I don’t have to count anymore.
For the past two months, as Zack approaches the long-awaited milestone of officially walking, Scott and I have been counting steps every time our little towhead stands up around us.
Five days ago, the record was 24 steps.
And now, walking has become the principal method of movement for our Little Man and counting is no longer necessary.
It’s like a switch just went off in the past day or so. I woke up yesterday to a baby who predominantly used his fancy-schmancy, unique crab crawl. And this morning, I am watching a toddler, not a baby, take great big confident steps from one activity to another.
Across the room to chase after the ball he threw. And then back after another throw.
Stomping sounds coming toward me as I wash my hands in the bathroom. Around the corner I first see a huge grin and then realize he’s walked around most of the downstairs to get to me.
Over to his sister from his toybox. Because Sissy in her bouncer is much more interesting than the 1,867 toys we have in the living room alone.
It’s like he realizes how awesome this is, too. He looks toward us for some sort of recognition or praise, drool flowing freely from a wide open smile, his blue eyes dancing with excitement.
I don’t have to count steps anymore.
I’m not sure when it becomes official that he is a walker. Perhaps an announcement from our physical therapist tomorrow, perhaps when we see him in a particular setting or with certain people. Or maybe it’s just when we stop dropping our mouths to the floor, looking at each other half-shocked, half in tears.
Scott and I have worked so hard with Zack, enticing him with toys and games across the room and cheering and applauding so obnoxiously whenever we got three or five steps at a time. I remember just last week watching him take a few steps in the thick, uneven sand on the beach thinking how impressive a feat that was for his little legs.
We owe much more credit to Zack’s therapists. They have become such a part of our family (we have four of them now) and they share in our accomplishments with equally-as-proud tears. I can’t wait to show Miss Kathleen tomorrow!
But the hardest worker was Zack.
His mind has fought against his heart, one telling him to move, move, move, one succumbing to the pain and discomfort, the odd, unfamiliar feelings and sensations. He has gone from six steps when we brought his little sister home in May to more and more steps on harder and harder surfaces.
And now, finally, after nearly two years of wondering will he or won’t he, we finally can say he will. He does.
The lack of a Magic 8 ball for this Down Syndrome diagnosis has been the hardest pill to swallow on this journey. We will only find out Zack’s capability when we reach each milestone. And those milestones come with a larger delay than we would like.
We were never sure if Zack would walk. Nightmares of wheelchairs haunted me for weeks after his diagnosis. His rolling over comforted us a bit, as did his sitting up on his own and his eventual standing and crawling. And now he’s walking.
One milestone down.
Now we still don’t know if he’ll be able to speak sentences to us. Just this past week we’ve heard sounds like “ball”, but perhaps that will be it. We continue to work hard, pushing him and ourselves with signing and repetitive noises and following the guidance of his new speech therapist. I still yearn for and pray for the day he says “I love you, Momma.” That day may never come.
But days like today, watching my son, the boy who made me a mother, take steps across our home over and over and over with such ease gives me hope for tomorrow and confidence that all of our hard work has been so worth it.
My son is walking.
The same boy I held in my arms nearly two years ago, my tears running onto his face after reading another article about a child with Down Syndrome in a practical vegetative state. On that day, I began preparing myself for the worst. And praying for the best.
And yes, sometimes prayers do come true. I know how lucky and how fortunate we are.
And I realize how long our road ahead still is. But for this day, I will celebrate. I will live in this moment and not in next month when I’m back to work or next year when we lose our Early Intervention assistance.
Today I am in the here and now.
With a handsome boy. A handsome boy who just walked over to his little sister, sat down next to her while she cried and held her hand while petting her hair, almost as if to say “We’ll all be okay.”
And we will be.