31 March 2012


Insomnia is my least favorite part about post-partum depression. It is also the part that is sticking around the longest; the part that doesn't leave even though most of the other symptoms have slowly but surely faded away into oblivion. I am exhausted. But not sleeping.

Sometimes I feel like life is one step forward, two steps back. Blogs are not journals, so I don't think this is the right forum for spilling my tired guts at 12:23am, most of them probably sleep induced and not accurate descriptions of how I feel, especially once I am refreshed and alert. Let's focus on the good. I'm loosing weight. I have three free, trustworthy babysitters, all ready and eager to watch Abigail at a moment's notice, and my husband loves me. Now for a compilation of happy baby photos.

Phew, I feel better already.

28 March 2012

REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle

Matt often reminds me that the first step to financial fitness (and saving the environment) is reducing. Before you recycle, or buy recycled, before you pay more for a shirt manufactured in America, stop buying. Many a times have I perused the grocery store, checking things off my list, and adding up totals in the right-hand margin only to realize that I hit my $80 (every two weeks) limit of food money and we are just going to go without Greek yogurt or swap a box of cereal for a dozen eggs this time. It amazes me how long makeup lasts when you wait until you actually run out of blush to buy more. Matt and I also have this competition to be the one who doesn't throw out the toothpaste, so we squeeze and squeeze that tube to get every last iota out, sometimes giving us as much as 5 extra days before we need more. I am continually surprised at how much I don't miss frozen or boxed dinners (okay, except frozen pizza). I can't believe how salty or dry those foods taste. We're eating healthier on this "inexpensive foods" diet, lots of eggs and veggie-based meals ($6 for a 3.5 lb bag of frozen broccoli at my local grocer. Do you know how long 3.5 lbs of broccoli lasts?) plus we're consuming less so we're helping the environment. These are the things I tell myself when I put the ground beef back to wait for a sale.

I don't know what life will be like once we finally have that first paycheck in hand. On one hand, Matt's one year fellowship does not have benefits, so we're going to have to buy our own health insurance (again! It will be the fourth year, only this time we won't be eligible for any student health insurance plans), plus we've got law school debt, medical bills, and the high cost-of-living of a big city. On the other hand, we'll finally have a real income. More money than either of us has ever made before. If I can keep working part time, maybe keep some Florida clients, maybe pick up some Chicago ones, we'll get those debts paid off in no time! Maybe we can add just $20 to the every-two-weeks food budget. I feel almost drunk when I think about how much more I could buy with $20 extra.

Sometimes I hear people say things like, "I enjoy cutting coupons!" or "Even if we made $100,000/year, I'd still buy Suave shampoo!" I just smile politely, but I really think they're smoking some serious shit. If we make $100,000/year, I definitely believe I'll be keeping my Target dollar bin addiction, but you can sure as hell bet I'll stop worry about saving $.50 off my laundry detergent.

I'm one of those people who doesn't want a big house or a condo on the beach. I want enough money to feel comfortable, take care of Abigail for the rest of her life, should she need it, and take the yearly guilt-free vacation. I want to stop tallying my totals in the margins of my shopping list and worrying about whether or not my insurance is going to deny us if I take Abigail to the doctor for a cold. Dreams, dreams dreams. In the meantime, I fill my spare time by reading books like The Total Money Makeover and The Millionaire Next Door. Cause if this girl ever earns herself some real cash, she's learned enough these last few years to know how to save it wisely.

Anyway, as previously promised, the swimsuit pictures:

26 March 2012


Remember that whole marrow-sucking I was hoping to do before we moved? Well, the Florida weather decided to cooperate with me and it has been truly paradise down here lately, especially today. Matt and I used to be regulars at the pool until we had Abigail, but because she loves bathtime so much, I thought she might enjoy the pool, so I hit up a used clothing store down here and picked up a swim suit for Abigail

She is so stinking cute in this, I can't get over it. I will get a picture of her in this. And soon. As a result, this is what my porch looked like nearly ever day last week:

Notice that big pink and orange contraption on top of the tarp? That would be Abigail's pool floaty. The mere sight of it inspires smiles and claps. She loves the pool. No, love is an understatement. Shakespearean love sonnets don't even come close. I don't think a strong enough word exists to express Abigail's love of water.

