Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear Mrs. Relf

I read your interview. Maybe I should congratulate you on becoming an internet sensation. Every time I look at social media, I see your face.


I understand the desire to have the perfect family. The soccer games, the parent-teacher conferences, the birthday parties, the white picket fence. Who doesn't want perfectly healthy and able-bodied human beings to pass on those family genes? I commend your wish, I really do.

You said not to judge you. You told people to walk a mile in your shoes...

You probably expect me to be angry. I was at first. You made me cry. You made my blood boil. You made me curse, and you probably don't want to know what I would've done if I had seen you on the street.

You see, Mrs. Relf, I've walked many, many miles in your shoes. Twice, in fact. My shoes switch from Down syndrome to cystic fibrosis throughout the day. They hurt, don't they? Those shoes are uncomfortable and ragged. Maybe not as fancy as you'd like. You'd rather have the sensible but beautiful ones, right?

I'm really sorry you think God gave you the wrong shoes.

I thought that at first, too.

I cried probably like you did 47 years ago when Stephen was born. Professionals told me he would be a burden; that he would never be like his peers. They said they were sorry and I bought it. They said the same thing about my daughter.

You believe you missed out on having an abortion. That, if you had it to do all over again, you would've ended Stephen's life.

The way I see it, Mrs. Relf, you made the same choice with or without the abortion.

For the last 47 years, you've chosen to ignore the beautiful aspects of Stephen.You labeled him like most of the world does. You bought into the lie that his life has no purpose. You've chosen to suffer through those uncomfortable shoes instead of picking up some glitter and Dr. Scholls insoles. Sure, it wasn't as easy as going to Planned Parenthood, but it could've been done.

That's the difference between you and me. My shoes are getting pretty comfortable now, but only because I've chosen to make them that way.

I'm not mad at you anymore. Actually, I wish I could meet you.

Maybe someday we can have coffee and talk about our shoes. You bring yours and I'll bring the cushion and glitter. It's not too late to make them a little more comfortable.

Jesus loves you and I do, too.

Give Stephen a hug. I bet he's really good at it.

Love,
Amber

Oh and P.S... Happy Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Angels

Today is October 1st. A day we welcome as the official beginning of Fall traditions, cooler weather and pumpkin spice everything. I didn't think much about Fall until we moved to Texas. In Florida, we have two seasons: hot and hotter. Though Texas is no Smoky-Mountain-rainbow-blanket when it comes to changing leaves, it's all I've experienced and it's quickly become my favorite time of year here.


October 1st also marks the first day of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. In lieu of that, here's what you need to know about DS:

  • Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.
  • There are three types of Down syndrome: trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) accounts for 95% of cases, translocation accounts for about 4% and mosaicism accounts for about 1%.   
  • Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.
  • There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.
  • Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.
  • The incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. But due to higher fertility rates in younger women, 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age.
  • People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.
  • A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.
  • Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades - from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.
  • People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.
  • All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses.
  • Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. (ndss.org)
The sad reality is that, though we've come a long way in studying and understanding in the last few decades, Down syndrome is still one of the top reasons a woman chooses to have an abortion. Though there are over 400,000 living with that extra chromosome, more than 90% of positive prenatal testing results in the termination of that child. Unfortunately, Down syndrome is viewed as a burden; something no one wants to deal with; something so drastically misunderstood that Doctors actually apologize when they tell you your child has been blessed with it. 
Don't get me wrong, it's not ever easy to hear something is medically wrong or different with your newborn baby, but my heart aches when I hear that mother's are actually in turmoil trying to decide whether or not to keep their chromosomally enhanced child. Though probably more prominent in other countries, America is not immune to children being left at the hospital or given up for adoption solely based on their diagnosis. 

I've been told of more newborn diagnoses in the last week than I have in Ben's lifetime. It's no mistake that the Lord is using my little guy to influence new Mama's struggling with those beginning feelings and early learning experiences. I mean, really...It's hard not to fall in love with Ben. 





If you're a new Mama reading this, welcome to Holland! You are loved. You are understood. You are not alone... and you are enough. I fully believe God gives us more than we can handle so we have no other choice but to lean on Him. Take it one day at a time. One day you'll think back on these early, grievous days and you'll chuckle. You'll be so in love with those almond eyes that you'll be convinced we should've all been born with them. 

All babies are a blessing, but babies who wear Designer Genes? 

They're proof that angels exist.