It has been more than 6 years since my daughter was born. Her unexpected diagnosis of Down syndrome kept me frozen and living with uncertainty for her first few weeks of life. I already had a child with Down syndrome, my 2-year-old son, and becoming the mother of two kids with Down syndrome really made me think of the future and my ability to take care of two kids with special needs.
In general she was a very healthy newborn. She was born two weeks before her due date (my water broke while I was running to catch my son at a pool party), but she was already a healthy 7 pounds and 19 inches long—pretty good weight and height for a baby with an extra chromosome. I delivered her after 12 hours of labor, with no epidural and no pain medicine. I always knew I wanted to be completely conscious when I first held her in my arms and welcomed her. I didn’t know if she would be born with Down syndrome, so I also wanted to look at her closely for any sign of condition. It turned out I didn’t need to, as her characteristics were very obvious and the nurse told me about her condition immediately after she was born.
The first thought that came to my mind was, “Oh my God. This cannot be happening to me again.” Suddenly I heard myself sobbing, but it was weird feeling. My mind was still processing but my body was already reacting to the biggest fear of my life: having a second child with Down syndrome.
I remember people talking to me, but I only heard “blah-blah-blah.” I was in complete shock. During the next couple of hours, my daughter had an electrocardiogram done to check her heart. Two small holes and a murmur were found. At that moment, I felt broken and helpless. I pictured her having heart surgeries, and I relived many of the hard times I went through with her brother during his first two years of life. A psychologist came to my room and offered for me to chat, vent and share with her my deepest concerns. My concerns were very obvious: health care, financial strains, future, education…the same concerns any parent would have, but multiplied by 100 for a child with special needs.
Still, she told me something that allowed me to begin to accept my situation. “Having two kids with Down syndrome is not an ideal situation,” she said. “They may not have much to give to each other in terms of development, but they are siblings and they will grow up together and become best friends, and understand each other better than anyone else.”
She was right about that. They are perfect for one another. They are best friends, and nobody understands them better than they understand each other. But that is not so much because they both have Down syndrome, but because they are siblings; they are family and they have grown up celebrating each other. And she was wrong when she said they wouldn’t have much to give to each other in terms of development. It always amazes me to see them working together, supporting one another and learning the best from each other.
So now, more than six years later, there are many reasons why I feel blessed to be raising my two kids with Down syndrome.
Here are just 10 of them: 1 of 11
1. They are always there for each other 2 of 11
2. They are always protective and affectionate with one another. 3 of 11
3. They share similar challenges, and they are always each other’s best cheerleader. 4 of 11
4. Being siblings and also to sharing a life condition has made them inseparable 5 of 11
They understand each other better than anyone else, and they are patient with and grateful to each other.
5. They play, share, fight and do all the things any brother and sister would do. 6 of 11
They work together on projects and are allies in naughtiness.
6. He has learned to fix her hair and paint her nails. 7 of 11
She has learned to play with cars and pretend to be a super-hero. They make each other happy.
7. They make a great team and complement each other. 8 of 11
She is strong and outgoing. He is shy and patient.
8. They fight, laugh, cry and get mad 9 of 11
But since they were born, there hasn't been a single day without a hug and a kiss by the time they go to sleep. No matter how many times I listen to them say it, I'm always happy and proud to hear them say to each other, "I love you."
9. They celebrate each other 10 of 11
Emir always reminds her of how beautiful she is. AyelÃ©n always tell him how big and smart he is. Nobody taught them to do it; it is something that was born in their hearts and has become a ritual between them.
10. They are perfect for one another. I have no doubt of it. 11 of 11
Now, instead of feeling concerned or desperate about raising two kids with Down syndrome, I feel blessed. I am sure they will always be there for each other. Their fraternal bonds offer endless lessons of kindness, joy, and faith in their own abilities.
That always reminds me that “being happy doesn’t mean you have it all, It means being thankful for all you have.”