How Having a Child with Down Syndrome Transformed Caterina Scorsone’s Understanding of Love

Millennial editor Robert Christian writes:

On the Motherly podcast, actress Caterina Scorsone of Grey’s Anatomy describes how she came to realize that she was loving everyone, including herself, for “absolutely the wrong reason.”

“I was loving people for their external qualities and not for their essence,” she said. She had believed that she loved her first daughter, Eliza, so much because she was beautiful, clever, and funny — for her qualities.

Then her second daughter, Pippa, was born with Down syndrome. Not knowing much about Down syndrome, Caterina wondered what traits Pippa might or might not have — and then she suddenly realized the error in thinking about love this way. It transformed the way she loved her daughters, her husband, and herself.

It is so easy to slip into thinking that we are only worthy of love if we look a certain way or are the life of the party or because we are able to rapidly fire off witty quips. The businesses that profit from our culture of consumerism want us to feel this way. They need us to feel this way. Their message is clear: you can buy love — all you need is our product that makes you worthy of it…

Yet with real love, there is always something ineffable or incomprehensible. Whether it is romantic, fraternal, parental, or any other form of authentic love — if you can describe precisely why you love a person, you are probably actually describing why you like them or enjoy their presence.

Love extends beyond this. When we love someone, we love who they are at their absolute core — the most unchanging and immaterial part of the person. We encounter this core or essence of a person, as Caterina calls it, when we break through surface-level impressions and assessments. This authentic encounter opens the door to joy, love, and communion.