Matthew's name means "Gift from God". Bill and I chose this name after Matthew was born as it represented all that he is and all that he would bring into our lives. Despite a rough start as first-time parents, Matthew has brought us immeasurable happiness. We cannot imagine life without Matthew without Down syndrome.
Connections in the Down Syndrome Community
For a time, after moving here from the Philippines in 2003, I had felt homesick and depressed. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I wished to have more friends that I talked to on a more regular basis. I wanted to feel more connected in the community. Little did I know that my prayer was answered when Matthew, my gift from God, was born. Little did I realize how Matthew was going to create or renew the ties that bind our lives with others, thereby enriching our lives.
If not for Matthew, we probably would have not gotten to know a few other families, who have kids with Down syndrome, in our town of 25,000 people.
If not for Matthew, we would have missed the opportunity to meet and forge friendships with Gabbie's family, Braska's family, and recently Jack, his mom, and sister.
If not for Matthew, I would not have started this blog and discovered a whole blogosphere of moms and dads, who are raising children with Down syndrome, all over the world. It's amazing how much the internet has changed the communication landscape from 15 years ago. The support network online is so strong that I feel these people live right next door when in fact they are thousands of miles away. I'm hoping for opportunities to meet them in person someday.
In meeting other parents who have kids with Down syndrome, whether in person or online, I have always instantly felt a certain kinship, a great sense of ease, and lots of respect and support when relating to one another. Down syndrome is the common thread that connects us. We've been in each others shoes at one time or another and it's a bond that only we understand in its entirety - the experience and emotions of finding out, the health issues, the therapy sessions, the extra work we put into our child's development, the extra praise, the uncertain future about school, work, and independent living. There's more - doing so much but feeling like we're not doing enough especially when we can't help but notice that others seem way ahead of us. Yet we forge on and learn to focus on our own progress, capabilities and opportunities.
CJ at The T21 Traveling Afghan handmade a blanket symbolizing this common tie. On her blog, she wrote, "The handmade blanket is traveling from one family to another who has a family member with Down Syndrome. The family member can be of any age, from birth through the senior years. The family can also be located anywhere on the globe." We are patiently awaiting our turn with the blanket.
Connections Beyond the Down Syndrome Community
Our circle of friends extends beyond the Down syndrome community.
We are thankful for new friendships such as that with our neighbors, whose hearts see beyond Matthew's diagnosis, and online friends such as Kara, who does not have a child with Down syndrome, but blogs at The Life and Times of the McTriplets about raising her triplets born prematurely. She understands the special needs picture first-hand and has been very supportive and encouraging. We hadn't had the opportunity to meet in person yet.
We appreciate our family and old friendships like fine wine. Instead of turning away, our family and friends are quick to offer their love and support even if they do not completely understand our situation. How does one comprehend if one is on the outside looking in? We can be grateful, forgive, educate, and carry on. These bonds are renewed with a heightened awareness of Down syndrome.
Ties That Bind
All these relationships are interwoven in our lives. These ties provide comfort and make life colorful and beautiful, just like the intricate webbing of an afghan.
Weekend with Friends
Fist Bumps and High Fives
Our Neighbor Ally