I remember the day my mom told me the news that my baby sister was going to have Down syndrome. It’s a scene that replays in my mind like a favorite song.
My mom was 4 months pregnant with my soon-to-be baby sister. I went to school that day knowing she had her regularly scheduled check-up with her doctor, and thought nothing of it. Being 7 years old, I had no clue what doctors did to women who were pregnant. I assumed it was the same thing as when I would go to my pediatrician.
It wasn’t until 3:15 p.m. that day when my grandma picked me up from school, instead of my mom, that I thought something was wrong. I tried asking her some questions, but she insisted that my mom answer them instead.
I walked in the door to see my dad home from work 3 hours earlier than normal, and my mom on the couch, crying.
When I say crying, I don’t mean just a few tears here and there. I mean she had been full on sobbing, as if she heard the worst news ever.
She sat me next to her and told me that my sister would have something called Down syndrome. It was a disability that was going to make her look different, talk different and act different from “normal kids”. I’m pretty sure I asked if she was going to die, which gave my mom a half-laugh before saying no.
My mom collected herself and told my dad and I that we were going to do as much research as we could to prepare for her arrival. So we hit the books, the blog posts, the Internet and eventually found the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin, who welcomed us with open arms and taught us almost everything we needed to prepare for my sister.
Looking back on that day, I think my mom regrets how much she cried, because we weren’t expecting the beautiful, sassy, smart and fantastic life that was brought into our family. But I think part of that is due to the fact that we knew nothing about Down syndrome.
Down Syndrome Awareness Month matters not just for families like mine, but for people who know nothing about what Down syndrome really is. It’s a month-long opportunity to educate yourself on what it is, break the stigmas surrounding Down syndrome and to raise awareness of it as you see fit.
If you are one of those people who are unaware of the truths and myths of Down syndrome, I encourage you to open your mind and learn a few things. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
If you know someone with Down syndrome or someone related to someone with it, try and be a support system to them. As much as I love my sister, growing up with a child with a disability is never easy, and watching her grow up and seeing her overcome every obstacle that has been thrown her way is extremely eye-opening.
During this year’s Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I challenge you to learn one thing about Down syndrome, and how
you may be able to be an advocate for people with it and people with disabilities overall. Self-education may not seem like much, but it’s a small step in the right direction.
– Olivia Storey