We've also started biking again, something Matt and I used to do all the time before law school. We had some money leftover after our honeymoon, so we decided to buy some mountain bikes. When we moved to Florida (where there are significantly less biking trails), we switched out our tires for half road, half trail tires. Anyway, yet another thing we haven't done since Little Miss was born but rediscovered last week.

It is amazing how much longer the day feels when I actually get my lazy butt up in the morning and do something physically active.

Abigail loves it. She just plays in there with her toys as if she was sitting at home playing with her toys.

I've been saving up for the trailer since Christmas, tucking away bits of gift money, free-spending money (the minutia we budget for ourselves to buy candy bars, lip gloss, etc), random windfalls that come our way. In the meantime, I researched. Researched bike trailers vs. bike seats, double vs. single trailers, helmets, tires, safety features. When I found a price/safety balance I was comfortable with, Abigail got old enough, and I had enough money saved up, I went on a bike accessory blitz. Trailer, safety flag, helmet, and new water bottle cage for my bike. I am okay with sinking money into my bike because I am hoping to turn it into my main source of transportation in Chicago. I made a whole Amazon wishlist of stuff, including a handlebar basket (which may get swapped out for saddle bags, I'm still deciding), blinking lights, lock, side mirror, kickstand, fenders, and pocket rocket tire pump. I also want to learn how to repair my own bike, then I'll add a pocket repair kit to the list.
(Above: Matt's bike. Below: My bike) We headed out for a few adventures over the weekend, biking up to a Walgreens on Friday and scoring some Gatorade. Oh yeah, we go big.

Biking made me realize that 5k training or not, I'm wicked out of shape.

Our excursions usually occur on days when Matt doesn't have many classes or a lot of reading for class, but the closer we get to finals, the more I'll be venturing out alone. Other fun activities include watching it rain:

which is a big deal because we're in the dry season down here, and if my memory serves me, this dry season has been wetter than last year's.

And hanging out on the lanai:

We were pretty busy last week with fun things, including attending talks about balancing responsibilities as a Catholic mother and keeping the family strong with a law career, play dates, pool party bbqs, and meetings for extracurriculars for Matt. The trend will continue through this week, with more play dates and baby sign language classes but I am enjoying the busyness, meeting new people, loosing weight, and just feeling good about myself in general. The stress comes in when I try to plan things around naptime, wean Abigail from her pacifier, figure out just how on earth to get a baby to take s sippy cup, and work in all those baby up-keeps. It's a balance, it's all a careful quest to find the middle between restful time at home, fun time in out in the world, and work time, both in the money-making and the home-keeping departments. Even though we have rough days, trends are on the upswing and I am really loving my life and loving the changes I see in myself. The post-partum crashes are fewer and with more time in between and I don't crash as hard when they do come. Most exciting of all is a decrease in my anxiety, even with the pending moves and job changes. Focus on the good. Surround myself with support during the bad. And listen to empowering music.
* * * * *

I'd now like to take a moment to brag about my baby's latest accomplishments : )

A physical therapist (pt - Sophia) comes to our house once a week for an hour to work with Abigail. There are a lot of options, including going to a clinic for 30 minute three times a week, but each person has to decide what works best for them. Typically in a clinic session, the parents are not involved in therapy, but with the pt in our house, I sit in on all the sessions and ask lots of questions. I then have the ability to work with Abigail on my own and to tailor our play time to encourage her to develop the muscles I know Sophia is working. Well anyway, my baby, as Sophia puts it, is "very motivated to move." She's not a very sit-on-the-sidelines-and-watch kinda girl like her momma. That's why we call her Little Baby Move 'N Grove. When Sophia teaches her a new move, Abigail struggles all week to get it (the perfectionism she does get from her momma). Usually I'm super stoked for Abigail to learn new things because after 9 months of a baby who couldn't sit on her own, I was dying for the ability to set her down and even just wash the dishes. But her latest advancement comes with advantages and disadvantages.

