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To the Mom Who Worries Her Baby With Down Syndrome Will 'Affect' the Siblings

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Dear mom of a new baby with Down syndrome,

This is my brother. I have been his big sister for 20 years, and those 20 years have given me an extraordinary friendship I wouldn’t trade for all the 46-chromosomed brothers in the world. My brother is my best friend. He has taught me how to forgive quickly, love fiercely, laugh often and never give up. And honestly, I’m not sure these cliches could be more effectively taught than through the life of an individual with Down syndrome. Matthew has struggled to accomplish what comes easily for most people, and that has allowed him to showcase his stubborn persistence. He is gentle and sympathetic, sensing when someone is “off” and healing them with a big hug. When he gets mad (and he does, because he experiences all emotions), he doesn’t hold a grudge. When he is happy, everyone will know it. And when he loves you, he is deeply affectionate and thoughtful. Life is meant to be lived joyfully, and no one captures this wisdom quite like my brother.

I know you may be concerned for your other children — will they think I care less about them? Will they bond with their sibling? How will I make time for them now? I promise you this, your other children will grow up differently because of your new baby, but they will also grow up with a greater knowledge of how much you care for them. They notice all the time you spend on the phone setting up appointments, reading books about Down syndrome, and taking baby to therapies. But they also notice how much you try to squeeze them in to every one of those things, letting them help and encouraging them to learn with you. And they notice that with every extra moment of time that remains in your day, you will seek them out to play or read or snuggle together.

Your other children notice because having a sibling with Down syndrome has given them a new perspective. They, like you, now see the world through eyes that don’t mind slowing down to appreciate the small things. They, like you, have grown in empathy and compassion. These other children of yours will learn how to demonstrate patience and determination by helping and watching when it takes their sibling longer to do something. They will learn responsibility by taking on more than their peers. They will learn love simply by seeing the ways your family moves mountains for one another.

Your other children may struggle with the sacrifices required in this new role, but like you, they can handle it. They were made to hold this honor, and they will be more than fine. Simply by being given to your family, this sibling with Down syndrome has just given your other children’s lives greater purpose. The relationship they will build together will rock your world.

There’s no need to worry, dear mom. You and your children are so lucky.

With love,
A blessed sibling

Originally published: July 26, 2019
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