By Danielle Gibbons
They say life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. I don’t know what exactly I had planned, but receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome (also known as Trisomy 21) certainly wasn’t part of any plan I had.
Fear of the unknown immediately consumed me, and my pregnancy went from being a joy and celebration I could share with those around me, to being a very dark and lonely time. We were grieving a dream we thought we lost. We were scared of what lay ahead. It seemed like something bigger than we could handle and that we were alone. But we took a leap of faith and believed that our son is exactly who he is meant to be and that being his mother is exactly who I am meant to be.
Our unexpected outcome has taught me to be an advocate for my son and all those differently abled. Our son has opened our eyes to the beauty in difference and that more often than not, we have more similarities with those around us than differences. Our experience also shed light on a medical system not well equipped to emotionally support new parents with receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis. To this day, you’re handed a brochure or a piece of paper that’s been photocopied a hundred times. Through this experience, our non-profit organization Baskets of Love Down Syndrome Support Societycame to be.
We believe new parents of a child with Down syndrome deserve more. New parents deserve to be loved and supported. They are welcoming or have just welcomed a child. A child worth celebrating. It wasn’t until we met other families of children with Down syndrome that we started to heal. A community rose around us and supported us in a way we desperately needed. It’s scary, yes, but everything is going to be okay and that little extra chromosome turns out to be a gift you never knew you wanted.
In the middle of the night on the day our son was born, when all was quiet and it was just the two of us, I vividly remember holding him whilst sitting in a wooden rocking chair too hard for my sore body. Tears flowing and falling on his just washed hair, I whispered promises to him. A promise that I will always be there for him. I will always be his momma bear, protector and advocate. I promised that he would always be mine and I would always be his. In that moment I saw his perfection. Every fibre of his being. Every chromosome. All of him. He lifts us in a way I could never properly describe and I’m so grateful that our outcome wasn’t what we were hoping for. It’s so much more.
There are times I struggle to believe that I am enough for him but with the heartaches there is so much more joy. So much love. There is no better combo. He has shown us that we never lost our dream. No one can ever tell you what your journey will look like. I wish I could put into words the moment when somewhere in the middle of all the therapies and appointments and frustrations that I knew I would never trade him for the world. That without his 47 chromosomes he wouldn’t be who he is and I couldn’t imagine our world without him.
It’s a remarkable phenomenon how far we’ve come since receiving our prenatal diagnosis when I was curled up in bed sobbing so hard I thought my head would explode. Today, I’m curled up in bed with him, soaking in his laugh and loving him so hard I think my heart might explode.