Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#WouldntChangeAThing - World Down Syndrome Day 2018

Valedictorian. Star Quarterback. Head Cheerleader. First Chair Violinist. Popular. Perfect.

Kind. Compassionate. Loving. Genuine. Thoughtful. Caring. Affectionate. Encouraging. Supportive.

What if we changed our thinking when we dream of our children’s futures? What if we make the shift to dream that instead of being the most popular girl or guy in school that our child is the most kind and respectful girl or guy in school? What difference would that make? That instead of vying for everyone’s attention, that our child would strive to make everyone around them feel special, remembered, seen.

What does this really look like? Maybe something like a shift from...

Most likely to succeed. Most likely to run a Fortune 500 company. Most likely to be President of the United States.

Most likely to be kind to every person they encounter. Most likely to be respectful in every life situation. Most likely to greet others with compassion when they need grace extended in their direction.

Imagine a world where skin color is not seen, wealth is not a factor, and pasts are not important... For most, this is impossible to imagine, but for Reece, and others with Down syndrome, this is reality. Reece doesn’t see skin color, wealth, pasts...all he sees are people to love. The beauty of Down syndrome is that it replaces judgment with unconditional love. Bitterness with joy. Hurts with hugs. Sorrow with smiles.

If this is what Down syndrome is all about, why are 92% percent of babies with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome still being terminated today? In some countries, 100%.

Seems to me society has forgotten that God doesn’t make mistakes. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. God knows what He is doing. He carefully crafts our DNA, He thoughtfully designs our personalities, and He strategically shapes our hearts. Not one single part of us is a surprise to our Creator. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm‬ ‭139:14‬

In his six years on this planet, Reece has taught me more about unconditional love, acceptance, and choosing joy more than any adult I’ve ever met. He breaks down barriers, fosters unity, and welcomes everyone into his heart no matter who they are, where they’re from, what they’ve done... It really is incredible. And, I wish I could be more like him.

When people ask me what it’s like to have a child with Down syndrome, I simply say, his diagnosis was a surprise, it took me a longer than I care to admit to move from complete fear to total acceptance, but today, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

And Then the Wondering Sets In

It’s no surprise This Is Us is sweeping the nation and taking us on an emotional ride every Tuesday night. If it’s not one episode that moves you to tears, it’s the next. I can say with 100% certainty that anyone who watches this well-crafted show will relate to something they cover.

I’ve never had a miscarriage. I know countless women in my life who have experienced this devastating kind of loss. They are warriors exuding the kind of strength no one wants to find out exists within them. This week’s episode invited us in to a deeply personal and painful look at a character’s experience with miscarriage. And, although I’ve never lost a baby, I have experienced grieving the loss of the baby I thought I was going to have. I do not mean to write this to include myself in the group of women who’ve experienced miscarriage, but I write this to share how I can relate to the character’s emotions and the idea of feeling like I did something wrong to cause Reece’s diagnosis. (Many know my story, but for those who do not, you may want to start here.) Take a moment to watch a clip from this week's episode.

And then the wondering sets in…

“Did I do this? Did I do something wrong? Did I sleep on the wrong side? Should I have gone on that walk?” Much like the show portrayed, these are like the questions that took up residence in my mind when Reece was born. Questions that haunted me day after day, night after night…until a Geneticist gave me a valuable piece of information. He explained that Down syndrome is not caused by anything done during pregnancy; rather it is caused by a genetic abnormality which results in an extra (or third) copy of the 21st chromosome. The amount of relief that rushed in after hearing someone let me off the hook from the guilt I had been carrying was immeasurable.

