Don’t be frightened by this scary x-ray! It’s not a Halloween decoration – it’s actually the inside of my Down syndrome son’s foot.
One of life’s “if I’d known then what I know now” moments can be explained here. When I went for the amniocentesis that would tell us for certain whether or not our expected baby would have Down syndrome I did not know that one of the physical traits differentiating Down syndrome people from the rest of us is a greater than normal separation between the big toe and the next one. If I had, I would have been able to see that marker on the accompanying sonogram. Once I learned of it I realized that probably the professionals in that room had all recognized it immediately. Wish I’d known then what I know now . . . I could have been saved two weeks of anxiety waiting for the genetic test results to come in.
Recently I had to get my son’s foot x-rayed for an injury. So I asked the doctor if I could take a look. I wondered if it would show why the big toe is so far from the other toes. Boy does it ever! And this also explains why he wears out the insoles of his shoes right in the middle. Something I’d also been curious about.
I don’t know how the gene pool works. But there are things that are set in stone (or in bone) that package us each into the remarkable being’s that we are. I don’t know how certain microscopic entities dictate the shape of eyes, the length of a femur, toes and fingers. What about the size of nasal passages and tongue, muscle tone, or mental capacity? Which little gene caused my son’s bones to grow so solidly into this particular configuration? And how is it that this gene set is stronger than race or heredity? I’m a believer in intelligent design – and this design is simply fascinating.
It takes about a year for the facial features of Down syndrome to become fully expressed. During that time in my life when people would tell me I had a cute baby I would feel the need for a disclaimer. “He’s Down syndrome.” I would say. With a quizzical look they would respond “I know.” I couldn’t be sure if it was obvious because his face was so adorable to me. Somehow I didn’t want them to be on the hook for a compliment that they might want to take back if they had the facts.
Now when I see a baby or youth with Down syndrome features I see that it is recognizable right away. And they are as beautiful to me as any other innocent face. I have new eyes. Though they might look the same as all others with their genetic makeup, I know that they have an individual personality. I know that behind that possibly dull look there can be a twinkle. I know that they are not scary because they are different. In fact, those differences can be pretty darn interesting. It’s in the genes!