Monday, July 14, 2008

"Your Baby has Down Syndrome."

“It looks like your baby has Down syndrome,” my OB/Gyn announced shortly after the birth of our fourth child, John Michael. Down syndrome? Are you sure? Two weeks later, the diagnosis was confirmed by a genetic test. He had an extra squiggle at the 21st chromosome. Trisomy 21.

Eight months ago, we entered into a new world. The world of special needs -- therapists, teachers, and ALTA Regional Center. A world of amazingly caring people in the Infant Development Program who help you help your child reach his fullest potential. I am humbled by their generosity and kindness. Thank you.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What's my Purpose?

A friend of mine asked me recently if I knew my purpose in life -- if I knew what I'm here for. I guess I've been called to be many things -- a wife, a mother, a singer, a writer, a friend, an advocate for my baby with Down syndrome.

Last year I turned 40. My plan was to be "Fit at Forty." That was my motto. I went to Weight Watchers to lose those stubborn 10 pounds of baby fat and started working out at the club. Soon after, I became pregnant with my fourth child. My motto was catchy, but I had to put it aside since I'd be 8 months pregnant at my 40th birthday. Oh, well, there's always next year, I thought. John Michael was born on November 14th. He was placed on my chest and quickly turned purple. He was whisked away to the NICU and we received the startling news that, "It looks like John Michael has Down syndrome." I'd avoided prenatal testing. I always said that if they detected any abnormalities, I'd worry too much. Abortion was out of the question and I assumed this baby would be a typical baby just like my first three children.

I think it's hard to know what you're called to do. I know I was called to married life, to motherhood. When I converted to the Catholic faith, my name, Monica, took on a whole new meaning. I learned that St. Monica was the mother to St. Augustine -- a scoundrel of a son whom she prayed for for many years for his conversion. Her perseverance in prayer payed off and he's considered one of the greatest saints and a doctor of the Church. She is fittingly called the patron saint of mothers.

I was also born on the Feast of St. Francis. Coincidence? Probably not. I love spending time in my garden, watching flowers grow and bloom. I love watching birds and squirrels tease my cat and dog in our backyard. I love being in nature, the smell of pine trees, damp woods, or the spray of ocean mist on my face.

This year for my 41st birthday, I will be celebrating something new. The Buddy Walk for Down syndrome awareness is taking place in my city on the same day as my birthday. Coincidence? I don't think so.

I think we can know to some degree what we're called to do, but sometimes God just slowly unfolds our lives like rose buds, one petal at a time. My flower is only half way open. I can look back at my life and recognize my conversion to Catholicism as the fertile soil that would keep me steady, nourish me. My first Holy Communion at Easter Vigil 2002 gave me the water necessary to keep my soil damp and my soul thriving. The Eucharist nourishes and sustains me like fertilizer. The Holy Spirit blew His breath into me at my Confirmation, providing me the air I need to survive. Finally, there's the pruning which is necessary to renew my soul and help me to continue growing healthy and strong.

I don't fully know where I'm headed or what I'm supposed to be doing, but I trust that God has my best interests in mind. I have a strong nudging from the Holy Spirit that I am to be an advocate for John Michael and other families affected by Down syndrome. I'm ready for the journey.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


This is the beginning of a new journey for me... blogging. I've been encouraged by a staff newspaper writer, Denise, to start writing... that I have a story to tell. I'm game. Stay tuned as I muse about being a Catholic convert, a wife, a mom to 4 "monkeys" (the 4th child with Down syndrome) and other non-essentials. Here we go.