Ricky

In early June of 2006, my husband Dan and I went on a trip to Italy. We had family care for our other 6 children. We left feeling as though our lives couldn’t be any more busy could use some time away. We visited Rome, Assisi and Florence. We visited more churches than I can remember, kneeled and prayed before nearly every Tabernacle we could find, climbed the Holy Stairs on our knees, saw the Holy Father “up close” twice, visited the tomb of our beloved John Paul II twice and kissing it once. We visited museums and simply enjoyed time with each other alone. 
 
I have a very strong love of our Faith, but the love intensified as the trip went on. I could feel the love for my husband strengthen as well. I had this stirring within me for another baby. I must say, my body wasn’t yearning for another child, but I could feel my heart being softened. While the thought of another child seemed like more than we might be able to handle, I knew that my prayers were being heard I trust what God has planned for us. My husband didn’t seem to be showing signs of desiring another baby, when I hinted to him of the idea. I wrestled with my feelings throughout the 9 day trip. On day 8 of our trip, inFlorence, we visited the San Marcos Museum, where the awe-inspiring frescoes by Fra Angelico are located. I was struck. I saw a fresco of The Annunciation—the angel Gabriel kneeing before Mary. Upon seeing it, the words whispered in my mind—then eventually on my lips, “be it done unto me according to Thy word.” I repeated it over and over as I wandered the halls marveling at his works. I wondered if there was any meaning to all that was running through my mind.  Is God asking me to have another little one, I thought. We got to the gift shop and found a miniature fresco of The Annunciation. To my surprise, despite the inflated price, my husband told me to get it. Those words were still ringing in my head. I desired a baby. I really wasn’t desiring to be pregnant, though I was trying to convince myself that I would be fine…. “Thy will be done” I worked to say. I left Italy with this desire and wondered if I would find myself pregnant upon our return.
 
These desires went on for another month. Dan didn’t seem to have the same draw to a baby as I did. I was somewhat surprised to find that two months in a row I wasn’t pregnant. Perhaps I was reading into this whole thing too much. It was mid July and I was sitting at the computer with Dan over my shoulder. I said, “I think we should have a little baby.” He tossed out, “ I think we should adopt a baby girl with Down Syndrome.” Okay, I was surprised, not knowing quite where that came from. Of course, Dan’s oldest brother had Down Syndrome, and he (and everyone) adored him, but the statement still came from left field. Dan’s brother, Greg, died 28 years ago at the age of 18. His life was a joy to all that encountered him. His passing was a loss to all that knew him. Dan was just 12 years old when his brother died.
 
I stopped what I was doing, and did an Internet search for “Down Syndrome” and “adoption.” Bummer—a lot of waiting lists is what I found. It didn’t look promising. I went to bed discouraged.
 
I thought of writing a letter to the Perinatologists at the hospital at which I used to work, as anOB nurse, letting them know of our wish. I still recall so clearly the “therapeutic abortions” done on our unit to the Down Syndrome babies as well as those with other problems. I was filled with such anger and sadness when I knew these were being done on the unit on which I worked. I was never a part of these procedures. They were treated as “losses,” yet I knew they weren’t losses at all. I knew from the stories of Greg, that these families had so much to gain from their Down Syndrome child--not underestimating some struggles to go with their sweet lives. (I realized that until this point in my life, the only other babies I had ever seen with DS were those that were “terminated” and left on the warmer to die.) I thought if I could just let the Perinatologists know, maybe I could spare just one of them this dreadful fate, and we could care for that child, and provide a lifetime of love. I also thought that my letter would allow them to tell their patients that their child was indeed wanted. Before composing the letter, I thought I should try one other avenue.
 
Several days later, I called the adoption agency that we used to adopt our 5th, and only other adopted, child. I asked if they ever had babies with Down Syndrome pass through their agency. “Actually, not very often, but it’s funny you ask. About 5 days ago, we received a request from another agency to send any prospective parents their way who were looking for a handicapped child, specifically a little boy with Down Syndrome.” She gave me a name and number of a Social Worker. I called her on a Friday and she said I would have to quickly update our home study and send her a few photos and a letter about our family. She said she would be meeting the birth parents in exactly one week to show them the interested families and that the baby was due to be born in 6-7 weeks. I was told that he had a heart defect, which is not uncommon to those with Down Syndrome, and that he would need surgery to repair it between 6 to 9 months of age.  I was an obstetrical and newborn nurse prior to having children, so I wasn’t frightened by any of the medical jargon.
 
