Today I’m interviewing my close friend Michelle. We have been friends for a long time and she has been an inspiration to me with her love for people and her love in action by intentionally adopting a child with Down Syndrome. You cannot be around her special son without smiling. He has been such a joy for our family to get to know. As a person who had a sibling with a disability, I admire the sacrifice and grace she handles with each challenge that comes with raising a child with special needs.
What is World Down Syndrome Day?
World Down Syndrome day is celebrated every year on March 21. With the symbolic meaning if 3/21 because children with DS have an extra 21st chromosome.
It is a day to bring awareness to others about Down syndrome. Things have improved so much over the years for children with Down syndrome and that is because society has learned to embrace the disability rather than turn away from it. There are so many more opportunities now for people with DS. They work jobs, live independently, get married amongst so many other things
How long had you known that you wanted to adopt a child with down syndrome?
Right out of high school I worked at an amazing place called Redwood. That is where I fell in love with a little boy by the name of Timmy. I remember thinking I would love to be the mother of a child with Down syndrome some day. When I met my husband we talked about our desire to have birth children but knew in our hearts we would love a child with Down syndrome.
Can you share how your son came into your life?
We became active with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati. They provide a national adoption network. Ray and I chose to sign up thinking it may take some time to be chosen. We got a call 4 weeks after we turned in our application. We met Micah’s birth mom and a week later he was born. We brought him home on October 6, 2011, 6 weeks after he was born and the adoption was official April 23, 2012.
What have you found to be the most challenging?
We really did not know what his health would be. Children with Down Syndrome can have many health issues. One major being a hole in their heart. Micah had a very small hole that actually closed up on his own. And he was also born partially deaf. Along with that they also told us he had a rare blood disorder. After seeing genetic doctors and ENT doctors all tests were rerun and all came back good. We believe lots of prayers and our faith were a huge part of this!!
Can you think of moments or experiences in your life that have helped prepare you to become a parent of a child with special needs?
I don’t think you can ever be totally prepared to parent a child with special needs. But God gives me the grace daily to handle what comes our way. Each day is a new experience with a new challenge. But we have learned you can only take it day by day. We have been told by many other parents of kids with special needs to treat them no different than a typical child. This is a work in progress for us.
How did your birth children respond to the adoption?
Micah has his two older siblings Mia and Maddox who have helped him developmentally excel. We always talked to them about adoption and we talked to them continually about how Micah may seem a little different to some. Seeing our kids and their love for all people now with disabilities has encouraged me so much. They are very protective of Micah and watch the kids at school with DS and how they are treated. They have come home many days sad because a student was mean or made fun of one of the kids with Down Syndrome. Their concern is always “will people be like that to Micah” we have taught them to be advocates for not only their brother but also all people with disabilities.
What do you wish others knew about your son?
I wish people could see the limitless joy in Micah’s life. How regardless of sickness or tiredness he always has a smile on his face. His smile is contagious. There is an innocence about him that touches my heart. Just the constant way he loves unconditionally. It inspires me. He is tender but stubborn. But he is determined and that strength and determination encourage me on a daily basis.
What are some misconceptions about children with Down Syndrome?
I wish society, in general, would not put limitations on individuals with DS. Years ago, parents were told to put their child in a home that they would never be able to do anything. Now thanks to education, technologies, and therapy, the future is bright for individuals with Down syndrome. Many still have stereotypes and biases that they struggle with regarding DS. And that is really just lack of education and lack of tolerance.
How can we help support someone who has a child with Down Syndrome?
I think as a community bringing awareness is vital. Over 90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted every year. There has to be a community for children with special needs to surround them and support. The best we can do is to surround these individuals with love and support. Imagine how much progress with all of us fighting and cheering them on and letting them know that we believe in them and that they are capable of living a life full of possibilities.
I hope this story inspires you today.
I’m also sharing this story about Tim. I LOVE that he is living his dream and it challenges all of us not to put limits on anyone’s dream.
You can find out more about World Down Syndrome Day from their website.