It’s funny how we arts-inclined people upturn the world in search of inspiration. We read new things, we listen to new stories, we find new people, we ruminate on words and actions of others, we search and search and search… and yet, our greatest inspirations may well be right in front of us.
If you’ll bear with me this week, artsies, I’m going to do something a little different. On this day I can’t possibly imagine writing about anything or anyone but a special, beautiful, brave little girl named Reid Layne.
Reid was born on December 15th, 2012—and in just the short four months of her life, she has taught us more than we could ever possibly teach her and changed our family irrevocably…and for the better.
Reid is my niece and she was born with Down syndrome. This was an unexpected plot twist to the story of our family, but if only that was the biggest one. In February Reid underwent eye surgery to remove a cataract from her eye. We soon breathed a sigh of relief when we were told that the hole she was born with in her heart would repair itself…and a second major surgery would not be necessary.
A month later, she went into heart failure. The hole had grown, but she had gained so little weight since birth that they were unable to do surgery right away. So, in a rigorous attempt to have her double her weight as quickly as possible, my brother and sister-in-law began the routine of feeding Reid every three hours with pumped breast milk and what Craig, my brother, labeled “Super Juice”.
When I visited at Easter, it was a continuous and never-ending cycle of Tara pumping breast milk, someone feeding Reid with the milk mixed with formula, cleaning all the tools, breast-feeding her after the bottle if she was still hungry and then, by that time, repeat again.
Oh, and they still managed to have time to chase my 21-month-old nephew, Noal, around their kitchen island whenever he wanted them too (which was always).
Reid also would be fed consistently through the night via a machine and a tube to her stomach.
It was an exhausting life to just watch for a single weekend, and they all managed to live it with smiles on their faces.
I have only met Reid twice, but through the remarkable invention of Facebook and my sister-in-law’s unmatched ability to keep everyone updated, I feel like I know her just as well as if I held her every day.
She is a calm, content thing, who cranes her neck to any noise—only curious, never afraid—to find, more than likely, her mother’s voice, her big brother’s endless chatter, or her father’s kick-ass vocal stylings. She is the kind of baby who you can hold for endless hours, because she barely fusses—only lets out soft sighs, or her trademarks snorts.
I tell you all this because today, my little Reid is having her heart surgery. Her feeding schedules have paid off and it’s finally time.
Before it happens though, I just wanted a few more people to know how much this beautiful little girl, who barely makes a peep, can make her mark so fully in just four months.
Reid has transformed my sister-in-law, Tara—already a person who lived life to the fullest—into an advocate for just that, and into something of an activist for raising children with happy souls. On her blog, The Happy Soul Project, Tara keeps the world updated on the struggle and heartache her family has endured in the last four months, but even more than that, she shares the happy stories—the positive ones. It is a blog made with love. The Happy Soul Project has been featured on Down syndrome and Mommy Blogs and, I feel, is just a few short steps away from going viral. Yesterday alone, as Reid went through the pre-op procedures, the blog received 6000 hits.
The most popular section is Dear Sweet Reid, a place where anyone, anywhere, can write a letter to Reid to tell her how she, at four months old and younger, has inspired them.
Reid has even made my normally private brother open his own heart in a letter to his little girl on the blog. A thing, I will admit—a softhearted person though he is—I never thought I would see him do. You can read his beautiful words here.
As for me, my sweet Reid has taught me what it means to be brave.
Every single step we take in life requires a little bit of bravery—whether it be in the act of creating something, taking a leap of faith into something new, or simply going to work in the morning.
Today, I’m writing about Reid not only to share her inspirational story and strength, but to ask for your help. As she goes into surgery this afternoon, we want as many people to have her on their minds as possible.
Many of us in our family are not a praying bunch—though by all means, if you are, please do—and Tara, Reid’s mom, has taken to asking the world for their thoughts instead as it has proven to her multiple times since December that there is a certain kind of magic to that.
The power of positive energy and positive thought has come through for Reid before, and today we need it to again.
Please take the time to check out Tara’s blog, The Happy Soul Project, and share or reblog anything or everything that strikes your fancy. We want to share Reid’s story with as many people as possible.
But most importantly, if you have a moment today, please take the time to think of Reid.
Come on, Reid. You’ve done it before, let’s do it again. Show us what your brave is.
Thank you for taking the time to hear Reid’s story.
Disclaimer: All of these photos belong to The Happy Soul Project.