First we start out sitting nicely in one direction:

Then we do a side-sit (check out the legs):

Followed promptly by a rotation using the obliques combined with a pull up to a kneeling position:
And cue success!

Which brings me to Abigail's other new advancement: blogging:
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There is a shortcut on my keyboard to open iTunes. I have no idea what it is. Abigail finds it every time she gets to my computer before I do.

And we can even use our new talent to face a different direction all without picking our butt up off the ground:

which brings me to yet another new development: the demand for applause every time we do something successfully.

Her emerging to rotate and pull herself up means that she is no longer content to sit still. But since she isn't strong enough to quite get going herself, she needs constant attendance and support and she gets frustrated easily. But at the end of the day when I'm telling Matt what we did, I realize how many good memories I have in that time.

Oh baby girl, what does your future hold? Your blue eyes speckled with white flecks take in the world and your tiny hands learn how to manipulate it. You are so strong and never satisfied; you are driven. I pity the fool who bets against you.

23 March 2012


Wednesday was Down Syndrome Awareness Day (March 21, or, 3/21 because Down syndrome is 3 copies of the 21st chromosome), and to spread awareness, I want to blog each day this week about a different topic relating to Down syndrome.

Please consider making a donation to the National Down Syndrome Society. If you make a donation and email me at journey.narrative@yahoo.com and let me know, I will give you free ad space on my blog for your Etsy shop, or your blog, or magazine, or whatever you'd like to advertise! The options are endless, so donate and email me!
* * * * *

All that is needed for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing.

This world that we live in is actively attacking people with Down syndrome and while I will always witness to those people, hoping one day for their conversion, my goal is to reach those people who are just standing by watching because they don't know what to say or they don't want to say anything.

I am not normally a confrontational kind of person, and I usually try to avoid hot-button topics on my blog. But every time I avoid an opportunity to teach society how to love Abigail, I am filled with a bitter self-loathing and a resolve to do better next time.

There are so many efforts to promote awareness in our world that one begins to wonder what they are going to do with their newly aware mind. So this is what I hope you do with your awareness:

5. I hope that when you encounter another child or adult with a disability, you treat them exactly like you would any other individual.
4. I hope you remove the word "retarded" from your own vocabulary.
3. I hope when you hear people say the word "retarded" in society, you point it out. I like to tell people, "Hey now, there's a difference between being stupid and being mentally delayed, let's make sure we know what it is."
2. I hope that when awareness days come around, you aren't afraid to update your Facebook status, or send an email, or spark a conversation even if it you risk being scoffed or worse.
1. I hope that when someone confides in you that they want to have an abortion because their baby has Down syndrome, you tell them that there is a 99% chance her baby will grow up and love their life.

While Abigail's Down syndrome has brought additional struggles and demanded additional sacrifices on our life, I hope I have never given the impression that she isn't worth it. Just like any other parent, I would do anything to get rid of all the additional difficulties she'll endure, but I would never want to get rid of Abigail.

We are winding down to the close of a very, very good week. I am so incredibly touched at how many people have supported my daughter this week by supporting the National Down Syndrome Society, by sharing my blog posts on Facebook, and by commenting, both on the blog and via email. On Wednesday, my blog saw the second most activity it has seen to date in terms of page views. I can honestly say that I cried on at least one occasion and teared up several other times. It was a good week.

There isn't much time left for normalcy before I move into full-fledged packing zone. 7 weeks until graduation, 4.5 months until Chicago. I am going to fill these last few weeks to the brim with trips to the beach, play dates, bike rides (someone, not mentioning any names, bought a bike trailer that is scheduled to arrive any day now!) and site seeing. I wanna suck the marrow outta this town before the "Florida" chapter of my life closes and I can no longer say I live three miles from the Gulf of Mexico, as the crow flies.

22 March 2012


Yesterday was Down Syndrome Awareness Day (March 21, or, 3/21 because Down syndrome is 3 copies of the 21st chromosome), and to spread awareness, I want to blog each day this week about a different topic relating to Down syndrome.

