A couple of Sundays ago after church, an older woman stopped me as we were leaving and said to me, “Please don’t take offense to this. I mean this in the best way possible, I really do. Thank you for making the decision you did about your baby…I will keep him and your family in my prayers.” Talk about tears springing right into my eyeballs. I smiled and said, “Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.” Tyson had walked a few feet away with the kids and was talking to some other people. I walked over to join them, not hearing a word of what was being said. I looked back and saw the woman and her husband getting ready to leave and walked back over and asked her, “Thank you again so much. Can I give you a hug?” She opened her arms and gave me a big hug and kissed my cheek and said, “You made a wonderful decision and I am thankful for you and your husband. I will keep you in my prayers.”
When we got in the party wagon (aka minivan) to go home, Tyson asked me who that woman was. I told him I didn’t know and told him what she had said to me. He gave me a confused look and asked, “Why would she say that to you?”
The more I thought about her words that day, I had so many different thoughts and emotions running through my mind, but the one that stuck with me the most was this: How sad I was that my child is one that many parents decide not to keep because of what that extra chromosome might bring.
I get it. It’s scary to hear that your baby is going to have Down syndrome. For me, it was mostly because I didn’t know what it was going to mean for my baby, and as far as I knew, I wasn’t going to be able to anything about it. There were no magic vitamins or medications, no corrective surgeries, no therapies that would make my baby “normal”. Sure, there were books and stories and websites and blogs and parents that told of the joys of having a child with Down syndrome. Not to mention my personal experiences with people with Down syndrome that were wonderful. It was just that there were also the books and websites and blogs and parents that told of the hardships of having a child with Down syndrome. And those sources are LOUD. They can be much louder than the positive ones.
Here I am, 17 months later, and I am able to shout from the top of my lungs how amazing it is to have Moses. Seriously, y’all…he is amazing. He has THE BEST smile. Sometimes it’s like it’s about to take over his entire face. And his laugh. There is nothing better than the sound of his belly laugh followed by a literal squeal of delight. He army crawls wherever he wants, usually straight for something he’s not supposed to have, to somewhere he’s not supposed to go, or to wherever I am at that moment, and he is fast. Lately, he’s been doing this move where he crawls, stops, and then turns to the side and bends his top leg over his bottom leg. We call it his “Tom Selleck” pose. He makes the cutest-ever “stinker face” where he scrunches up his nose and flips his bottom lip over his top lip. He can’t even help himself when music starts playing…he just has to dance! Bath time is now spent with him pulling himself up to stand only to let himself plop back down and make the biggest splash possible. He shovels in the food he likes faster than we can get it on the tray and throws the food he doesn’t want off his tray like it’s hot. Did I mention that he loves Josie? When Josie is around, his whole world is complete.
Does this sound like a kid you know? Probably because in so many ways, Moses is just like any other baby growing up. I have so many similar memories of Josie as a baby. Is he growing up at a different pace? Yes. But like a dad told me this fall at the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk, “It’s like we get to have them as babies for longer.” How many times have you heard a parent say or said yourself, “They grow up so fast.” I guess one of the perks of that extra chromosome is that they grow up a little slower. And you know what? I’m not complaining.
Another parent at the Walk told me that when he and his wife found out their baby had Down syndrome, they met with a “genetic counselor” who told them that they should abort the baby because it would never be anything more than a walking vegetable that wouldn’t be able to love. I’d love to meet that “genetic counselor” and introduce her to one of the most vibrant, loving little girls I’ve ever met.
Just like with any other kid, no two children with Down syndrome are exactly alike. I know that my experiences with Moses are not the same as all other parents with children with Down syndrome. And just like with any other kid, I’m also not saying that raising Moses is always walk in the park. Just as with raising any child, there are rocky paths, there are mountain paths, and there are those swinging narrow footbridges across a raging river. But man, whatever the path, it’s worth walking with and for him. And I know I’m not alone in saying that. According to a column by Marc Thiessen in the Southeast Missourian last week, Boston’s Children’s Hospital conducted surveys and found that “only 4 percent of parents regretted having their Down syndrome child.” (March 11, 2018). Now, I’m no mathematician, but I’m figuring that means that 96% of parents don’t regret having a child with Down syndrome. I can’t speak for any of those parents, but I can speak for myself when I say I 110% do not regret having a child that brings so much pure joy to my life.
I pray with all my heart that more and more parents will open their hearts to the amazing joy a child with an extra chromosome can bring. And if you happen to see one of those parents, please say a prayer of thanks that they made the decision they did about their baby.