Unconditional Love

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

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| This is the 58th story of Our Life Logs |

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” 

–Charles R. Swindoll

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I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1958. I had a normal, Catholic upbringing. My mother’s family was Irish, and my father’s family was Italian, creating a melting pot of heritage in our household. I was the middle child among my siblings, a sister and three brothers. We were all very close growing up. We had a huge backyard with a little creek at the bottom, so much of our childhood was spent playing outside.

My parents raised us to appreciate what we were given, regardless of what our siblings received. We never expected perfect equality between each other. It just seemed to happen naturally. Our childhood wasn’t a competition. We all had our own interests and desires that we worked hard to pursue.

With my family (I am standing second from the left), 2011.
With my family (I am standing second from the left), 2011.
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I attended private Catholic institutions throughout my schooling. I had a good experience going through Catholic school, and I feel that it built a solid foundation for me to grow as a person. After high school, I didn’t go to college because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and didn’t have enough money for tuition. I didn’t want to ask my parents for help, so I worked in retail at a department store for a year to save up money. After a year, I bought a car and decided to go to cosmetology school. I went full time, so it only took me a year to get through the 1500 required hours to complete the program. I got my start working in small salons, as they fit better with my friendly, but introverted personality.

At age 20, I fell in love with an exchange student from Colombia. Soon, I got pregnant. We later found out we had significant cultural differences. When I learned that he wasn’t interested in getting married, I decided to give my daughter up for adoption. I didn’t want her to have to grow up with just one parent, so I made the choice for her to grow up in a more stable family. He respected my decision. It was a hard choice, but I wanted a better life for her.     

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In my 20s, I met a guy named Dave and we became friends. I found later in life that he was interested in me early on, but I was in a relationship. We went back and forth like that for a few years. When one of us was available, the other was with someone else. 

Finally, when Dave and I were both single, we started dating. Our intention was to just date without any commitments, but this didn’t last long. Within a year of dating, we got engaged, got married in 1985, and began building a life together. When we decided we wanted kids, we got a house, and within a week I was pregnant. I had my son in December 1987, and he was a ball of energy. We had a lot of fun with him in his early years. We had a harder time conceiving the second time, but eventually succeeded, and my daughter Lauren was born in 1991.

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Looking back, I do see small moments when I was worried about miscarrying during my second pregnancy. Even so, I had a full-term natural birth. It wasn’t until she was born, and we saw the doctor’s reactions that we knew something wasn’t right. After two weeks in ICU, they told us that our daughter was diagnosed with a rare chromosomal deletion abnormality called Monosomy 9p. My husband and I were in shock. We were thrown into the world of the developmentally delayed without any knowledge about it. We hadn’t done anything wrong, but we felt immense guilt.

How the syndrome affects people can vary, but Lauren is on the lower, more severe end of the spectrum. She’s unable to walk and do everyday tasks on her own. She has spent her life in a wheelchair, and her speech is minimal. She’s able to say things like “hi,” and “momma,” but she cannot string more than two words together.

Still, my love for my daughter never wavered. When we received the diagnosis, my husband and I worked to find out the next step and best way to raise her. We did the proper research and educated ourselves on the condition and made changes to accommodate her. We didn’t see her condition as tragic. We were happy that we had another child whom we could care for.

My family, 2013.
My family, 2013.
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My husband continued working and I cut down to three days a week at the salon. We faced challenges each day. Lauren was unable to suck on her bottle due to her low muscle tone, so we had to find alternate options. Instead, Lauren got her nutrition through a tube. We were thankful that our insurance covered much of the therapy programs that Lauren had to go to, so we could still live a functional life.  Through the programs, she improved her communication and walking skills. She’s still unable to walk without a walker, but it’s a lot of progress from her toddler years. At first, they worried she wouldn’t withstand the constant shifting of her body, but they soon learned they didn’t need to be that gentle. We got the most out of her during physical therapy when my son would move her around. She would light up and move when it was her brother helping her and making her laugh.

In the early years of our parenthood, we had to learn to balance. Lauren required so much of our immediate attention that we failed to realize that our son was still very young and needed our care, too. I remember him telling me one day when he was about three years old that he missed our time together, and it broke my heart. I couldn’t promise more time, but my husband and I did our best to make sure our son felt just as loved and important as his sister.

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We were also thankful to hav