The first time I met a person with Down syndrome, I felt inspired. At the time, I couldn't quite explain how or why I felt that way, but I left the encounter feeling enlightened and changed for the better. At that moment in my life, I realized two things: I wanted to work in a profession that allowed me to advocate for individuals with disabilities and, in the back of my mind, I knew one day I would adopt a child with Down syndrome.
Years later, married, and blessed with a biological child, I turned to my husband, Scott, and asked him what he thought of adopting. He said that it felt like the right thing to do and was all for it. Then, I asked what he thought about adopting a child with Down syndrome. He paused for a moment and said, "Let’s do it." It felt right to us. We felt a peace and contentment about our decision and from that point forward, our adoption story unfolded.
Looking back throughout our adoption process we received wonderful, loving support from friends and family. Initially, some were surprised to hear of our choice to adopt a child with special needs but regardless, they were always supportive. They understood that this was the path our family wanted to take and they all were willing to join us for the adventure.
During our adoption process, we sometimes wondered about what to expect when raising a child with Down syndrome. What we have found is that Ava isn't defined by her having Down syndrome. Yes, she does have an extra chromosome but first and foremost she is a baby. Honestly, there isn't much difference between raising Ava and our "normal", healthy biological daughter, Brynn.
Ava is sweet, kind, and loving. While some folks may focus on her disabilities, she has so many abilities just like any other baby. Ava babbles and coos, gives hugs and kisses, can use some sign language, loves her sister and her family, wants to be carried, wants to play, pulls hair, gets messy when she eats, grabs everything, loves crinkly things, enjoys being read to, loves petting her dogs, wants to be on the beach in the sand and enjoys being part of a family amongst so many other things.
Like I mentioned earlier, she's quite similar to her older sister. Now, developmentally and physically, yes, she is behind a typical child and does have more medical appointments than most, but she is a determined little girl who has amazed her doctors and therapists with her strength and perseverance given her start in life. So many are inspired.
Having Ava has taught us all so much, not about having a child with special needs, but about taking joy in life's small accomplishments, such as when she learned to clap her hands or sit up for the very first time. While almost every child eventually reaches these developmental milestones we’re more aware of them now than when our older daughter was born because perhaps we know how hard Ava works to achieve these seemingly simple goals. The smile of self-satisfaction and awareness that spreads across Ava’s face never fails to bring a smile to mine along with every other person in the room. In many ways, Ava has given us so much more that we could have ever imagined.
I go back to those initial feelings of inspiration in that first encounter I had with a person with Down syndrome. And yes, those feelings I felt then are the same ones I feel now while watching Ava achieve and defy the odds against her set forth by society. A disability doesn't make someone a lesser person, just different, like everyone else. No two people are alike and we all have our abilities and disabilities. We see Ava as a whole, complete being and we will always see her as such.
Our daughter, Brynn said to us one day, "Thank you for adopting Ava. She's the best sister ever and I love everything about Down syndrome." Perhaps it is those individuals with disabilities that really do the teaching. After all, isn’t that what life is all about? Goodness, acceptance, a strong, faithful spirit and unconditional love? That’s really what Ava brings to our family and everyone she meets.
A personal story shared by Heather Taylor, one of Hopscotch Adoptions’ clients.