Please consider making a donation to the National Down Syndrome Society. If you make a donation and email me at journey.narrative@yahoo.com and let me know, I will give you free ad space on my blog for your Etsy shop, or your blog, or magazine, or whatever you'd like to advertise! The options are endless, so donate and email me!
* * * * *

We live in a world that actively attacks people with Down syndrome. Search-and-destroy kind of attack.

The biggest, most powerful attack comes in the form of abortion. Upwards of 90% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted, both in America and in the world. That means that less than 1 in every 10 babies with Down syndrome survives to birth. By their mommy's choice.

-Denmark is pushing to be "Down syndrome free" by 2030.-It is the American Academy of Pediatrics prenatal visit guideline #6 for doctors to discuss abortion with their pregnant patients.
-Doctors too often treat Down syndrome like a terminal illness (cite #1, #2, and #3)

It probably doesn't come as a surprise to my blog readers that I am staunchly pro-life. I make no secret of my Catholicism, I talk openly about my deepening prayer life, and my husband attends Ave Maria School of Law. I am one of those no-holds-barred kind of pro-lifers who doesn't believe in the death penalty, doesn't believe in abortion in cases of rape or incest, and who doesn't use artificial birth control. (Nearly four years of marriage, one kid, zero unplanned pregnancies means I'm living proof that Natural Family Planning is a legitimate form of spacing out kids).

Let's start with my premises. After all, we can't hammer out the details without spelling out the premise. First premise: I believe that life starts at conception. Sperm touches egg and BAM! body and soul right there in a teeny tiny itty bitty person. Second premise: all men (people) are created equal. Me and a few other people share this idea. So, if life starts at conception and all people are created equal, then a 15 week old fetus is just as alive and worthy of life as a 15 year old kid.

When you're operating under these premises, it is easy to understand why I think abortion is always wrong. If everyone accepted my premises, then everyone would argue for an end to abortions of people with Down syndrome. So, let's assume for the sake of argument that my premises are wrong.

Let's suspend my premise that life begins at conception. Pick any "life begins" date. Life could begin once the baby can be sustained outside of the womb (although now one has to admit that the definition of when life begins changes as medical technology advances). Life could being once the umbilical cord is cut. Not life, snip, life. Hell, for the sake of argument, your child could not be considered to have life until s/he turns 18 (now we can reverse child labor laws because who cares about laboring a being that is not yet life?). I'm going to use the term Life Potential to stand for the time prior to whatever age we decide to begin life. So now that we've just got a Life Potential with Down syndrome, what is the harm in doing away with it? Let's look at motivation. Below are a list of reasons for aborting a Life Potential with Down syndrome that I have come across in research or have heard people argue.

1. People with Down syndrome lead sub-par lives full of pain and suffering / I don't want to bring a child into this world whose life would be more difficult / I wouldn't want to live like that.

2. People with Down syndrome are a burden on the tax payer / People with Down syndrome are a burden on their parents and siblings.

3. I couldn't handle that / I'm not strong enough to handle that

We've previously discussed the statistics that prove that people with Down syndrome feel fulfilled in their lives and like themselves. This easily wipes out argument 1. That same study also proved that families love the person in their lives with Down syndrome, which means that either that person is not a burden or the sacrifice/reward balance is more reward than sacrifice. Some people with Down syndrome do hold jobs, pay taxes, and make contributions to society or are dependent on their families who hold jobs and pay taxes. Yes, some are dependent on the state. But if we decide to wipe out all Life Potentials that are dependent on the state to prevent them from being Lives who are dependent on the state, we are saying that the most important value life has is its financial contributions (see below for more detail). Anyone with a sick relative or permanently injured friend would certainly be able to point out many ways in which a life has great value outside of an economic one. And as we can see in this most recent economic downturn, millions of people lost their financial value and became huge burdens on the state (country) pushing us to a climax of budgetary stalemate that has yet to be decided. We can't honestly say that someone potentially being a burden on the government makes them valueless unless we want to declare millions of already existing Lives valueless. Adios argument 2. Argument number 3 is my favorite because I didn't think I could have handled it either. But if your Life Potential is allowed to be born, you will call your Life Potential your child, and if anything ever happens to your child, you handle it. You figure it out, and you handle it. Whether it's a big deal like a car accident that leaves your 16-year-old paralyzed from the neck down or it's less traumatic like your 5-year-old is diagnosed with asthma and can never play soccer. And before you know it, you've gotten a whole lot stronger and it isn't a big deal anymore. It's a lot scarier from the outside than it is from the inside.

