A Special Mother is Born
A Special Mother is Born
Parents share how God called them to the extraordinary vocation of parenting a special needs child
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This book is a must-read not only for parents of special needs children, but for anyone who knows and loves a child who faces unique challenges in life.
Lisa M. Hendey, Author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms

Filled with moments of faith and frustration, turmoil and transcendence, these Moms and Dads, and their kids will awaken your heart to the kaleidoscope of life's real joys, and the healing power of love.
Pat Gohn, writer, catechist, and host of the Among Women podcast.

“If someone you love (perhaps you?) is hurting over the severe physical impairments of a child, hand them these testimonies to the power of Christ's terrible, tender love. At a time when so many of these little persons are in the cross hairs of a culture of death, Velasquez has fought back with grace and elan.”
Patrick Coffin, author and host of Catholic Answers Live

About the Book:

“Your daughter has symptoms that are consistent with Down syndrome.” The nurses were surrounding author Leticia Velasquez in the delivery room when they uttered these fateful words—words that hit her stomach like a sucker punch. She was frightened and overwhelmed, but she was not alone. Four months earlier, God spoke to her in the depths of her heart; He told her that Christina had Down syndrome and that she was a gift from His hand.

If you are faced with a prenatal diagnosis or are raising a child with special needs, this book is for you. Thirty three parents who have walked in your shoes share how they encountered Christ alongside them in the darkness. You are not alone.

Chapter 3 A Little Extra by Barbara Curtis My son Jonathan has a little extra. A little extra enthusiasm, a little extra innocence, a little extra charm. Oh, and did I mention an extra chromosome? The one on the 21st pair that inspires so much fear in parents-to-be. I suppose at one time I was fearful about Down syndrome. But in 1993 when they placed the blue-blanketed bundle in my arms and I could see he looked - well, just a little different - I actually felt a sense of awe. Here will be a challenge - so many things to learn. It helped that we already had a few "normal" children. But other things had opened my heart as well. There was Amy, a six-year-old cutiepie we babysat for now and then. Amy's dad had left shortly after her birth - just couldn't get into having a daughter with Down syndrome. On the brighter side was the dad and daughter duo I'd seen a month before riding the merry-go-round. A gleeful almond-eyes three-year-old, a father helplessly in love. There's something special here, I thought. In this society, for a parent without one to see something positive in a child with Down syndrome requires a paradigm shift, I know. But if my counterculture years taught me anything, it was to question prevailing attitudes. I'd really never liked the dread surrounding Down syndrome, clouding the horizon for still-waiting-for-test-results expectant parents, On the Internet in recent years I've "met" a few who've received the dreaded news, then logged onto Down syndrome newsgroups, trying to pick up the pieces. Often they describe pressure from geneticists and doctors to terminate the pregnancy and "try again These professionals are quick to point out the burdens of having a child with Trisomy 21 possible medical problems, heavier emotional demands, a child who is "less than." But then on the Internet, or face-to-face in their own home towns, they meet the real professionals - parents involved with Down syndrome on a daily basis, in much better position to comment on the so-called "quality of life" issues. Always there is an outpouring of loving response, personal variations on Emily Kingsley's theme in her famous essay, "Welcome to Holland": So you planned to go to Italy and landed in unexpected territory. At first you're disappointed. Then you notice the windmills and the tulips - beauty you never expected to find. You discover it's not a bad place after all. My own son Jonny, now 7, is a snappy dresser, an avid film buff, and a splendid host. He loves playing soccer and hearing both sides cheer whenever he kicks a goal. At home or school he is the first to offer help, to comfort someone who's down, and to laugh uproariously at the punch lines. His preschool teacher named him Ambassador of Goodwill. His public school kindergarten teacher, after 30 plus years of teaching, said she'd never seen children as loving and caring as Jonny's classmates. The secret, she said, was Jonny. When he graduated from her class, she wrote us: "As the Bible says, 'The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.' Jonny certainly taught the children and me to look at the heart; for he has a very big heart!" Both confirmed what I'd seen all along. Jonny has a way of breaking the ice before others can think too long about their response to a child who is - well, just a little different. Then he brings out the best in them. In fact, I bet some people would rather spend a day with Jonathan than with the experts who comment on his right to exist. There's Princeton professor/ bioethicist Peter Singer, urging the right (or duty) of parents to terminate the life of a disabled child - up to 28 days after birth. Or Bob Edwards, world-renowned embryologist, predicting it will soon be a "sin" (his term) for parents to give birth to children with disabilities. This would seem a giant step back for our enlightened society, which a generation ago ceased banishing children with Down syndrome to institutions, making it possible for them to grow into productive members of society. In a culture working overtime to root out prejudice and prosecute hate, these "expert" voices sound suspiciously Supremacist. But maybe it's just that they suffer from their own undiagnosed disabilities - blinded by a caste system of individuals based on I.Q., educability, and earning potential. Paralyzed within their "perfect" paradigms. Having a child with Down syndrome has helped me see there's infinitely more to life than intelligence, beauty and "perfection." It's also taught me that not everything can be measured in dollars and cents - the benefits of full-inclusion extend beyond a child with Down syndrome to his classmates, teachers, family and friends. Before Jonny's birth, I'd prepared announcements with a line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame." I sent them proudly, adding a note about his extra chromosome and our great love for him. (One friend's comment: "Well, Barbara, he'll never be president, but isn't that just as well?" And this was 1992!) He's been a gift I never would have thought to ask for, bringing lessons I never knew I needed to learn. The greatest surprise is this: Our life together has been less about my helping him reach his potential than about him helping me reach mine. Sometimes when we're in a museum or a mall, in the middle of a good laugh, I catch someone off-guard, looking uncomfortable and standoffish. I know that as long as we live some will see Jonny as having a little less. I've learned he has a little more. And so does our world because he's here. Down Syndrome Facts • Down syndrome is the most common genetic anomaly, occurring once in every 800 to 1000 births. • Down syndrome is a genetic characteristic, like skin color and hair type. It is not caused by parental drug use, environmental conditions, or birth trauma. • 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born each year in the United States. • Although the incidence of Down syndrome increases with the mother's age, 80% of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35. • Most people with Down syndrome have IQs in the mild to moderate range of retardation and are educable and employable. • Today most children with Down syndrome live at home with their families and are integrated into the education system -- and more and more into the community. • Companies large and small -- from Target and Kinko's to your local bakery -- have found employees with Down syndrome give a morale boost to the whole company. • There are waiting lists of families wishing to adopt children with Down syndrome.

Leticia Velasquez is a writer whose work was published in USA Today, Reuters, Chicago Sun-Times, and National Catholic Register.

She is the co-founder of KIDS—Keep Infants with Down Syndrome, which advocates for the dignity of unborn children with Down syndrome in the media. She has been a guest on both NPR and EWTN.

This book is powerful in its beauty. As a mother of special needs children, I was touched by each one of the parents who shared their stories with author Leticia Velasquez, a remarkable woman who tirelessly takes up God's work, passionately proclaiming the blessedness of raising special children.
Sherry Boas, author of the Lily Trilogy 

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