As a member of the Deep End Club myself, I absolutely love this poignant analogy written by a mother of a son who has Down syndrome.
Thank you Jen.
Sam, my deep end buddy 2006
Notes from the Deep End
I was thirty-seven years old when my husband and I decided it was time to have a baby. We had been married nine years, together for sixteen. We had put it off for all this time in order to focus on careers, travel, fun, ourselves. My job was pretty glamorous: vice-president of a big publishing company in New York City. My life was filled with interesting writers, fascinating trips, sparkling conversation, fine wine, speaking engagements. I saw having a baby as something to “check off a list.” Something to do. And besides, a baby would go so well with my new black suit. So I signed up for the Gwyneth Paltrow version of motherhood. The Kelly Ripa woman-on-the-go scenario. The version of motherhood that gets glamorized in People magazine. But in my heart of hearts, I was scared. Terrified. I didn’t want my life to change that much. Still, I had the anticipation of regret and I thought having a baby would be “good for me.” So picture this: parenthood, to me, was like a giant swimming pool. I saw other people in the pool and they looked okay. But I was hesitant to even stick a toe in. I didn’t want to get wet. Other parents said to me, “going into the pool can be really scary. But it’s all worth it.” I thought to myself, “if they can do it, so can I.” And, tentatively, I put my foot in the water. Suddenly someone grabbed me from behind and threw me in the deep end. In the deep end! How unfair! You don’t take the person most frightened of the water and throw them in the deep end! Throw another person in the deep end, someone who’s used to the pool! Someone who knows how to swim! “I’m going to die,” I thought. I railed against the unfairness of it all, the shock of the cold water. But instinct kicked in and clumsily I moved my arms and legs. And I did not drown. Gagging and coughing and choking and sputtering I had a question: “Who did this to me,” I wanted to know. “How did this happen?!” My head went under and panic set in. I moved my arms and legs more and I did not drown. Now I was treading water. I noticed there were other people in the deep end with me, and they were offering to help. But I didn’t want to be in their Deep End Club. And besides, I didn’t think I even belonged here, it was only a matter of time before someone told me it was all a mistake and I’d be pulled out of the pool to safety. “I should have left well enough alone. I should never have tried to go into the pool,” I thought. And as I continued to tread water I noticed something else: I did not drown. Soon I started to float. I felt pretty much alone but the panic had subsided and I knew I could survive although it wouldn’t be pleasant. And I did not drown. But then I noticed there was a little boy in the deep end with me, a little boy named Nicholas with eyes that crinkle up like half moons when he smiles. A little boy named Nicholas who loves Bruce Springsteen and Puccini’s “La Boheme” and 1940s Big Band Music. And Nicholas could swim. Looking at him, I began to realize that I might be able to do more than float someday. I might be able to swim. And I might even enjoy it. Perhaps I’d even love it. I realized that the deep end allows for underwater somersaults and in the deep end, it’s possible to dive. You can’t do that in the shallow end. And perhaps someday, with Nicholas at my side, we’d both wave to the parents at the shallow end of the pool and say, “you don’t know what you’re missing, here in the deep end.”
mother to Nicholas (3/31/05)