So if your Life Potential will be happy, lead a fulfilled life, bring love and fulfillment to their family, and make you a stronger person, what makes it different from a Life Potential with 46 chromosomes?

Let's now suspend the second premise, that all life is created equal. If some lives are worth more than others, how to we determine the value? Should it be based on physical strength? Academic intellect? Age? Economic resources? Contributions to the greater good by age 25? Bloodline? Opinion of the majority? If not all life is equal, we have to begin the overwhelming task of sorting and labeling the levels of worthiness on an objective scale. What happens if a young, good looking, wealthy individual unexpectedly suffers a stroke and is left with permanent brain damage? Does his life-value then diminish?

Let's pretend for a moment that we are able to create a system of life-value determination that allows us to decide which lives are not worthy of living. It has been done before, did you know the Nazis made such a determination? It is easy to say that all Life Potentials who are determined to have a life-value of less than X should be terminated with these premises. But what do we do with those whose life-value decreases once they are officially people? It isn't really fair to say that this Life Potential can't become a person because s/he will have a low life-value, but allow a person to live who has the exact same life-value. This train of thought is headed down a very, very slippery slope.

Without even talking about abortion on a wide-spread basis, to say that mother should be able to abort her baby with Down syndrome because life will be harder for either their baby or herself is just plain foolish. Future suffering does not permit current death. Who knows what kinds of tragedies can befall a child with 46 chromosomes? Autism, cancer, accident, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder. Suffering is not a sure-fire ticket to a miserable life. All children and all people suffer, but are all children and all people miserable?

No. And 99% of all Life Potentials with Down syndrome grow up to be happy.

It is impossible to get to know a special needs child and not realize how much of a full, true person they are. It is so obvious to us in the special needs community that it feels a bit odd to suggest otherwise. Abigail not an equal person? Um, yes she is. Blue eyes, ten fingers, ten toes. Reddish hair, a love of butterflies, and stuffed animals. Likes applesauce, doesn't really like green beans. Loves playing in the water, thinks kitties are way fun. Abigail is a full life with great value.

21 March 2012

In A Good Way

Today is Down Syndrome Awareness Day (March 21, or, 3/21 because Down syndrome is 3 copies of the 21st chromosome), and to spread awareness, I want to blog each day this week about a different topic relating to Down syndrome.

Please consider making a donation to the National Down Syndrome Society. If you make a donation and email me at journey.narrative@yahoo.com and let me know, I will give you free ad space on my blog for your Etsy shop, or your blog, or magazine, or whatever you'd like to advertise! The options are endless, so donate and email me!
* * * * *

This last year has been the most emotional year of my entire life. It started very dramatically about a year ago, in March 2011, when I was 20 weeks pregnant. We were just at a standard appointment, having a standard ultrasound. We were sent around from specialist to specialist. We were subjected to expensive test after expensive test. We went through several diagnoses. At one point, I decided to buy a baby book because we weren’t sure if our baby was going to live, and I wanted to be sure to record everything so we would be able to remember it should the worst happen. Nearly ten weeks after that first fateful appointment did we finally get an answer: our baby had five congenital heart defects.

On May 18, 2011, I had been in labor for several hours when suddenly our baby’s heart rate plummeted and I was rushed to the operating room for an emergency cesarean section. Abigail Claire was born at 5:43pm, pink and with a safe heart rate. The doctors ran several tests on her heart before bundling her up and sending her to the neonatal intensive care unit, where she remained for three days before we were finally permitted to leave the hospital.

Those three days set the stage for a very traumatic and intense ride. Although initially told in utero that out baby did not have Down syndrome, while I laid in recovery waiting for the anesthesia to wear off and feeling to return to my legs, Matt brought me pictures of Abigail, and instantly I knew something was wrong. I remember wondering why the back of her head was so flat. Why her eyes didn’t look quite right. Hoping that maybe all newborns looked like this.