One of the hardest parts of receiving Reece’s diagnosis was that I was told before I had the chance to hold him for the first time. This is one of the many things I wish I could educate medical professionals about when it comes to delivering an unexpected diagnosis. Because hearing that the child you thought you were going to have is not the child you actually have is a level of disappointment you don’t realize is possible until you experience something like that. And, in me, it caused an almost immediate detachment from Reece when I should have been bonding with him. The line in this week’s episode that vividly brought me back to that day… “I felt like if I didn’t hold him, somehow it would lessen the pain.” Maybe that’s the notion that doctors and nurses operate under. That maybe if the news is delivered before a parent falls in love with their newborn baby while holding them, it will somehow lessen the pain of hearing the news. I cannot believe that to be true. Because at least if I had the chance to hold Reece first, it would have begun the bonding experience every new mom deserves to experience.

And, how I can so relate to the character's grocery store meltdown. "Tell her I want what I came for. It's not fair." I'd be lying if I said I didn't wallow in the "it's not fair" moment when Reece was born. And by moment, I mean months. Months of feeling like I didn't get what I signed up for. Months of my mind jumping to the worst scenarios of what life with a child with special needs looks like. Months of wishing I could rewind to the moments before Reece was born so I could remember life before disappointment. That should not be read as Reece being a disappointment to me, rather the unexpected diagnosis. That's what grief does to you. But although grief can hit you at any time, it should be a place you walk through, not a place you stay in.

So why write this now? Why dust off this blog after years of silence? Because I feel like there are others out there, like me, who need to be let off the hook. Those who need to hear the answers to “Did I do this? Did I do something wrong?” And just like the character’s mom tells her “this wasn’t your fault”…that’s what I want women to hear and let settle into their spirit. Let go of the guilt, shame, wondering and let them be replaced with the grace you deserve to walk in instead. I’m not saying getting to this place is easy. In fact, it may be the hardest journey of discovery you will ever make. And, I did not arrive here on my own strength. That strength comes from God who lovingly and patiently carried me to this place. Please know there is room here for you too, you just have to take the first step. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Look At Us

Before you read this blog title and think this is a plea for attention, let me attempt to change your mind. In a recent conversation with my brother-in-law, he told me about how he and his family were out to dinner and he happened to notice a family with a little boy with Down syndrome around the same age as Reece. He watched the parents interact with their son and said he could see how much they loved him just by observing them in an everyday setting like dinner out. When they were leaving, he stopped by their table to say hello and was able to connect with them by sharing about Reece. He told me that he may not have ever noticed them, but having Reece in his life has made him more aware of others with DS.

Isn’t it interesting how that works? You may never be aware of something until you’re exposed to it. That’s how it is with DS. Before having Reece, I didn’t know a single person with DS. Sure I’d see families around, but it was a very rare occasion, and of course I knew of Corky from Life Goes On! But I’d never had a real encounter. It’s amazing how many families I see now. My eyes are open to a world that has always been around me, but I never had a reason to focus my vision on it.
And it makes me wonder, what do others see when they look at us? What are we showing the world when we are out in the community? What I want the world to see is the same unconditional love Reece shows to those around him.
I want the world to see a little boy who can do anything his peers can do, just on his own timeline.

I want the world to see two parents who are dreaming big for their little boy.
I want the world to see that DS is not as scary as it seems.
So, look at us! Future mothers and fathers of children with DS, LOOK AT US! Look and see that these children are incredible little humans who are worthy of the life you can give them. Look at us and see that life with DS is beautiful. Maybe if more people look at our family showing love to Reece, then maybe the fear of DS can be eliminated.
Today, on World Down Syndrome Day, we celebrate our loved ones with DS. We celebrate the six million parents who said yes to life and we keep on educating until the 92% termination rate dwindles down to zero. I won’t stop waving this flag, not today…not ever.

Friday, March 21, 2014

This Kind of Love - World Down Syndrome Day 2014

***I’m partnering with the International Down Syndrome Coalition (IDSC) in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD). Bloggers who write about Down syndrome were asked to write a post and share today on 3/21 – which stands for three copies of the 21st chromosome. This year’s theme is “This Kind of Love”, so please take a moment to read my take on this theme and view the beautiful video created by the IDSC.***

I didn’t know my heart had the capacity for this kind of love.

