The very first thing that
I want to say to you is, please, do not be afraid.
I have a child with Down Syndrome and I would like
to tell you my story if you would kindly take a few
moments to read it. I wish I could speak to you in
person, but I hope this is an helpful alternative.
Know that I am praying for you and hoping you feel
the power of that prayer.
My husband, who is 40 years
old grew up with a brother who had Down Syndrome.
His brother, Greg, was 7 years older than him and
was the love of his life. He was the love of all of
their lives. He was born in the 1950’s in a
time when, unfortunately, there were not the resources
nor the knowledge about Down Syndrome. Greg was the
oldest of 6 children. He had a heart defect that at
that time was not repairable, whereas today it would
not even be a challenge. It would be a routine cardiac
surgery. Greg died at the age of 18 years old because
of his un-repaired heart defects. He touched the hearts
of every single person he came in contact with. Years
later, I still hear this from people that I meet.
Greg was the perfect example
of how to love others unconditionally, and was loved
by everyone with whom he met. His life and how he
lived it had a profound impact on his family --and
now on ours!
I heard for years, while dating my husband and through
our 15 years of marriage, of the love of Greg.
While it has been many years
since his death, I feel like I now know what this
family meant about Greg. If his families love has
anything at all to do with Greg, as I have been told
so many times, than I surely want a piece of that.
Just last summer, my husband suggested that we adopt
a child with Down Syndrome. I was surprised when he
recommended this because we had never talked about
it. Already having 6 children, many would think that
we were crazy. I have always heard that there was
a waiting list to adopt children with Down Syndrome,
so I checked into it. Indeed, there is. I thought
we would never get a baby with Down Syndrome because
of the many families waiting.. Amazingly, and which
credit I give fully to God, we were chosen to be the
family of our youngest child, Ricky, only 6 weeks
later. (You can read the full story on www.prenatalpartnersforlife.org--click
on “Stories”, “Down Syndrome”
and then “Ricky’s story.”)
I can not say enough wonderful
things about our decision to adopt Ricky. How frequently
I hear people say what a blessing their child/brother/sister/neighbor
with Down Syndrome is, but I could never fully understand
it. Now, I wish I could tell you in a way that would
touch you as deeply as those words touch me. Ricky
is a blessing beyond words! While he is healthy, I
thoroughly believe I would love him no less if he
wasn’t doing as well. He had heart surgery last
week and is incredible. He still smiles amidst his
discomfort. The doctors and nurses couldn’t
get enough of him—they adored him! We heard
over and over, “Down Syndrome patients are my
absolute favorite.” I loved hearing that.
One evening, a very kind nurse
caring for Ricky said to me and my husband, “I
learned the most about love from a young man with
Down Syndrome.” She then told us about her experience
years ago when she worked at a camp for the summer
and worked in the kitchen with this young man. She
was such a lovely-hearted woman---if he had anything
to do with her learning about love, he must have been
very special. I frequently hear similar stories.
There are certain virtues
in life that we can try and try to teach our children.
We read books, pray, watch heart-warming movies and
we still can’t fully grasp these virtues, so
how can we pass them on to our future generations?
I feel like Ricky is teaching us these loving virtues
that could take a lifetime to otherwise learn—and
he is still so young. To see my teenage son “mushy”
around Ricky and to see the acceptance that my children
now have for all handicap people is amazing. Truly
transforming. I didn’t realize that I had a
slight prejudice within me until I see how I, too,
have been transformed so deeply.
We look so forward to life with Ricky. We look forward
to him trying everything that our other children try.
He will do great and he has a lot of cheerleaders!
How times have changed since the 50’s! Ricky
has had Physical/Occupational Therapy coming to our
home since he was born (this is offered through the
school district at no charge!) They really love Ricky.
They seem to delight in all his accomplishments almost
as much as we do! It’s great to know that we
aren’t the only ones wanting him to succeed!
When Ricky smiles, we all
smile. When Ricky laughs, we all laugh. When Ricky
cries, we all sadden. He melts our hearts. When Ricky
buries his face into my shoulder with that full-body
hug, nothing else matters except Ricky. We all feel
the same way. I don’t even have to explain it
to anyone in our family.
There are people in the world
who will say that it is best to abort your baby because
he or she has Down Syndrome. They will even try to
insist that you are doing your child a favor! Those
with Down Syndrome seem to have a love of life that
we could only hope for. They don’t seem to clutter
it with all of the non-sense of life. These people
who suggest you have an abortion must have never had
a person with Down Syndrome in their lives. I truly
believe the world would be a better place if we all
had the opportunity to have a person with Down Syndrome
in our lives—the same could be said for all
of those with special needs. Adopting Ricky was the
best thing we ever did for our family. Those who have
a child/brother/sister with DS know what I mean. A
friend who has a child with DS said to me recently,
“I love talking to you because you understand
what I mean.” Doctors frequently try to scare
patients. The information they have is frequently
outdated, so please do not rely upon this. Find some
good Down Syndrome Associations and please read the
stories of love on www.prenatalpartnersforlife.org.
Call and talk to someone who truly cares about YOU
and cares about your child.
Are there any questions that
you have? Is there anything that I can help you with?
I wish I could do more to help you see the delight
you will have with this child of yours.
God bless you and guide you.
You will never regret the life you will have with
your child. It will be full—full of love and
virtues. You will delight in every single sweet accomplishment
just as you do your other children. He or she is truly
a gift. Remember first—this is your child. Secondly--
he or she happens to have Down Syndrome. I heard a
father say on TV recently, “I never hoped for
a child with Down Syndrome, but now I would never
wish for anything else in the world.” I hear
and read from other parents expecting a child with
DS, that it is very common to be scared and confused
at first, but later, they would never wish for anything
different. He or she will be a teacher of your soul.
Once you hold your baby in your arms, your view of
life will be totally different. The world will be
a better place for you and you will want the world
for him or her! You will be empowered realizing that
you can make that difference for your child.
Ricky is awesome! I am sure
you will say the same for your baby. You have been
given an opportunity to love and you will receive
that love back multiplied.
Take care and God bless---Gretchen
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.