An OSERS Guest Blog post by Eliana Tardio, a mother with two children with Down syndrome.
I was five months pregnant and ready to learn my baby’s gender. All I wanted to know was which would be the best color to paint the walls of his or her room. I didn’t want to know anything else, really. I honestly didn’t know there was something else to be learned at that appointment. However, and because life is totally unexpected, his gender was unveiled alongside another big surprise. The doctor said, “He may have a genetic disorder.”
I saw the world breaking apart into small pieces right in front of my eyes. I felt an immense disappointment and a desperate need to blame someone or something. I blamed myself, and then I challenged God by asking him for a proof of his greatness. I wanted my child to be cured, just because at that point of my life, I was so supremely ignorant, that I just didn’t know that Down syndrome is not an illness, but simply a way to exist and to be.
The following months were tough. I remember living on a roller coaster of emotions between denial and surrender to the incredible love growing up inside my womb. As the day finally came, I didn’t feel any physical pain, because all I wanted to see was his face. I wanted to see how he looked. He didn’t cry, and so, I had only a few minutes to hold him in my arms before he was taken to the NICU. In those hundredths of seconds, I looked into his eyes, and that was enough to fall in love. Down syndrome and all, I realized that he was already the most amazing and perfect child, because he was mine, born from me and to me.
It has been 12 years since Emir was born. Three years after, Ayelen, my second child, was born. This time it was a girl, who was born with Down syndrome as well. To the mother who just learned her child has Down syndrome, I offer this:
- You may not believe me now, but even if you never dream of this moment, this may turn into your dream life.
- All these painful and confusing feelings you are going through right now are just a path to a total transformation of your soul and your heart. Be patient and don’t blame yourself. These feeling are not out of lack of love or acceptance of your child. They are instead a proof of how much you love him, and how much you have to learn.
- Yes, your child is going to be perfectly fine. He’s going to be happy, he’s going to be smart, he’s going to make you cry out of pride, and he’s going to become your reason to believe, your strength to fight, and your most amazing excuse to slow down and enjoy the small things in life.
- For sure, there are going to be tough times. Just as you are going to meet amazing people, you are going to be challenged by mean and indifferent individuals as well. They will both teach you something. The first, that everything is possible. The second, that everything can be possible but you have to hold the power to make it happen—and you will.
- Your child, as any other child, is going to be the reflection of your love, faith, devotion and hard work as a parent. Being a parent is never easy, but it is definitely worth it!
And in a couple of years, on top of all the things that typical parents do for their children’s well-being, you are going to be proud to be an advocate, a specialist, an expert and the one who defines his future, has the power to change what needs to be changed, and to create what hasn’t been built yet. You are the parent of an inspiring human being who has no comparison: Your child!
Congratulations for that!
Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Education and such endorsements should not be inferred.
Eliana Tardio, a proud mother with two children with Down syndrome, Emir and Ayelen. She works as a Program Director for the Parent Education Network and is well known as a diversity and Latino activist that works through her different online platforms to create awareness. Her English website is www.elianatardio.us.