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What I’ve Learned in My First Year as a Mom of a Child With Down Syndrome

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“We believe your child has Down syndrome and this is why…” Honestly, I stopped really listening after the words Down syndrome as the words just continued to echo in my head, filling me with a million emotions and questions. How could this be? How did we not find out prior to his birth? What will this mean for him, us, our family? Can I really be a “special needs mom”? This was how I spent the first few hours of my son’s life after receiving a birth diagnosis.

I spent some days crying. I’d look at him, searching for familial traits and wondering if people could tell he had Down syndrome. That was all a result of my own fears and my being uneducated as to what having a child with Down syndrome meant.

Thankfully, I have learned so much about Down syndrome and what it means to be a part of the Down syndrome family. That’s truly what we are, a family. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met — I believe we instantly have a bond unlike anything else. We cheer on each other, and we share products we find useful and little funny stories about our days with our kids. These are the people we can turn to when we are having a bad day and they get it. We can be honest and not apologize for our feelings, and we are surrounded by love and understanding. There is more love in this community than I’ve ever seen in my life.

And what have I learned in this first year? I’ve learned that my son Oliver will achieve far more than some people may assume. I’ve learned that he fills everyone he meets with such love and joy. I’ve watched him do everything “typical” kids do and began to realize that Down syndrome isn’t scary. I realized I am doing it — I am the special needs mom I feared I couldn’t be. I’ve seen Oliver as that little baby I carried who I dreamed of and waited so long to meet. He is the same little boy who would kick me and make my stomach bounce all over, and I’d laugh so hard that he’d keep moving. I’ve felt Oliver calm my soul in a way nobody or nothing ever has before. I’ve looked into his eyes and seen love and joy and a smile that lights up any room instantly. I’ve accepted that I need Oliver far more than he’ll ever need me.

Baby boy wearing hoodie, smiling

Today Oliver is 11 1/2 months old and we are preparing for his 1st birthday. I have been going through photos of him, and I came across the photos from his birth. I hadn’t looked at them really before, because of the fear and pain in the early days. Today I looked at them and cried tears of joy. I could see the love in every moment, the joy, and the pure bliss. I saw my beautiful baby boy perfect in every way. I saw in one photo a scared mom who only knew she loved her son more than anything in this world. But that mom snuggled and kissed her little boy, and in the midst of that storm, she found her peace in his presence.

Oliver, Mommy loves you more than you’ll ever know. You’ve brought more joy and happiness to mine and Daddy’s lives than we ever thought possible. As your first year is drawing to a close, we are so excited to see what the next one brings. We know you will achieve big things, and we have big dreams for you, my sweet boy. Just know no matter what, Mommy, Daddy, Sissy and Brother love you and will always be there for you. Reach for the stars, my dear, sweet Oliver, because they are yours for the taking. Together we got this. I love you.

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Originally published: February 22, 2017
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