Dan was traveling a lot at this point so we rarely had time for a well thought out conversation. I caught him one night after returning from a trip. I told him what I found out from the adoption agency. I was so excited, and I told him about this baby. I told him it was a boy, about the heart defect and the family situation of this baby to be born in less than 2 months. And with a heart of “mush” he said “I’m not opposed to a little boy, what else do you know?”
 
I am not a scrapbooker—but, by the grace of God, I worked late into the nights of the weekend, and put together one heck of a scrapbook with several pages dedicated to Dan’s brother Greg, surrounded by his 5 siblings and parents who thought the world of him. First thing Monday morning, the kids and I drove to Children’s Home Society to deliver our book of hope. I hoped it was good enough to show our abilities and desires.
 
We waited. At times hopeful. At times wondering why I was feeling hopeful when there is such a waiting list for these little angels. Besides, I was told that the birth mother was looking for a “young, first time mother.” Hmm—I’m 37 (not old, but not young by maternal standards), and I have 6 kids. Perfect, right?! 
 
After about 2 weeks and several messages left at the agency, I finally got some hopeful news. We were in the running. A week later we found out that we weren’t just in the running, but they saw our scrapbook and knew we were the family for their son. I’m told that when the birth mother was asked for a second choice, she said, “do I have to have one…I want this family.” She had told the social worker that while she had in her mind the ideal family for her son to get the care he needed, she had never thought about what a large family like ours would have to offer.
 
I didn’t sleep well for weeks. I have never had a sleeping problem, but I found my self wondering if we were doing the right thing. Dan and I really never even sat down to talk about the pros and cons of the adoption. I told him we really ought to discuss it. He said “okay.” We sat down and were interrupted never got back to it. We laugh at that. I think we just knew deep in our hearts that it was right. Nonetheless, I couldn’t sleep. I pondered what he would be like, what life would be like, what he would be like, etc…I would lay in bed just picturing myself cuddled up with him just giving him more love that any baby has ever received.
 
We got the news that the birth mother was to be induced onSeptember 1, 2006. We sat in the waiting room and it was the strangest feeling. Just 6 weeks ago we had NEVER guessed we would be doing this. We saw him when he was just 25 minutes old. He was ours—forever! Red hair, blue eyes, and a nice round belly. We named him Richard Luke. We learned, Richard means “strength” and Luke means “light.” How perfect. Ricky would be our “strong light” to guide us along the path to heaven. We would be living with a saint.
 
Ricky’s siblings are crazy for him. He is 8 months old now and a doll. We anticipate surgery at one year of age. When we talk to anyone with a child that has Down Syndrome, we hear heartwarming stories. Most had the initial fears and feelings of loss that came with an adverse diagnosis, but, what proceeded was an indescribable love and way of life.
 
I am told that 85-90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted. With the current push to increase “early” testing specifically aimed at identifying Down Syndrome, I can only imagine that the number of babies aborted will increase. After all, the primary reason doctors are pushing for this test is so parents can abort them before they are born. I am saddened not just for the baby whose life is needlessly cut short, I’m sad for the immediate family that never got to experience this child, the friends and relatives who never got to know him or her, and all of society who never gets to see the faces of those that are so close to God. When your life is touched by a child with Down Syndrome, or any other child with a special need, you will not regret it. 
 
Words don’t explain our life with Ricky. If anyone ever cared to ask me advice on parenting, I would tell them, to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. The blessings flowing from his arrival are insurmountable.  I wish everyone could experience the joy we have with him. 
 
If you are just finding out that your baby has Down Syndrome, please understand that God knows our happiness more than we do. He has a much better plan than our mind can imagine. Trust in Him and follow him on a path of love.

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-The support, information and encouragement provided by the PPFL parents is not meant to take the place of medical advice by a medical professional. Any specific questions about care should be directed to a health care professional familiar with the situation.