Finally after three hours, I regained the ability to wiggle my toes and the nurses agreed to wheel me down to the NICU. When we arrived and I peered into her little isolate, the world’s most annoying nurse was busy irritating my little girl, messing with her cords and wires and putting her in an ugly, fuzzy, purple hat. I think I maybe uttered two words and touch her head and she instantly calmed right down. Just like that, she knew who I was. I didn’t recognize this little pseudo-stranger who had spent nine months laying on my bladder and turning my insides into pulp with her little feet, but she knew me, my smell, my sound, my touch.

As I sat there holding my baby, I felt more and more torn about her not-quite-right appearance. The words Down syndrome began creeping into my thoughts. When I got back to my room, I stared at myself in the mirror and tried to find the skin folds around my eyes. I tried to convince myself that her ears weren’t too low and that her face just had that normal newborn look. The next day, a few nurses pulled Matt and I aside. They explained to us that they thought she might have Down syndrome, that her features looked “Downsy.” I at once felt relief that my suspicious were being addressed and apprehension because I had no idea what Down syndrome entailed.

The old cliché that having a baby changes everything is completely true. It is also true that having a child with special needs changes everything as well. I can’t separate the changes of having a baby from the changes of having a baby with Down syndrome. I don’t know what our future or Abigail’s future will be like. I don’t know what she’ll be capable of or what kind of hardships even this next year will bring.

But when I hold her in my arms, I am so thankful that we made all the sacrifices we did to get here. When she smiles at me, I am amazed that I can feel as deep and instinctual a love for another human being as I feel for Abigail, and I have never felt so trusted and so needed as when she falls asleep on my shoulder. This year has contained this darkest most depressing days of my life, but I would live through them all every year for the rest of my life if it meant giving life to this little girl. She makes this last year the best year of my entire life because it is the year that brought me her.

We all experience hardships; ours come in the form of an additional chromosome. I pity those who pity us because of that little “+21” that shows up in her bloodwork because I know that on May 18, 2011, our lives changed for the better.

I know that any struggle we endure or sacrifice we make will not take away from the countless blessings that have been gifted to us. I know that open-heart surgery will never take away from the joy of hearing Abigail laugh when I give her a big, loud kiss on her chubby cheek. I know that three days in the NICU will never make her excitement at learning how to sit up on her own any less triumphant.

I don't want to mark my life by the difficult times, but by the happy ones. And trust me, on May 18, 2011, they started rolling in faster than the trying ones.

20 March 2012

The R-Word

Tomorrow is Down Syndrome Awareness Day (March 21, or, 3/21 because Down syndrome is 3 copies of the 21st chromosome), and to spread awareness, I want to blog each day this week about a different topic relating to Down syndrome.

Please consider making a donation to the National Down Syndrome Society. If you make a donation and email me at journey.narrative@yahoo.com and let me know, I will give you free ad space on my blog for your Etsy shop, or your blog, or magazine, or whatever you'd like to advertise! The options are endless, so donate and email me!
* * * * *

Did you know there is an r-word? Before recently, neither did I. But it's a big deal.


That's the r-word. How many times a day do we use it? That idea is so retarded. I can't believe she just did that, she is so retarded. When you do that, you look retarded.

But do you know what it actually means? It is a term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning. Abigail is retarded, both mentally and physically. Just look at her medical records. But how do people actually use it? If we stopped to think for a second about what we are saying, we'd realize how incredibly cruel it is.

Just find some synonyms for the word retarded in these sentences:
That idea is so retarded. Mindless, valueless, a waste.
I can't believe she just did that, she is so retarded.
Idiotic, dumb, ridiculous.
When you do that, you look retarded.
Stupid, senseless, foolish.

So when we throw around the r-word, we are saying that the only characteristics, or at the very least, the most notable characteristics, about the intellectually disabled are that they are mindless, valueless, a waste, idiotic, dumb, and ridiculous. When I hear people say the r-word, Abigail's face flashes into my mind. And she is not stupid, senseless, nor foolish. And whether or not we mean to say that, that is exactly what we are saying when we toss around the r-word.

So pledge to take derogatory slang words out of your vocabulary. Because when you don't, you're calling Abigail names.

