We found out at 12 weeks pregnant that we were having a baby girl with Down syndrome. Being a special education teacher, I was excited! We knew that having a child with special needs would bring challenges, but also great rewards. We also found out at that time that our sweet baby had a very complex heart defect. We knew it was going to be difficult, but we also knew we would do everything we could for her. Gracie was born in November of 2010 – beautiful and perfect, but with a fragile heart. She was so, so loved. She had 4 open heart surgeries – 2 in Minnesota and 2 in Boston and our baby girl’s heart was fixed! She grew and thrived, but was still fragile. When she caught a virus in the spring of 2012, her little body was just not strong enough to fight it off and she passed away.
We were absolutely devastated at the loss of our Amazing Gracie. Over time, though, we decided that we had so much love to give and Gracie had taught us so much, that we wanted to be parents to another child with Down syndrome.
We decided we were ready in 2013. We anxiously got our home study completed and got on the list to adopt a child with Down syndrome with NDSAN. We, along with 4 other families, were presented to a birth family right away as a possible adoptive family for their unborn child who had been diagnosed with Ds. We were sad when they chose another family, but we knew it would happen. Then we were presented again… and again… and again… We were chosen once, but the family decided to parent instead of placing their child. We were happy for them… and went back to waiting… In June of 2013, we got a call from Stephanie. We could tell from the tone of her voice, she had exciting news for us. She said,”Guys, this is your baby. I know this is your baby.” We were beyond excited. Olivia had been born and was waiting for us in Tennessee. We got the call at 2:00 in the afternoon on June 29 (while driving home from a family vacation!) and made the trip from Minnesota to Tennessee by the next evening. Our baby girl was waiting at the hospital for us!
Our Olivia is amazing and sweet and funny and so, so loved by everyone who knows her. We often times hear of families worrying about the effect a child with special needs will have on the other children in the family. Our older children absolutely adore Olivia. They fight over who gets to sit next to her or swing with her on the tire swing.
Our girls with Down syndrome have taught us so much. They have taught us to love so deeply. They have taught us to fight for what is right and to never doubt the power of a Mama bear or Papa bear when their cub needs them. They have taught us to be patient and that the best moments are the ones you have had to wait for and work hard to achieve. They have taught us to be creative – if the typical path is not working – find another one!
As a family, we are so, so thankful for what our girls with Down syndrome have brought to our lives. We feel very lucky!