When your baby has Down syndrome

by Laura Sussely-Pope

Down SyndromeYou may have recently learned that your baby has Down syndrome or you might be waiting for an official diagnosis. The news can blindside you.

At first you could be consumed with medical considerations and finding out what your baby could face. You'll look into early intervention programs so you can help your child reach his or her full potential.

Eventually, there's one more area that needs your attention. You and your partner need to come to terms with the fact that your baby has Down syndrome and figure out how to look beyond the diagnosis and see your child as a person.

Bring home your baby with Down syndrome

You may be heartbroken and need to grieve

When you bring home your baby, you might not feel particularly blessed or happy. Instead you could feel angry, sorrowful or depressed. You'll probably feel guilty for having those emotions.

"My son was born with Down syndrome. All those dreams and scenarios I had while pregnant were gone in a second. I was angry and sad. I grieved for perfect baby I'd imagined burrowed inside me," Kim shares.

"We expected one outcome but instead were handed something very different. Don't be afraid to mourn the loss of the baby you were expecting. Don't be afraid to cry. It does get better. The hurt really does fade away and you're left with a beautiful little baby," Mark shares.

Your baby is a baby first

"Down syndrome is just something your child has, but not who your child is," Jennifer says.

Sydney's best advice came from her husband, "The morning after our baby's birth he came back to the hospital and said, "I see a baby who needs to be fed, diapered and loved -- just like any other baby in here."

Your child is a baby first. Love them as you would any other baby. Cuddle, sing, rock, dress in adorable outfits and count those tiny toes over and over again.

Discover the person

Natalie Hale, in her book, "Down Syndrome Parenting 101," encourages parents to picture their baby wearing an impenetrable yellow raincoat. It covers the child and keeps everything hidden. All these raincoats look alike because they were manufactured in a single factory -- located at chromosome number 21.

Your job is to unbutton the raincoat, roll up the sleeves and find your child who is hidden beneath. Your baby who has Down syndrome also has a unique personality all his or her own.

A new set of dreams

It hurts to know that your child isn't going to live the 'perfect' life you'd wanted for your baby. They will live the 'perfect' life for them.

You'll be wowed and amazed at your child's achievements and determination. Like kids the world around, your child will likely fish, garden, swim, play and explore with you. They'll make friends, go to school, likely graduate, get a job and pay taxes.

Your child will see everyone as a friend and love every day for the joy it contains. Their smile can open lots of doors. Take a look at the world through those eyes -- it's a wondrous place.

The other side of the story

While we tend to spend a lot of time concentrating on the problems associated with Down syndrome, there is definitely another side to this story. People with Down syndrome bring so much to a family and to the world.

Has a child with Down syndrome brightened your life? Tell us about it!

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.