Maybelle had her first big party yesterday--a delayed baby shower (it had been scheduled for the weekend that Maybelle actually decided to be born) that doubled as a sort of coming-out party for her, where lots of our Charleston friends got to meet her for the first time and hang out with her. It was a lot of fun, and she accumulated bunches of adorable baby supplies and the beginnings of an impressive library.

Biffle and I were reflecting on the party this morning, and on what an incredible community we and Maybelle have. Maybelle has Down syndrome--something that was on our radar while I was pregnant, but that we didn't know until she was born. In the days after her birth, a friend from Nashville sent me an essay by Emily Perl Kingsley called "Welcome to Holland," about what it's like to be the parent of a special needs child. It's a great (short) essay--you should go read it if you haven't already. Kingsley talks about having a special needs child being like planning a trip to Italy and then ending up in Holland--how disconcerting this can be, and yet how Holland ends up being a lovely place with its own delights, a place well worth visiting.

The thing that Biffle and I were talking about this morning is the fact that near the end of the essay, Kingsley writes, "But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there."

This doesn't really fit with our experience. So far our experience has been that our friends and family who've been to Italy aren't saying, "Hey, enjoy Holland--take care." Instead, quite a lot of the folks we love are saying, "Okay, we're going to Holland! That sounds cool! Let's go!" They're coming to Holland with us. They're buying books on speech therapy for kids with Down syndrome. They're enrolling their children in programs where they'll get to be peer mentors for kids with special needs. They're consulting with family members who have training in special education. They're volunteering themselves and their children for babysitting. And in general they're expressing unadulterated enthusiasm for Maybelle and her presence on this planet ("on the outside," as Anne Lamott says).

There have been times in my life that I've longed for a sense of community, and right now I have it so emphatically that it makes me a little weepy.


claire said...


Let's all just ditch Italy and Holland and go together to Australia. Some days we can travel together, to see kangaroos or go to the opera; and some days we can do our own thing, go snorkeling or to a museum, and then we can come together at the end of the day and share notes.

Alexandrialeigh said...

In high school, I used to babysit for a teacher of mine whose son had down syndrome--he was the sweetest, most fun kid to babysit ever. And I have babysat for a LOT of kids.

I am sure Maybelle will be just as much of a delight as he was.

Tawanda Bee said...

Nashville has several pairs of itchy fingers... so how long does it take to drive to Charleston?

Cindy said...

I have been "silently" following your blog ever since I read an article about you (Alison) on the internet. Your recent post entitled "Holland" brought tears to my eyes. Maybelle is beautiful and perfect and the pure love you have for her is palpable. May her life be blessed. Thanks for sharing it.

The Dad said...

Yea Alison

As I said, not only are Walter and you GREAT parents, but your friends and support groups are world class. Maybelle (Maybelline) is perfect and we are all blessed that she is here.

The Dad (Maybelline's favorite)

Elizabeth said...

I read about your anxiety with Down syndrome. And now Maybelle is here. And she is beautiful and a delight for you both. I know that she will have a life of love.

Fellow Feminist said...

Hello and welcome, Baby Maybelle!
I, too, have been a silent reader, and aware of the blog because I know Alison (through your writing) to be a stellar scholar and activist.
"Thank you for sharing" captures it as best as I can.
I hope we will all find ways to be your community.
I see lots of love and happiness in these words and pictures! Sending even more...

Quiche said...

I'd travel to Holland, and enjoy it (: The road less traveled makes all the difference. What makes life more than ordinary and mundane is the unexpected. You are both extraordinary people, and so is Maybelle. Much love and infinite blessings to the three of you! Wish I could have been at the party, and got to hold her (:

pullupastar said...

Hi. My name's Lindsey Jones. I took your Gender and Violence class the last time you taught it, and I have a little girl who I actually brought to your office once, and she tried to eat your giant jar of mayo. I used to work with Brian McCann and found your blog through his, and I was so excited when I found out you were having a baby. The world needs more feminist moms!

I just wanted to comment that a friend of mine had a baby with special needs a few months ago, and she also mentioned the Holland story and said that it really touched her and that she reads it every day.

Good luck to you and your baby, and keep in mind that there are a LOT of people out here wishing you the best! Maybelle is a beautiful name, by the way.

b said...

Holland has the cool wooden clogs and lots of windmills. I am down with that trip. :)

I am happy for all of you, and by the way - the picture of Maybelle and Trey is PRICELESS!! It's like she's saying "Yes, I know I have this grownup wrapped around my little finger...as it should be, of course." hehehe

Love & warm fuzzies to everyone.


Anonymous said...

I, too, have been silently reading your blogs as you have prepared for the birth of Maybelle. As the mother of 3 precious lives and a grandmother-to-be I wish to say "congratulations" and "job well done". It's obvious that your daughter is thriving in the love of her family and friends. Do you have any pictures of Maybelle with the cat? I'm sure kitty doesn't mind that Maybelle is now wearing the onesie now.

TanyaHirst said...

I just found this blog through Skirt (finding your essay refreshing salvation from all the shoe and plastic surgery ads) and got here in time for the baby announcement. Thrilling. So happy for you. Even in older blogs I've gone back to see the "before a mom" posts to compare them to the "after a mom" posts, because this transition seems (to me) GINORMOUS. No other experience that people write about, to me, seems as hard to pin down. That line from a TV commercial "everything changes" doesn't really capture it (when I lived through the transition that commercial was out and I'd get so annoyed: not everything changes!, but some things do, and as time goes on you forget what. Glad someone will document it.

Just in case, I wanted to send on the most important guides I had. Do not scoff too fast at this first one, it seems humorous and light, but my friends and I memorized every line without meaning to: The Girlfriend's Guide to the First Year of Motherhood. Everything practical is in there. The other books (and boy, did we need books, not much about caring for a baby is second nature) had so much that was inessential in a moment of crisis. And this one makes it clear you will make the mistakes my friends and I did our first year: let's see, one of us determined for no reason, ever, would formula touch her baby's lips, several of us did not believe the "they role off things before you have ever seen then move themselves a centimeter" rule, and lots of us avoided serious tragedy by just missing a spill of coffee on the baby's head or a tree while trying to soothe freaked-out baby while driving a car. Anyway, this book prepares you for the inevitable mistakes and more.

And the blog most moms I know seem to keep up with is the impossibly funny dooce.com. And the go-to source for crucial info at 3 am ("she has not pooped in 23 hours, what to do?")is www.youbemom.com. The moms there can help with nearly any parent-related question you have, and in a jiffy. It is mostly NYC women, and they are not sentimental, but they seem to get the facts right. They also have a special needs board.

Thanks for sharing with total strangers all these wonderful things in your life. Congratulations on the beautiful little girl.

Meghann said...

My passport is expired, but I want to come, too!

Hopefully by the time I come to Charleston, whenever that may be, I will be re-allowed to travel the world.

If I move back to Chas, can I be a perma-Maybelle/Baxter sitter? I am very friendly, and you know my feelings about children...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your beautiful baby! I think I've commented here once before, but I wanted to mention you might enjoy this blogger

Till my Head falls Off
I believe she will be blogging every day this month...

"So, it's October,and I decided this year to play along with the "Get it Down: 31 for 21" blog every single day game. So, for all of you who are NOT the choir (ie, you people who have no idea what I'm talking about. You know the saying 'preaching to the choir'?)
It's for Down syndrome awareness month, because who knew?"

Anonymous said...

That's a lovely post. Made me a bit weepy reading it. You have a community.