When you dream of becoming a mom, you imagine loving your child from the moment you lay eyes on him or her. But what if you receive devastating news that makes you question the love you have for your new baby?
That’s exactly where I found myself when Reece was born. I knew as soon as I saw him that my fear of having a child with special needs was confirmed. I closed my eyes and wished to be pregnant again, to go back to not knowing. To go back to not having to think of the challenges he would face throughout his life. Clearly God had given me a baby meant for someone else.
I wish more than anything now that I could go back to myself on that day and whisper in my ear what I know now…I would say:
“I know you’re afraid he’ll never have friends, but just last week he had a play date with a friend from church.
I know you think people will stare, they do, but only because they are captured by his loving and friendly personality. He has a fan club, you know! The girls at the gym day-care scold Jeff when he visits the gym without him. And the cashier at the grocery story tells us she loves when we’re in her line because he is just so cute!
I know you’re scared he won’t walk or talk, but he’s so fast you can barely keep up. And although he doesn’t have real words yet, he can communicate through sign language. Today he told you he wanted to take a bath.
I know you’re nervous he won’t understand what’s going on, but he is so smart. Recently, when you were crying after a rough day, he walked over to you and put his hand on your check and said “oh” with the most sincere concern for your feelings.
I know you worry he won’t be able to express how he feels about you, but his hugs, oh his hugs, so tight you can barely breathe. He gives the sweetest kisses. He squeals when you and Jeff hug AND he pushes you and Jeff together to make you kiss. He understands love and shows it in the most amazing ways.
And, I know you don’t think you can love him the way you dreamed, but you do. You love him MORE than you dreamed. Don’t be afraid to open your heart to him, God knows what He is doing.”
Thinking back now, it angers me that my first reaction was to question if I could love him the way I dreamed of loving my children.

There isn’t one thing I would change about Reece. Not his fun-loving personality. Not his friendly attitude. Not his obsessive love for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Ok, well maybe I would skip through the typical two year old meltdowns. But who wouldn’t?!
When I think about how much I love Reece, and how strongly I feel about him, if I love him THAT much, how much does God love us? I can’t even fathom God’s kind of love. The lyrics from a Christian music group, Group 1 Crew, paint a beautiful picture of how God’s love for us is unconditional and never ending:
HIS KIND OF LOVE – Group 1 Crew
There are no words, no phrase I could create
There is no melody that I could make
How do you sing about a love so deep
Without feeling like you missed something
I could try but I could not explain

His kind of love (His kind of love)
Is reckless for us
His kind of love will never give up
‘Till the whole world knows how far He went to show
His kind of love
His kind of love

His kind of love
His kind of love

Tell me what kind of God would choose to save
The bruised, the broken, the sinners, the runaways
How do you ever try to comprehend
this love that knows no limit
I could try but I could not explain

His kind of love (His kind of love)
Is reckless for us
His kind of love will never give up
‘Till the whole world knows how far He went to show
His kind of love
His kind of love

His kind of love
His kind of love

This is our God
He is strong and His mercy is our song
He won’t stop chasing us
That’s just His kind of love

His kind of love
His kind of love

His kind of love (His kind of love)
Is reckless for us
His kind of love will never give up
‘Till the whole world knows how far He went to show
His kind of love
His kind of love

His kind of love, His kind of love
His kind of love, His kind of love

This is our God,
He is strong and His mercy is our song
His kind of love, His kind of love
Just think about that for a minute. Let it soak in. God’s love is reckless for us. That means He would do ANYTHING for us, anything. And when I think about my love for Reece, I know I would do anything for him, giving me just a small glimpse of how God feels about His children. This kind of love I have for Reece…it’s definitely reckless, definitely.


