Candace Chapman, Parent of a Down syndrome child
Down syndrome. Two words I honestly never thought would be part of our family, but let me tell you something, I can’t imagine our life any other way now. Having a child with Down syndrome or any disability can and does bring about a mix of emotions. You get the diagnosis and you try to process it, you are upset, you mourn the future you had envisioned, but then you feel the unbelievable love that your child has for you, it’s a love that is so big that it’s hard to describe.
For some reason people feel the need to apologize when they hear we have a child with Down syndrome, but they don’t understand what a beautiful life it really is. I always tell people that there is nothing to be sorry about. I honestly wouldn’t trade this life for anything.
Our lives are filled with doctor and therapy appointments, but watching your child work so hard on meeting milestones, seeing the determination to achieve them and excitement on their beautiful little faces when they do is one of the most amazing feelings in the world and is worth every minute that is spent at an appointment.
Every day is an adventure and is mostly filled with laughter and smiles. On tough days, I know that my child is there with their unconditional love, contagious laugh and beautiful smile to brighten my day.
Having a child with Down syndrome has taught us so much more about life than I ever could have imagined. It has taught us to appreciate the small things, not to take things for granted, to stop and smell the roses more. You realize that your child teaches you so much more about life than you could ever teach them. They teach you about kindness, love and acceptance.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine 24/7. We still have hard days. Days that we struggle and days that we just have a rough time. Honestly, though, the good days do outweigh the bad.
So, my advice to any new parent that receives an unexpected diagnosis: give yourself a few minutes to be upset, but don’t stay in that moment. Join a support groups, reach out to other parents, learn what you can and be your child’s biggest advocate. Then know that soon you will experience a love beyond anything you ever imagined. This love is unconditional and so pure. It will make you forget that you were ever upset in the beginning.
Since 2006, March 21 is recognized as World Down Syndrome Day. The 21st day of March signifies the genetic condition caused by an extra copy (three instead of two) of the 21st chromosome.
At The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, we have the largest team of physicians and genetic counselors in the region. We work with families to help identify genetic conditions in both adults and children of all ages and help them find the resources they need to reach their full potential. If you are interested in genetic services, please visit our website www.chofsa.org/genetics.