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3 Reasons Why I'm Thankful for Down Syndrome

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If you had asked me four years ago what I was thankful for that Thanksgiving, Down syndrome would have been at the bottom of my list. To be honest, it wouldn’t have been on the list at all. I was a first-time mom, eight months pregnant with a newly diagnosed son with Down syndrome. I was grieving the child I thought I would have and reeling with the idea of being someone who would forever be labeled as a “special needs” parent. I thought I would never be an empty nester and always worry about things parents with “typical” children simply wouldn’t understand. I already had no idea what I was doing as a first-time parent and now I was in completely unknown territory.

Four years ago, I would have never put Down syndrome on my list of things I was thankful for, but this year it’s the thing I am thankful for most.

1. I am thankful for all that Down syndrome has done for me.

Being thankful for a disability might seem odd to some, but without it I would not be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have the amazing son I have, the life that I lead or all the things I have to look forward to. I look at my son and am genuinely thankful that he is exactly who he is. I am thankful for that 47th chromosome. Before Oliver, I didn’t know how to stand up for myself, let alone another person. Down syndrome taught me how to do that. I am stronger today than I ever thought was possible. I have learned to not only fight for my son, but all those who cannot fight for themselves. Down syndrome has given me a life of fulfillment, a life where I am making a difference, a life where Oliver and I can and change the world.

2. I am thankful Down syndrome has taught me patience.

I was not a patient person until Oliver. He has taught me to go with the flow of life, enjoy each moment for what it is and expect things to fall into place when it is their time. I have learned that it’ll take a little extra time to get there, but when we get there, it will feel like we’ve conquered Everest. I got to experience my son as a baby longer, hold him longer, feed him longer, he needed me just that much longer and I am so fortunate to have gotten those extra moments. I’ve heard other parents say they blink, and their child doesn’t need them anymore. Well, how fortunate am I that my son needs me a little longer.

We always worry when our “homies with extra chromies” will accomplish the tasks their peers have so easily dominated. We wonder if their day will ever come. But the worrying is for naught, and their day will come, and you will celebrate harder than you ever have before. I was worried for so long that my son would never walk. Month after month ticked by, it was impossible to not feel discouraged. But one day he walked just as simply as he crawled before that — and just as easy as he runs now. I got to watch his determination, his will power, his strength. I got to witness the pure joy in his eyes when he took his first steps knowing it was years in the making. I was lucky enough to be there for that. He is still nonverbal, and I am anxiously waiting for the day I get to witness him talk. It is no longer a worry of if but an exciting countdown of when.

3. I am thankful that Down syndrome taught me what unconditional love truly is.

I am thankful I have a son so full of kindness and love that every single person he touches can feel it. I am thankful that it has opened my eyes to a world unlike any other, a community stronger than any other, to a family I never knew I needed until they welcomed me with open arms. Down syndrome has given me lifelong friends, has given me the privilege to watch amazing children accomplish the impossible, to educate others and change their perspective for the better. It has challenged what I thought I knew and forced me to become a better person. It has taught me to not judge a book by its cover, to never count someone out, to believe in myself and others when the world says it can’t be done. It has taught me to push my limits of what I thought I could handle and to always, always keep fighting for what I feel is right.

Some might wonder how you can be thankful for a disability, to be so happy about something so many would choose to eliminate completely, how I could love the disability that sometimes makes my son struggle. But there is beauty and success in the struggle, there is  so much light in the darkness. I started this journey scared and discouraged, thinking that Down syndrome was something we were stuck with, instead of seeing it as the privilege it is. I wouldn’t change a single hair on my son’s head or a chromosome in is body.

This year I am thankful for the journey, no matter how slow it may be.

This year I am thankful for Down syndrome.

Originally published: November 21, 2018
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