Take a moment to watch the 2014 World Down Syndrome Day video capturing "This Kind of Love"

Read an incredible story of a bond so great between parents and a woman with Down syndrome.
For a complete list of bloggers participating in the IDSC 2014 World Down Syndrome Day "This Kind of Love" campaign, click here!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Long Race Ahead

Toes edge up against the starting line. You’ve prepared for this marathon. It’s a long race ahead, but the endless hours of training and conditioning assure you that you’re ready. Laces tight on your running shoes. You’ve never run this race but your confidence is fierce and that’s all that matters. The other runners beside you get into position. If they can do this…we can do this.
You see, this race is not what you think. This marathon is parenthood. It’s what you’ve prepared for. It’s a long race ahead, but the endless hours of learning assure you that you’re ready. You’ve never run this race but your confidence is fierce, and that’s all that matters. The other mothers and fathers beside you get into position. If they can do this…we can do this.
You have all prepared for the exact same experience… to have a sweet little baby that you’ve dreamed big dreams for. That perfect baby that you can’t wait to lay your eyes on, to smother in sweet kisses, and to breathe deep that new baby smell that lingers in your nostrils. You’re ready. It’s what you’ve prepared for.
Deep breath, final positions, fingers against the ground. The starting gun shot sounds. Off the other runners go but before you in your lane, stands Everest. The world’s highest mountain, one of the most challenging and rarely conquered peaks. Panic sets in. This was not the race you prepared for. You were ready for even terrain, small hills, and gradual ascents… not knife-edge ridges, switchbacks, wild climates, and a nearly impossible summit.
That was the scene we saw before us the moment we met Reece, our now almost two year old son. We received an unexpected diagnosis of Down syndrome at birth which sent our perfect world into a paralyzing spiral. Raising a child with special needs was the Everest we were facing. A journey we had not prepared for.
We wanted the easy path. We wanted to take our baby home and live a normal life, but instead we were taking our son to specialists to determine if he had heart defects, gastrointestinal issues, hearing and vision loss, and meeting with genetic counselors to figure out how this could have happened to a 28 year old mother and father. Limits were placed on Reece by doctors, specialists, and therapists before he even had a chance to prove himself otherwise. The thought of reaching the summit of our Everest was getting even more impossible.
You learn that climbing a mountain requires very different gear than running. You unlace your running shoes and slide on the hiking boots. Gone are the light-weight running tanks and shorts, you will need layers of protective clothing. Hands you expected to be free now grip trekking poles. Helmet, harness, ropes, carabineers…the list goes on and on. Each challenge you face calls for a new tool you’ve never used.
Day by day, little by little, you start the journey up the mountain. You’re still on that same journey that other mothers are on, but your race is entirely different. You’re still going to reach that finish line, it’s just going to take longer than you expected. You are faced with an obstacle you didn’t plan for, but know it’s a challenge you are willing to take on. Because that sweet baby is worth every hard day you face, they deserve the same fierce confidence you brought to this race.
There are days that we wish Reece didn’t have to have physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Days that we want to cry because we lost another therapist to another state or a better job. Days we wish someone could jump over the confusing hurdles the State has in place for the Early Intervention program for us. Days that we question why God chose us to be Reece’s parents?
At almost two, Reece is just now taking those long awaited baby steps. A few weeks ago, he was bravely learning how to stand on his own, plant his feet and take a few steps at a time. But now! He is boldly walking. This is a skill that most typically developing children achieve months before the age of two. Was it hard for us to see other children walking before Reece? Absolutely yes. Comparison slowly crept into the corners of our minds, but just as we were about to surrender to that trap, we were reminded that even though Reece achieved a milestone nearly a year later than his peers…He. Still. Achieved. It’s no secret that he will have his own Everest to face, but we are right here with him climbing by his side.
Which race do you find yourself running today? Maybe the slow and steady marathon or maybe the unexpected climb of Everest. Whichever journey you’re on, remember we serve a big God who gives us the strength to run the race, will you be faithful to complete it?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7
-Original post featured on Mark Rempel's a1000words blog on July 23, 2013: read it here!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Little Maven

You can't see me now, but if you'd see the biggest smile and the proudest heart a mama could ever have. If you've been walking alongside us from the start of our journey with our little man, Reece, you will remember that we challenged Reece to 'Dream Big' and live without limitations. Well, hang on folks...

