by Priscilla Kendrick
I heard about a pastor who always asks couples in his premarital counseling sessions, “What will you do if you have a baby with Down Syndrome?” Upon hearing the answers their prospective spouse makes, some of the couples break up. Before my marriage nearly 24 years ago my answer probably would have been riddled with uncertainty, doubt, fear, and hope that it would never happen. But now I have an answer.
Glenn Doman at his Institute for Brain-Injured Children in Pennsylvania told that when he was in the military they were trained to “Never leave the injured behind.” Over and over they were drilled on this and the reason is, “Because they are you and you are them and but for the grace of God you would be them.” And that’s why we don’t leave our injured behind.
In this world of the “me” generation, the thinking is that to be happy you must take care of yourself first and others only if it is convenient or if you want to. But the saddest, loneliest people are those that have succumbed to that philosophy. Look around you. Who are the happiest, most contented, most fulfilled people you know? We were created to love God and to love each other. One of the main keys to happiness in life is loving and caring for others. Love leads to contentment and fulfillment whereas a person who never loves is never contented nor fulfilled. As we age, the one who loves gets sweeter and better, yet it is quite the opposite for those who focus their lives on themselves. We talk about faith and hope and love—all important. The Bible says, “but the greatest of these is charity” or love.1
Every child is a gift of God no matter what the circumstances. God says, “Lo! Children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”2 God, who created us, gives us the basis for respecting life. God says further, “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed; but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”3
During the Bush-Gore debates, both candidates said they believed in the Golden Rule. The press was astonished. It astonished me that they were astonished! The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Can you imagine a world where it’s “dog-eat-dog” and no one treats anyone else as they would wish to be treated? Pretty basic stuff, when did we do away with it? If you were injured, how would you want to be treated? Would you want to be left behind?
My life changed from the instant (five minutes after birth) when I was told I had a son with Down Syndrome, and it was a change for the better. I am so thankful for all the good that is happening as a result of Evan being in our family. This article would be too long if I started to tell of all the good character qualities I see in Evan’s siblings and in myself and my husband—and as a direct result of him! The good things are immeasurable and indescribable—for instance, peace, joy, pride, love, trust, gratefulness, compassion, and a bigger appreciation for things that last forever instead of passing things. Our characters changed due to the experience of loving and caring for Evan.
I will admit though that there was a shock at first. I would look at him and think, “Down Syndrome.” But all I saw was a cute baby. I really didn’t see the Down Syndrome much. I did this over and over till I finally got over it. He was just a cute baby who needed his mommy and daddy and siblings, just like any other little baby.
And now, I wish you could see him. He is so cute, so happy, so loving and loveable. He’s full of empathy. If anyone cries, he gives them a hug, even if he’s the one who made them cry. He’s mischievous, ready to tease, determined, has plenty of backbone, knows what he wants and goes after it. He’s smart—yes, smart. We are constantly amazed. I do believe he’s smarter than the rest of us sometimes. His neurosurgeon, watching him play, called him “inquisitive.” The professionals describe him as “alert.” Oh yes, he’s also got a spark of temper at times but unless he’s extremely tired or hungry he is the most pleasant little guy you could ever have around. He loves to imitate us and others, loves to play outside, loves to go to his therapies, and tries pretty hard to please. One of the best things is when I’ve been gone for awhile. He gives me the biggest sunshiney smile I’ve ever seen to welcome me back. Can you tell I love him?
How does having Evan affect the rest of the family? His big sisters (ages 22 and 20) take him shopping and out to eat and love to show him off to their friends. They have always been proud of him. His big brother Jared (age 17; 6’3″) is his favorite next to Mom, I guess. If Jared walks past Evan, Evan thinks he should be picked up. Jared along with Brant and Nathan (ages 12 and 14) have taught him to wrestle and fight and watching them is so-o-o funny. Evan’s always been a fighter and it shows. And then there’s ten year old Gloria and the six year old identical twins, Violet and Valerie. They all love Evan and help me on his therapies and programs. He loves doing flashcards with the twins; he hands the card to whichever one gets it first. He’s got eight siblings ready to go to bat for him at any point in time, not to speak of his mom and dad. His dad loves him dearly and said from the first moment, “We can handle this. It’s okay.” Evan has only been good for our family. I can’t imagine life without him.
It may not always be easy. There may be bad times—but aren’t there bad times with any child? Actually the normalcy of Evan has always surprised me. He is so very normal. There may be times of sickness or surgery but isn’t this true of any of us? Evan has been about as healthy as his siblings since his open heart surgery at five months old. He started Targeted Nutritional Intervention at about that same time. Yes, it was a rough road before that but God saw us through and made the way easier.
I would have to say the ideal (and right) thing would be to plan on keeping your baby with Down syndrome if you have one. Love him, do everything possible for him, sacrifice time and money, and be willing to fight the world, if need be, so this child can have a good life. Isn’t that what you do for any child? You’ll always know you made the right choice. No guilt.
This child will need much more encouragement, work and therapies than others. In fact he needs every possible minute you can give him. But, doesn’t every child? It is rewarding, in his smile, his love, his—well just everything. In fact it is more rewarding than any job or position you will ever have anywhere else.
The old stereotypes about Down Syndrome are no longer the case. I’ve seen many with Down syndrome whom I never would have guessed had Down Syndrome. If you and your child work hard you can probably lead a nearly normal life and have accomplishments and goals in life like everyone else. The person with Down syndrome can have a very meaningful life and enrich other people’s lives greatly. College is a real possibility. I’ve met several who have gone and succeeded. And of course I would hope you investigate TNI (Targeted Nutritional Intervention) and also seek out all the other many things you can do to help your baby. One of the best ways to learn is the Down Syndrome email lists. Two of my favorites are the Einstein list and the DS-Nutrition list where things are positive and hopeful and helpful.
There is a saying, “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Is that really true? I think so. I realize that if we lost Even now the loss would be terrible, but not so terrible as never to have known and loved him at all.
There are many people who adopt kids with Down syndrome and they honestly feel like God has given them a special privilege to be allowed to raise such a precious child. It would never have occurred to me to do that till I had Evan, but now I think one of the nicest things in life would be a houseful of little Evan’s. Can you tell I really fell for him?
Love is a choice. So is life.
1). I Corinthians 13:13
2). Psalm 127:3
3). Psalm 127:4