How did y’all name your son?

Is it a family name? No. If we look back far enough, it is. But there is no one we know called Henry.

Is it after someone special to you? No. Henry is uniquely our boy- no namesake of anyone.

*Turns out it is my cousin’s name who is named for his father and grandfather though I only recently found out. They all went by other monikers.

James and I were on our final drive back from San Francisco to Birmingham. Our trips cross country and year living in San Francisco was our biggest adventure so far in our life together- until we learned we were going to be parents! We were completely excited and began making plans to return to Alabama to have our baby. Several weeks before we were to travel back home we got a call late one evening from my OB/GYN- fear and dread filled my heart and my stomach clenched as I waited for the doctor to speak. We had been given news that struck dread in our hearts about our precious baby- our prenatal testing indicated our son was at high risk for having Trisomy 21/ Down Syndrome. We were ignorant and scared.

The first days afterward were spent fearfully and frantically pouring over the internet to investigate the accuracy of our early genetic test panel hoping and praying that the tests were faulty. It couldn’t be right. We have to be in the false positive group. We read stories of dozens of other families and of their tragedies and triumphs until we couldn’t cry anymore. Then we prayed together, let our fear go, and declined all confirmation testing. We were going to love our baby no matter what. He was made completely in love and was part of us. We were grounded firmly in those thoughts. Still we were silent on the drive back thinking of all the high risk maternal fetal medicine appointments to come- our only wish for him to be whole.

We had bought several albums at Green Apple Books in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of SF for our last drive- The Decemberists’ album The King Is Dead was among them. Miles and miles passed and we chose to listen to the Decemberists next. As their song “Rise to Me” drifted through the car- I just had a feeling.

“Big mountain, wide river,
There’s an ancient call,
These tree trunks, these stream beds,
Leave our bellies full
They sing out, I am gonna stand my ground
You rise to me and I’ll blow you down
I am gonna stand my ground
You rise to me and I’ll blow you down”

It was one of those profound feelings when you have made a decision with 100% of your soul- and you know that decision is the one right path for you and you don’t need to explain it or analyze it. I felt a determination blanketed with peace and new joy. We watched the wonders and beauty of our country go by.

“Hey Henry, can you hear me,
Let me see those eyes
This distance, between us
Can seem a mountain size
But boy, you are gonna stand your ground
They rise to you you’ll blow them down
Let me see you stand your ground
They rise to you you’ll blow them down”

I looked at James and said, “His name is Henry.” James looked at me very thoughtfully and very matter of factly stated, “Yeah- it is.” Looking my best friend and soulmate in his eyes, I knew he felt it too.

“My darling, my sweetheart,
I am in your sway,
Two cold climbs, come spring time
So let me hear you say, my love
I am gonna stand my ground, they rise to me and I’ll blow them down
I am gonna stand my ground, they rise to me and I’ll blow them down
‘Cause I am gonna stand my ground”

We both laid our hands on my budding belly- on Henry. And we were at ease and felt excitement anew.

Over the remaining hours of highway we talked of our hopes for Henry. The one that kept coming up- we want him to be whole, happy, be able to do every activity he desires, and live a full life. A life lived side-by-side with his peers in complete inclusion in school, little league, soccer, art camp, college/technical school… anything that any other child would do.

Henry has entered this world observant, expressive, smart, strong, and stubborn (he gets a double dose from his father and myself- but mostly from his father) and he happens to have Down Syndrome. We are so proud of him- of everything he is. He stands his ground like a pro and he will continue to stand his ground. We have no doubts about his abilities. As I listen to Henry’s song again I have realized how utterly perfect it is in every way. Every. Single. Word.

Henry’s song seemed to have been cosmically sent to us at our exact moment of need. Isn’t life serendipitous and funny like that sometimes? I still feel the ocean of emotion I felt when I heard it for the very first time. Washed in relief. Fueled with hope. Welling pride filling my heart. A firm determination from my heels to my brow.

Watching our country’s politics over the past year has made fear and anguish take over my heart. I began calling and writing my senators which is something I have NEVER done. I’ve never had anything on the line before. I’ve never had to guard the future for anyone before. My son’s life and liberty had never been threatened before by a president who openly mocks professional human beings who happen to have a disability or by a secretary of education who displays complete ignorance and apathy of Individuals with Disabilities Act.

And now I understand what it means to be a momma bear. James and I will move heaven and earth and fight with every breath in our bodies to protect our son and provide the life he has a right to have. We are going to stand our ground.

As his mother, I will stand.

Rise to me.

I will blow you down.

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