Some amazing moms of children with special needs have been encouraging and calling on companies to include children of ALL abilities in their advertising campaigns. I am a huge supporter of this idea of inclusion and when I see companies featuring individuals with special needs in their ads, it just makes my heart soar!

One designer, you may know of her...Tori Spelling, understands the importance of this movement and decided that her 2013 Holiday Look Book was the perfect opportunity to show the world that she is on-board with including children with special needs in her advertisements. And for that, we are forever grateful!

Take a peek inside, you may recognize someone:


This is a huge win for the Down Syndrome community as well as for other special needs communities. To share with the world what we already know, that our children are capable of amazing things! Today, my heart is bursting! I am so proud of Reece and all of the other beautiful children featured in this Look Book. And to Tori Spelling...thank you for allowing our children to shine so brightly. You are wonderful and I believe you will be rewarded for your efforts!

A closer look at our little man...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Heart

In honor of Father's Day, I am featuring a guest post by an incredible father - my husband Jeff! Please take a moment to read his inspiring blog written from his heart:
We had a plan that was creatively called "The 5 year plan"! We wanted to enjoy time together and establish ourselves. We stuck to the plan even with the pressures from family and friends pestering us with "when are you going to have a baby?!" We finally decided that it was time!  When we found out Alissa was pregnant, we just started laughing and hugged each other! Immediately she started thinking of names, I started thinking of all the practice plans I needed  to make for the little league teams I was going to be coaching! Over the next nine months we did what every expecting family does, bought the crib, baby clothes, argued over hanging my vintage picture of Wrigley Field in his room - I won that battle and it looks amazing, and I experienced sympathy weight gain! It was fun! For me at least! I was going to be a dad and I was excited! (Notice the Wrigley Field picture in the top right corner)
We were going in for a routine check two weeks before his due date. It ended up not being routine as they sent us straight to the hospital and told us that today was the day! We were scared. There was not enough fluid around him, once we got to the hospital they said he was fine but we had to get him out through an emergency C-section! The night before I was begging Alissa to pack her bag, she felt like she had time and didn’t listen to me! Now we were at the hospital and she was frantically making a list of everything she needed me to bring back! I didn’t mind though, I was right and she knew it! I could not wait to meet Reece! I was ready to be a dad!  

It was go time! Alissa was in the delivery room being prepped and I was in the recovery room. I was sitting there getting the camera ready, full of anxious energy, I couldn’t sit still. Finally they came and got me! I sat down next to Alissa and held her hand. She looked nervous. Just a few moments later they said “Dad, do you want to see?”  So I looked over the curtain and sat right back down! He was half way out! Alissa gave me a puzzled look! I can’t even watch ER without changing the channel! Seconds later we heard him crying. I stood up and snapped a few pictures and couldn’t believe he was finally here! That was when it hit me that I was responsible for this little guy! I know that was a little late in the game to realize, but I am a visual learner! They showed him to Alissa and when they took him away to clean him off she asked me if he was OK. I looked at her like she was crazy, I said “yeah, he’s fine”. She later told me that she knew the moment she saw him that he had Down syndrome. I did not.

They brought Reece and me into the recovery room, I gave him a bath and then the nurse laid him in a crib. “We think he has Down syndrome.” Immediately I felt like everyone in the room was staring at me to see my reaction. In that moment my world came to an abrupt STOP! All the excitement that I was feeling was gone. This little baby who I had been waiting for was NOT what I had envisioned. I didn’t look at anybody in the room, I just asked "why"? She explained that his eyes were slanted up and he had a single palmar crease in his hand. The palmar crease is a straight line that goes across his hand. All people with DS have this. I just said OK, and kept my head down.  She then asked if I wanted her to go tell my wife which I replied "no", I wanted to be with her when she dropped that bomb on her. There I was, in a room full of strangers, nobody talking to me and my world crashing all around me. This was not part of our 5 year plan. This happens to other people, not me. This could not be my baby. They rolled Alissa in and told her the news. She looked at me for comfort but I had none for her. We didn’t really say much to each other in that room.

