Wil and I were at the orthodontist’s office. He has a top set of braces; this appointment was about a bottom set to correct his underbite.
“As many kids with Down syndrome have a smaller upper jaw, the underbite is common,” the orthodontist said.
The commonality of an underbite in people with Down syndrome, I knew— what I didn’t know was why! I sat on a blue swivel chair next to Wil marveling at my casual lack of knowledge!
Moments after Wil was born I learned about hypotonia, as the nurse said Wil was “floppy” which is an indicator of Down syndrome. After 3 excruciatingly long days for Wil’s genetics test to prove what we already knew, I met with a geneticist. I learned all about those squiggly, little chromosomes. I learned about his stubby fingers, the space between his toes, his small nasal passages that would later cause terrifying stridrous breathing with days and nights at the hospital. I met with a cardiologist for the first year of Wil’s life and learned with relief that the little hole in his heart closed on its own. I learned about the commonality of clogged tear ducts that unclogged on their own soon after Wil’s first birthday. I learned when Wil was 6 months old he had hypothyroidism, about Wil’s tiny ear canals causing multiple infections, about his mild astigmatism and the therapies he would need and why he would need them.
I learned and learned and learned.
I continue to learn and learn and learn. What will life look like after high school? What post-high school programs are available to Wil? What job training is available to Wil? What social opportunities? What about girls? What about independence? What about college? And most importantly, what will Wil think about adulthood and how will I navigate that with him?
But on that blue swivel chair in the orthodontist’s office, I really didn’t even need to know why Wil had an underbite. I didn’t have to seek out any specialists, programs or community support. I didn’t need to create anything or join forces with others to create something. I just sat there and listened; and learned something casually new about my juice box-toting boy who is now turning into a man.