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When Life's Challenges Become Our Greatest Gifts - DSAWM W.I.W. Series - Part #1

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Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan - WHY I WALK Series - Part #1

When Life’s Challenges Become Our Greatest Gifts – By Patty Boylen    

The Challenge:
When I was given the news that I was pregnant, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of worry.  An inner voice was prompting me to prepare for something, but I didn’t know what.  I didn’t want to do any prenatal testing and tried to put it off.  I was afraid the doctors would discover that something was wrong with the baby.  After three separate level 3 ultrasounds showed no signs for alarm, I knew it was foolish for me to continue worrying.  I should be enjoying this pregnancy, delighting in the fact that we were going to have a new addition to our family; however, that inner voice was still strong.

The hours that ticked by after I delivered our son were the most lonely and desperate in my life.  After an 18-hour marathon of labor, we had learned that our newborn baby had symptoms of Down syndrome.  My husband and two older children had just left the hospital, and I sat all alone in my hospital room, filled with a spiraling sense of doom.  I had so many questions, so many fears.  Five days later, the genetic tests confirmed that our son Christopher had been born with Down syndrome.

The Gift:
That overwhelming sense of doom came to an end on a rather remarkable sunny July day.  My father was over, and as I watched him gently stroke Christopher’s little head, he whispered, “Everything will be just fine, buddy.”  I knew his fatherly words of wisdom were not only for Christopher’s sake.  I took our dog for a walk while they rang in my head.  The sky was beautifully blue and dotted with fluffy clouds.  Everything about that day was perfect, except for my heart.  I was lost.  I looked up through my tears and choked out a question to God.  “What do I do now?”  

A voice answered me instantly.  I could not tell you whether it was male or female, but I know that it was loud.  As it ran through my body, all of my feelings of fear, anxiety and hopelessness were overcome.  The answer was so simple.  “Just love him,” the voice told me.  Tears continued to trickle down my face, and I thought, I can do that.  I can love Christopher; he is a gift.  

We have had rough times, especially during Christopher’s first year, but he remains a light in our lives.  There are times when I wish I could hear that voice again, as powerful as it was that day.  I often look up and ask other questions, hoping I will hear that voice, but I don’t.  Maybe those questions are not worthy of an answer like the one I was given that day.  

Why I Walk:
From that defining moment in time, I enjoyed Chris as our baby.  We enrolled him in many programs, from physical therapy to speech, to help his low muscle tone and ensure that he had a great start.  We had a baby treadmill in our living room in order to accelerate his ability to walk.  I was obsessed with finding the latest ideas on the Internet. Thankfully, Chris was a healthy baby, so my other children were able to enjoy their brother as a baby, not a fragile infant that they would be afraid to play with or touch.  On the contrary, they couldn’t keep their hands off of him!

Christopher first walked on June 16, 2002.  He was 23 months old, and he decided he was going to run.  His sister, Maddy, was with me upstairs; we were sitting opposite each other, coaxing Chris to walk.  I would let him go while facing Maddy, and he would bolt toward her; she would let him go while facing me, and he would run back.  We were screaming, crying, laughing…  The celebration was so intense.  What a gift.  

I walk for our family, and I walk for acceptance.  Most importantly, I walk for the love of our son.


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