Family started arriving at the hospital a few hours later; we wanted some time alone with Reece before visitors. Until this point I was holding it together. I met her parents in the cafĂ©, I told them what the nurse had said and that Alissa was emotional. Truth is, we both were. I wanted to prepare them for what they were walking into. It wasn’t the excitement that we had all envisioned. Once they all came in, I went outside to call my family. As soon as I started talking I lost it. I was broken. What did I do to deserve this? After talking with my parents I stayed outside and started praying. “God, why? I can’t do this, please don’t let this be true”.  I felt guilty that this little baby who I had been so excited to meet was now the reason I was crushed. One of the major issues most people with Down syndrome deal with is heart problems. They had to do an echo cardiogram. At my lowest point, I thought that maybe he would have a major heart issue and if he passed then we could start over. As soon as that thought came in, I sent it back out. I know where that thought came from and I prayed that I would never think that again. I only share that because it shows just how hard this was for me. I could not believe that I would think that, the emotional ride that I was on was getting the best of me. I didn’t know what to do. They recommended we see a specialist; we took him to one a few weeks later. We are thankful that he has no heart condition; almost 50% of people with Down syndrome face heart issues.
We spent five long days at the hospital. Everyone was treating us like he had Down syndrome while we were holding out hope that he did not. We had not received his official karyotype test results. We refused to accept that he had Down syndrome until we saw the test. One visitor was too much for us to handle. A social worker came in with a folder that had pictures of kids with Down syndrome on it and as soon as we saw it, we both shut down. She talked to us and we just sat there I honestly don’t remember a word she said. All I could see was that folder. I was not a part of that world; I refused to think that he would be like those kids.  She admitted that a lot of families don’t even look at this folder and refuse to open it. We were one of those families. As soon as she left we knew we needed to get out of our room, just to avoid any more visitors like that.  We went to the garden area just for families on our floor. It was hot, but we didn’t care, we needed to get out and breathe.

You might just see a beautiful mom holding her baby, but I see the hurt and pain that we just went through moments before I took this picture.  Every time I see this picture, it reminds me of that moment and the feelings come back.

We were finally discharged from the hospital; I admit that I do miss the cafeteria food. Contrary to popular belief, it was good! Random thought, I know!  We were thankful that he had passed a few tests that they performed. His heart was good, his thyroid levels were fine, and he was feeding. We left the hospital still not knowing if he, in fact, did have DS. I think we both knew he did but we were hoping that they were wrong. It was an emotional ride home. Any parent will tell you that when you are going home with your first born child, you do not feel like you are ready to be on your own. Take that and multiply it by 1,000 and that’s how we felt. We had no idea how to raise a kid with special needs.

So now we were home and visitors were stopping by, friends and family were calling, and Facebook messages were coming in. Only a few people knew what was going on. We tried to hide it. I remember taking pictures of Reece and deleting them if I thought you could tell he had DS. I was still hurting.  Family and friends that knew were saying all the things that you tell people in our situation. "God chose you. Out of all the people that I know-you guys are the ones who can handle this. Reece was born into the perfect family." (Because my father-in-law and sister-in-law are special education teachers). I know everybody meant well, but what I really wanted to hear was: "this sucks, I am sorry, and I am mad with you." The next few weeks I was having some open and honest talks with God, but I felt that they were one sided. I would vent, I would tell him how I felt and I would get nothing in response. No peace of mind that everything was going to be OK, no comfort from reading His word, and no relief from the guilt I was feeling from the negative thoughts I had. To be honest, my thoughts were selfish, I was worried about what everybody would think, that people would stare at us. That we would be treated differently and that he would not be able to play sports and play on those little league teams that I was planning on coaching. My ego was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome. One day when I was driving to work complaining to God about how unfair this was he slapped me in the face! Not literally but this thought came to me, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! Reece is your son and he needs you! Lay down your pride! He finally had enough of my complaining. That was a turning point for me.

