Considering my ‘advanced maternal age’ and the length of my unborn son’s femurs, those were the odds of Parker being born with Down syndrome.
“Odds good enough to take to Vegas,” my OB tried to reassure me with.
I knew differently. I’d known it all along, which was why only Reed and I went to the five month ultrasound appointment, where I was certain we’d be given a heads up on the secret this little one inside of me had been hiding.
Several Level 2 Ultrasounds later, we told our other kids of the chance that their little brother would be born with Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21. My kids were familiar with the term as the oldest ones had worked in school as Peer Tutors, each of them loving the experience.
It didn’t take long before my oldest son Brant came to me and said that all the kids had talked about it, and it didn’t matter to them if Parker had Down syndrome, they would love him and take care of him and always be there for them.*
I’ll forever remember that moment as one of my favorites.
My water broke six weeks early. As I walked into the birthing room I made it very clear that a baby with an extra chromosome was about to be born and I only wanted people who would truly welcome a baby with Down syndrome to attend me.
“He doesn’t have a Simian Crease,” one nurse told me. “He doesn’t look like he has Down syndrome,” another nurse said.
My OB asked me if I thought it looked as though Parker had Down syndrome. When I replied that I did indeed think Parker had Ds, the he pulled out a picture of his beautiful little girl. He told me she had Anglemen’s syndrome. Through tears he told me of the beauty and love she had brought into his life and how thankful he was to be her father.
It’s been almost eight years since Parker’s birth. We’ve been through ostomy bags, chronic lung disease, Pulmonary Hypertension levels so high he wasn’t expected to see the end of his first year, asthma, holes in his heart, ulcerative colitis, hearing loss, and other issues. He has a g-tube, trach and needs oxygen 24/7. I’ve lost count of the surgeries he’s been through.
Still we consider this littlest of Hodsons to be utterly perfect.
If only the world could see what we do. A kid more like theirs than not. Of course there are differences. Parker doesn’t talk. He learns at a slower pace than his typical peers. What comes naturally for most kids comes only after great effort for my son. Yet Parker loves to be included just like any other kid. He loves birthday parties, playing outside, any game that includes a ball, and watching sports with his Dad.
Kids with special needs and their families don’t want pity or platitudes.
They want acceptance. They want to be included in the community the same way other kids are. They want to play T-ball. Take dance classes. Sit next to their typical peers in typical classrooms. They want to be respected and to have the opportunity to contribute to society in their own unique ways.
Is that really too much to ask?
October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
Encourage your child to make friends with the kid with Down syndrome, invite him to play dates and birthdays. Not only will my child’s life be enriched, so will yours.
Acceptance takes a village. The opportunity to set the standard is yours. With a simple act of acceptance you can change the world for the better. Parker, and countless kids just like him, are counting on you.
* It wouldn’t be until years later that I would learn that the divorce rate among families with a child who has Down syndrome is lower than the divorce rate among families with children with no identified disability. According to a study put out by Dr. Brian Skotko, among siblings ages 12 and older, 97% expressed feelings of pride about their brother/sister with DS and 88% were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with DS.