loving and teasing and fights with his brothers and sisters and loves so beautifully!! Made perfectly and imperfectly in Gods image as we all are! Thank you

  28. You show so much beauty in this post – the beauty of family – the way it is supposed to be – and the beauty of real love. We’ve dealt with bullying issues with each of our sons (them being bullied) – unkindness always hurts – I asked the son who just graduated, who has a joyful heart – when we were going to see more of that joyful, kind boy – and he replied, “I learned that I was too nice – and people took advantage, treated me poorly – and so I had to learn to not be so nice.” – and my heart broke – but then I thought maybe God was teaching him discernment – bringing balance so he can better be a champion for those who are hurting – who need an advocate – but I so miss those days when kindness was an innate response:) Your post went straight to my heart:)

  29. Your post so touched my heart. My boy had a stroke in-utero and was born having seizures. Now he’s 4 and although he looks like everyone else, we’ve had to teach him how to wipe away his extra saliva and control his temper. It broke my heart when he would be teased about drooling like a baby. I pray your Mazzy would always have beautiful friends who love her, to surround her for her whole life.

  30. What a precious little girl!! God has a plan for her. She was fearfully and wonderfully made!!

  31. How lovely to stumble upon YOU through Anne’s haven. What a delicious surprise, my friend! Your words continue to weave conviction and stitch compassion. Write on!

  32. I don’t know you or your family but this was absolutely beautiful and put tears in my eyes! May God continue to bless you and your family!

  33. I kind of disagree with the angel comment. I see your point. I’m new to the DS journey, our daughter is only 19 mos old. I think she is an angel, just for the reasons you say your daughter is special – she can love when others can’t, she forgives, she just has an outlook on life that seems impossible but affects all those around her. That’s why I think these kids have a touch of angel – they are beyond regular people, they have the gift of love that is God-given and incredible. They are better people than we “regular” people are. That’s how I view it, anyway. My opinion might change as my daughter becomes a kid and then an adult, but right now, DS kids amaze and humble me with their ability and unconditional love for everyone, not just the ones who are nice to them. We should all strive to be better persons like they are!

  34. I think there is a misconception as to what an angel is. However, the beautiful difference of our daughter who has DS is her sensitivity. When one of us is hurting, her whole world stops and becomes focused on the one who is hurting.

  35. good point bob.

    kelli ~ congrats on your daughter. she sounds pretty great. and as far as disagreeing with me – well good! what a boring world it would be if we all agreed with one another…and i still disagree with you, too. 🙂

    i think historically humanity has shown that positive stereotypes are just as damaging as negative ones.

    ~ zena

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