I knew what I needed to do but I was still overwhelmed. I spent countless sleepless nights reading about DS online and watching videos on YouTube. I struggled with going to work every day. I work with kids on a daily basis and they are all typical, excelling kids, and then I go home to a child with special needs. I saw all the things that these kids were doing and learning and I would get jealous that Reece would never be able to do them.  I now know that those feelings were wrong!

Another turning point came when I was listening to the radio and they read this poem by Russell Kelfer:
You are who you are for a reason.
You're part of an intricate plan.
You're a precious and perfect unique design,
Called God's special woman or man.
You look like you look for a reason.
Our God made no mistake.
He knit you together within the womb,
You're just what he wanted to make.
The parents you had were the ones he chose,
And no matter how you may feel,
They were custom designed with God's plan in mind,
And they bear the Master's seal.
No, that trauma you faced was not easy.
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you'd grow.
You are who you are for a reason,
You've been formed by the Master's rod.
You are who you are, beloved,
Because there is a God!
I have read this poem many times, and it has helped me through some tough moments. I know that Reece was meant to be with us. I don’t believe that God plans on giving people children with special needs, that doesn’t make sense, why would God allow someone to live a life with disabilities. What I do believe is that God is there for you to help you through the tough times. I found a verse that I applied to our life: Romans 8:18, "The pain you are feeling cannot compare to the joy that is coming." It is a simple verse but powerful.  I wish I could go back to the day Reece was born and tell myself that, in time, you will see that Reece is the biggest blessing you will ever receive. That you will love him unconditionally and that you will know what it really means to love someone else. I would say that it is important to go through what you went through though because you really do feel like you need to mourn the death of the child you thought you were going to have. In less than two years he has taught me so much. I love him and could not be more proud to be his dad!

I have since learned that the bomb they dropped on me in the hospital when they said they thought he had Down syndrome, was really not a bomb at all. It was just a part of Reece that makes him who he is! All the things that I thought he wouldn’t be able to do, all those hopes of little league coach of the year awards I was going to win are back on! DS is not a death sentence, it does not mean that Reece won’t be able to achieve great things; all it means is that he will achieve them in his time! Besides, he comes from a family that is NEVER on time for anything! Reece continues to amaze me with achieving new things all the time. This is a journey that I never planned on taking, that I wouldn’t have chosen on my own, but a journey I am glad that I am on. It is amazing to me how far we have come with this. To be honest, I forget that he has DS, he is just another boy that is fast approaching the terrible two's and he is a handful! Just ask the nursery workers at church.  If you are friends with me on Facebook you know that I love taking pictures of this kid! That I am unashamed of the DS and I proudly post pictures of him at a nauseating pace! I will be his biggest advocate and I will push him to achieve all that he wants to. I will never be a hurdle that he will have to overcome; I will be his biggest supporter. Reece is going to dream BIG! The latest go-to verse is this: Psalm 71:14, "As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more." I have hope that Reece will live a life full of joy, full of hope, full of love and happiness.  If you have met him then you already know he is full of love and joy and has a smile that is contagious. 

Parents, I know that there are times your children drive you nuts, and that you need a break from them. Trust me, I was one of those kids, just ask my mom. Be there for your kids; support them in what they love to do. They may teach you more than what you think is possible.  Don’t take for granted that you have a typically developing child. I know that Reece will achieve great things but I also know that there is going to be challenges down the road, we are going to be ready to face those challenges!  I am so grateful that I have Reece in my life. I pray that you and your children have the bond that I have with Reece! I can honestly say that I am OK with his diagnosis. Down syndrome is 3 copies of the 21st chromosome; just remember that there is a gene for awesomeness, and Reece has 3 Copies!  
Thank you to Alissa, who allowed me to write this on her blog.  She is an amazing mother to Reece and is a huge reason why he is doing so well! Thank you for being a great momma, love you!