19 March 2012

Only The Facts

This Wednesday is Down Syndrome Awareness Day (March 21, or, 3/21 because Down syndrome is 3 copies of the 21st chromosome), and to spread awareness, I want to blog each day this week about a different topic relating to Down syndrome. I have been thinking about these posts and storing up these ideas for more than a month now! I am excited to start by unleashing some "Truths About Down Syndrome" and breaking up some stereotypes.

Please consider making a donation to the National Down Syndrome Society. If you make a donation and email me at journey.narrative (at) yahoo.com and let me know, I will give you free ad space on my blog for your Etsy shop, or your blog, or magazine, or whatever you'd like to advertise so long as it is not morally objectionable. The options are endless, so donate now and email me!
* * * * *

I don't remember what I thought about Down syndrome before I found out Abigail had it. I had briefly met a few people who had it, but I don't really remember what I thought about them or what stereotypes I had. I remember not knowing how to interact with anyone with a mental disability of any sort. I don't remember thinking about them as people or wondering what their lives were like. Whether society is like I was and simply uneducated or whether they actively believe falsehoods, I want to spread the truth. Stereotypes can only be banished by truths. Here are the facts:

Dr. Brian Skotko's Study
"3,150 mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and people with Down syndrome" were surveyed and results showed that

99% of people with Down syndrome said they were happy with their lives and
97% of people with Down syndrome liked who they are and
86% of people with Down Syndrome indicated they could make friends easily

97% liked who they are? Nearly everyone was happy with their lives? Find me those statistics in the general population. These statistics clearly show that 99% of people with Down syndrome are leading happy, fulfilling lives. This flies in the face of a stereotype I have seen quite a bit of since entering this community - the idea that Down syndrome will leave your child a bumbling idiot. FALSEHOOD! And we have proof.

Dr. Skotko also surveyed family members of people with Down syndrome. Results showed that

99% of parents said they love their child with Down syndrome and
97% of siblings, ages 9-11, said they love their sibling and
88% of siblings ages 12+ said they felt they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome

99% of parents do not think of their special needs child as a burden; I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly don't love my burdens. At the very least, these parents consider the sacrifice/reward balance to be more reward than sacrifice. And 97% of siblings feel the same way. They don't feel like they are missing out or loosing out on opportunities because their parents have to divert more resources to their special needs sibling. I can't speak for all children ages 9-11, but those I know certainly aren't bashful at pointing out how much they detest things being unfair. Having a child with Down syndrome will at the very least enrich the family as much as one with 46 chromosomes. 88% of the time, they actually make things even better.

Dr. Skotko's study is heavily cited in the special needs community, I think in part because of how many arguments it instantly overturns.

Stereotype: Having a special needs child places an undue burden on the family.
Fact: 99% of parents and 97% of siblings either don't have an undue burden or at the very least get more joy than pain out of their "burden."

Stereotype: Special needs persons cannot live meaningful and even happy lives.
Fact: 99% do. Only 1% of people with Down syndrome do not live a meaningful and happy life.

As more therapies and resources are given to people with Down syndrome at earlier ages, life expectancies are increasing, doubling between 1987 and 2002. That means that babies born with Down syndrome in the same decade as I was live half as long as babies born with Down syndrome in the same decade as I gave birth in. It is more likely that Abigail will out live Matt and I now that it ever was before.

As more therapies and resources are given to people with Down syndrome at earlier ages, marriage rates are increasing. As are college graduation rates. It's rare, yes, but it is happening as more and more as programs spring up that recognize the worth of people with disabilities and strive to help them succeed.

Cancer rates (excluding leukemia) and chances of developing a tumor are less common in people with Down syndrome.

The amount of misinformation about Down syndrome that doctors give to expectant mothers is disgusting and the way that our society attacks those with disabilities is horrific, as I'll show in upcoming posts this week. I am going to fight to give people the truth about people with Down syndrome - that they are happy and productive members of society and loved by their families, just like most people in the world! -  because I am determined to build in this world a place that loves, accepts, and includes my daughter despite her one extra chromosome.

Because Abigail is worth it.