My Gem, Josh – By Mary Ellen Ritchey

Receiving the news…

We did not know that Josh had Down syndrome until he was born. I was 44 when I became pregnant, and I had five miscarriages prior to becoming pregnant with Josh. So, I had some blood work done and that was it. I was afraid to have an amnio for risk of losing the baby. I had several ultra sounds done, and no one saw any markers for Down syndrome. In the back of my mind, I knew I was high risk because of my age.  My doctor told me I was AMA – Advanced Maternal Age (don’t laugh).  I also thought if anything was wrong with this baby that I would have another miscarriage.

I remember those first days in the hospital were the worst. I sent my husband, Terry, home every night to get rest. After he left, I would sob and cry hysterically. I never wanted anyone to see how heartbroken I was. I was so guilt ridden. This was my only child I would ever have! I was so overwhelmed. I thought, “How could God do this to me? Who would take care of this baby when we are gone?” (That worry still haunts me.) I worried he would be alone on holidays and that made me sad! My doctor told me that with my last dying breath, I will be worried about what will become of my child…and I believed him. So, I tried to cope the best I could and went on.

Today…

Writing this now makes me cry. I fell in love with Josh more and more each day after we brought him home. I am so thankful he is in our lives. I would not have met the people I know, served on the DSAGSL Board or experienced the pure love and joy Josh brings us every day! You look at life differently than ever before. The things you value now are not the things you use to value.

I will never have a son who gets arrested for drunk driving or armed robbery, and he won’t be sneaking out in the middle of the night to cause trouble! He won’t do those things typical parents worry about on a daily basis.

World Down Syndrome Day…

World Down Syndrome Day is every day in my house, not just March 21. It is a day that needs to be recognized though. I see more and more people looking at this community and seeing what value they have to offer, but I think there still is a lot more to be done.

How I Make a Difference…

I feel I make a difference every day in this community by volunteering, helping with events and serving on the DSAGSL Board. I do this because of the love I have for my child and other people with Down syndrome. I do feel that some of it is for the acceptance that they still fight for every day. I feel everyone should volunteer or give some of their time if they have a family member with Down syndrome. I think that if you want the world to be a better place for them, you have to help make it that way. DO NOT COUNT ON OTHERS TO DO IT FOR YOU! Someone out there who has never gotten involved before, because they do not think that they would be good at it, may be the missing link to making an event or a program a huge success!

About my Josh…

Josh has the best personality! I will make him laugh, and he will respond with, “Oh, mom.” He has such a fantastic laugh, and his reaction to his dad coming home every day never changes. It is like he has been gone a week. Who wouldn’t want that every day? The small things make him happy. He claps for everyone! I was told parents of people with Down syndrome do not like all kids with Down syndrome being labeled “happy.”  Really? I know it’s not true, but who wouldn’t want a “happy” child.

If I had One Thing to Share…

It would be that in our life at home we celebrate every day, both the big and small accomplishments. Our life is so full because of Josh. I truly feel he has made me and my husband better people. With that said, this world could use a child with Down syndrome in every family. Just think how much better the human race would treat each other!