Bethany Van Delft's path to parenting was not a smooth one. It rarely is for any parent, of course, but this comedian has learned a little something about how to roll with the unexpected. How to embrace the reality that is, rather than the fantasy that could have been. In this mom's speech about her daughter's Down Syndrome, she tells the difficult, beautiful, and starkly honest story of her journey to truly loving her child.
Van Delft shared the story of being the mother to a daughter with Down Syndrome as part of a storytelling series with the not-for-profit organization The Moth. During the riveting 15 minutes she speaks, Van Delft talks about her pregnancy throughout 2011 (which she describes as "perfect"), her many ultrasounds (because she was an "elderly first time mom"), and her own expectation that motherhood would follow along those perfect lines so many mothers dream about. Until her daughter was born in November, 2011 with Down Syndrome.
Van Delft said she spent nine months "wondering what this person was going to look like, wondering about that rush of love" that all mothers are said to experience. And then her daughter Lulu was born. She immediately noticed her "almond eyes," one of the common indicators of Down Syndrome. And she said she was "terrified."
Van Delft admitted that she didn't feel "that rush of love" for her daughter immediately. She said:
That first few weeks is just a blur of tears and forms and doctors’ appointments and lists I made of all the things that were never going to happen now and all the things that she would never do.
She brought her daughter home, but that mother-baby bond still didn't seem to be able to find its way through at first:
I slept on the couch with her for months with her skin on my skin so she could feel loved, but every time I looked at her all I thought was, ‘Where is my baby? Whose baby is this? When do I get to see my baby?’
Van Delft worried she wasn't cut out to be "this kind of mother," and worried she wouldn't be able to handle raising a daughter with Down Syndrome. Until one day, she says, she just let it go. She took a holiday with her daughter and her husband, and she just let it go. All of the expectations, the grief. And she realized that she wasn't all that different from any other mom out there:
Once I stopped fearing being this kind of mom I realized that all moms cry a lot, all moms doubt their ability to raise this child, all moms worry about the future.
Her speech resonated with other mothers out there: Recently, after it was posted on the Facebook page for The Scene, where videos for women are shared, it was viewed over 1 million times.
Because every mother has an idea of what other mothers are experiencing — and once we can let that go, we can finally get on with the job of actually being a mother, rather than being held back by what we think the job description might actually look like.