Parenting is such a wonderful journey – one that is never easy but very pleasing. What about parenting a child with Down syndrome? Before we go any further, it is important to understand what Down syndrome is. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in extra genetic material from chromosome 21.” They further explain that “Down syndrome causes a distinct facial appearance, intellectual disability, developmental delays, and may be associated with thyroid or heart disease. Early intervention programs with a team of therapists and special educators who can treat each child’s specific situation are helpful in managing Down syndrome.”
When I first became a mother, I remember all the ways I worried about my child. I rarely left my newborn out of my sight after coming home from the hospital. I remember constantly checking my baby’s chest throughout those sleepless nights, to make sure he was still breathing and healthy. Can you imagine finding out that your child has Down syndrome? I would be completely overwhelmed and naïve to the situation because of my lack of knowledge and understanding. That parent is immediately asked to learn all this unexpected information on their child’s condition. That parent has to immediately jump into the special needs community for guidance, answers, and support. I can only imagine the state of worry in that parent’s most vulnerable state.
I believe that parents of children with Down syndrome are just as special as their children. They are brave and strong. They are required more resilience as they guide their child through life. The child will know the physical appearance will look different than other children. It most likely means more love and emotional support required from the parents. They are at higher risk for certain medical conditions. They may require more appointments with doctors, therapists, and educators. So, how amazing are those parents who choose to parent children with Down syndrome?
Heather Avis and her husband are parents to three adopted children. Two of those children have Down syndrome. She wrote a book called “The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places.” In her book, Avis details her journey of parenthood. She opens up her emotions about how she and her husband could not bear children, which ultimately led them to adoption. As they thought really hard about adopting a child with Down syndrome, they reached a conclusion. Heather wrote in her book, “That’s what it really came down to for us: in our hearts, we knew a baby with Down syndrome is a baby fearfully and wonderfully made. A baby in need of a family. A baby who wants to eat and sleep and snuggle. And while the world was telling us all the reasons we shouldn’t adopt such a baby, God was working in our hearts, whispering softly and gently, reminding us that he is greater than any of those items on the cons list.”
So they listened and adopted a child with Down syndrome. She shares the struggles and fear. She also shares why it was so absolutely worth it. You can sense how her experiences transformed her for the better. After a while, she learned that adopting a child with Down syndrome wasn’t anything to be afraid of at all. Heather Avis concludes her writing saying, “Not a whole lot of us choose to leave that path of easy, normal, and nice, the one covered in rose petals and lined with solar-powered lamps. But for those of us who do, we really and truly are the lucky few.”
Heather Mitchell courageously became a birth mother in 2014. She is inspired to personally share how open adoption has incredibly impacted her life. She shatters the common misconceptions about birth mothers, and desires to provide a beautiful and unique point of view. Heather enjoys her grind as an administrative specialist for a millwork company in Wisconsin. While dedicated to her profession, Heather believes her most important job in life is motherhood. Her three children keep her busy, yet extremely overjoyed and purposeful. Her free time is spent reading, writing, or admiring the view of Lake Michigan, which can be seen from her front porch.