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More Normal Than Not

I would like to introduce and welcome the beautiful and talented Amanda Savage, my wife, as my guest blogger today. As we near the end of October and Down syndrome awareness month, I am pleased to pass along her thoughts and wisdom as she is the best mom I know. Enjoy! --Andy

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"More normal than not..."

These words echoed through my hospital room during the first days after my second child, Cooper, was born. And let me tell you, I wasn’t buying it, not one bit! What we had suspected since the middle of my pregnancy had just been confirmed; our newborn baby had “regular ole Trisomy 21” (also known as Down syndrome) as our geneticist would later tell me. We were devastated and incredibly naive.

It all started “that day,” the day I ventured to the perinatalogist (a specialist for high risk pregnancies) all by myself.  My OB had sent me to him because of some fluid they saw around the baby’s heart on an ultrasound; however, my sweet doctor told me it was really no big deal. They just wanted another set of eyes on this baby. So, I went on my own to see the specialist (note to self, never visit a specialist alone). After an incredibly long ultrasound and answering questions about family history of mental retardation, I was finally ushered into the doctor’s office. With the compassion of a dull, rusty razorblade, the doctor delivered this pronouncement, “Based on X, Y and Z there is a 1 in 300 chance your baby has Down syndrome. You need to have an amniocenteses. There is a 1 in 200 chance of miscarriage with an amniocenteses.” WHAT?!?  Did you catch that I was alone with Dr. No Personality?  I quickly did the math, and since I had miscarried a few months earlier, I was unwilling to take the greater risk for the lesser risk. I declined the amnio, got out as quickly as possible, called my husband, Andy, and was promptly overcome with raw emotion!

I knew NOTHING about Down syndrome. I didn’t know anyone who had Down syndrome. I had a friend in college who had a little brother who had DS, but I’d never met him. I remember picking my other son, Drew, up from preschool, coming home and sitting in the playroom watching him play. All I could do was cry as I kept thinking about the fact that my second child wouldn’t be able to come hug me or tell me that he loves me, he wouldn’t be able to play like normal children, as well as a dozen other thoughts that I can’t remember today.

So, we prayed and prayed and prayed that God would allow us to have a healthy baby and particularly a baby that was “normal.”  Then, he was born and I was scared because my prayer had not been answered, and I had this baby that would need me in ways that I could not comprehend. I was scared I would not love him as much as I loved my other son. I was scared about the way he would be treated in middle school. I was scared about what this meant for me, for my time, for my future. I wondered what would be the purpose of his life. I wondered why God had done this to us, and I was not happy about being a “special parent” chosen to raise this “special child.”

Then it began...old friends and new friends came out of the woodwork; they were relationships that God had groomed over the course of our lives. They began to tell us that this was not bad, that he would be more “normal” than not normal. They told us about their children who have Down syndrome and what life is like. These other moms carried us; they carried me. When we didn’t know what to do, what to ask or where to go, they carried and directed us. Now we get the awesome opportunity to do that for other families.

I didn’t ask for Down syndrome, and believe me, there are moments of each and every day that I really dislike that extra chromosome. However, that extra 21st chromosome has opened up doors for my family and my church that would have never been there if it hadn’t been for Cooper being a part of our family. Our church has developed a unique love for families of children with special needs and for individuals with special needs. Andy and I have the opportunity to walk down this road with families who have just received the same diagnosis. Cooper gives us opportunities to educate others on the abilities of people with Down syndrome, to talk about the sanctity of life, to introduce people to the great love of our Lord and Savior. These are opportunities we would have never had without Cooper and without Down syndrome.

I now see that the words that I didn’t believe for most of 2007 are true. Cooper truly is more normal than not; he runs, jumps, climbs, dances, throws things, is loud like his brothers, loves to tell me “no,” loves to go to his grandparents’ houses. Did I mention he likes to throw things? We treat him and love him the same as our other children, and we hold high expectations for all of them. Cooper has his unique place in our family, just like each of his three brothers. Every month he learns his memory verse in his Sunday school class. This past month their verse was “I can do all things through Christ” Philippians 4:13 and Cooper does and will “do all things through Christ.”

--Amanda Savage @4savageboys

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Posted by Andy Savage at 7:00 AM
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