As I have shared in the past, when my husband, Eric, and I first had our son Preston, almost 8 years ago, many doctors and professionals were quick to share all the negative aspects of Down Syndrome.
From health issues, to personal suffering, and even that I would probably end up a single mother. Happy to report that while Preston has had his fair share of health issues, overall he is an extremely happy and smart guy. My husband and I are going on 20 years of marriage, and our family is way better since Preston entered our lives back in 2012.
I always tell anyone who will listen that Preston really was the missing piece to our families puzzle. We all became better versions of ourselves because of having him in our lives. A world without Preston would not be nearly as happy and meaningful to us.
One of the countless benefits of having a child with Down Syndrome is the instant family and friendships that you make. Two years ago we were in Disney World and my daughter, Kierstin, spotted a boy her age with Down Syndrome. We had to go say hello and from that point on an instant friendship was formed with Cooper and his family, who live in Connecticut. We became friends over social media, sharing victories, challenges and some pretty amusing moments too!
We all were so excited to learn that they would again be visiting Disney World the same time as us two years later, talk about Disney Magic! We hugged, our children played together, we rode some rides together, visited characters and shared lots of laughter and advice. It is an amazing friendship and it would never have happened if not for our boys!
Add to that the fact that Cooper is such an inspiration to me. He talks very clearly, is a great athlete, so hysterical, can ride a regular bike all on his own, great dancer and loves Fuller House! His sisters all adore him as do my children. The instant bond is so amazing and encouraging. I wish that totally-scared-out-of-her-mind Jenny from 8 years ago could have seen this!
I hear all the time about how mothers are told by medical professionals all the “horrors” having a child with Down Syndrome will bring, but rarely do I hear of them telling you of all the joy that will enter into your life in ways you never even expected.
Another great story is how we were in Buffalo, N.Y., one evening dining out and again my daughter, Kierstin, spotted a mother bringing her daughter with Down Syndrome to the restroom. While they were on the way back to their table we flagged them down to say hello. One thing led to another and the next thing you know, about a month later we are at their house for a Down Syndrome Family BBQ swimming in their pool. Our children were happily playing and we eagerly chatted about our children’s successes. It was not weird or awkward at all. They are part of our instant Down Syndrome family.
I can’t even begin to tell you of all the wonderful people we have met because of Preston. From therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers, other families, and friends from Preston’s fan club! So many valuable and important friendships have been formed over the last 8 years because we were lucky enough to say yes to loving a little boy who happened to have an extra chromosome.
Today is World Down Syndrome Day and while it is a scary time across the country as we deal with a worldwide pandemic, I wanted to take a moment to share our encouraging story with you all. Amidst even the scariest of times, beauty can be found. As always, if you ever receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome and want to talk, please reach out. I won’t say Down Syndrome is not without challenges, but I will say the rewards are far greater than I could have ever dreamed!
(Editor’s note: Jennifer Taylor is a Bradford mother who is an advocate for children and young people with Down Syndrome.)