The Extra Chromosome Gift – By Vavena Wildhaber

Receiving the News…
I will never forget walking into Kohl’s that day to buy a package of socks. My cell phone rang and a tearful and apologetic nurse told me they believed our unborn son would be born with Down syndrome. I stood there, alone, clinging to a rack and weeping like I had never wept before. After what seemed like an eternity, I walked outside to my husband who was waiting in the car.

I had only ever seen my husband cry on three occasions: when he dropped to his knee to propose, the day we were married, and each time we welcomed one of our four sons. The cry that came out of him when I shared the diagnosis was from a deeper place, a place never touched before. My first vocalized thought was, “How do we find the best schools and programs for him?” My husband said, “People in this world can be so cruel.” He was fearfully anticipating the name calling and bullying.

We were not one of those lucky people who had grown up with a sibling or friend born with Down syndrome. We only knew what outdated books at the library had told us. We didn’t yet know all the joys and immense love that came with an extra chromosome, but we soon would.

Loving Luke…
A few months later, when Luke was born we knew one thing for sure…we were going to love the crap out of this little mister, just as we had done four times before with his big brothers. I spent every day of our two month NICU stay with him. Snuggling, smooching, talking to him, singing to him, breast feeding him. When he would sleep, I would look at him, not really seeing his brothers.  I didn’t see Down syndrome either. I would look at my little love wondering what the rest of the world would see when they looked at him.

Today…
The only thing I would change about the last three years would be the fearful tears I cried after receiving Luke’s diagnosis because three joy filled years later, look at him  and I see the perfect combination of himself, his brothers, his parents and his Down syndrome. I wouldn’t change a thing. He is a sweet, smart, ornery little man that works hard at meeting his milestones. He is so full of pride when he does, has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to make his brothers laugh.  He also has this amazing way of making everyone he meets feel like a rock star!

What I Want to Share…
I’ve learned that as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, we all handle the diagnosis differently. In no particular order, there will be mixed feelings and that all of those feelings are okay. Sometimes we are sad, sometimes we are mad, but mostly…there are far more times we are GLAD! Luke has taught us all how to slow down and enjoy the little things, how to dream bigger, fight harder, and be better humans. I thank God daily, sometimes hourly, for blessing our family with an extra chromosome.