Down Syndrome Awareness, Day 5

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Today was my Mom’s 71st birthday. In the picture above, Mary is showing off the skirt her Grandma hemmed for her.

My Mom retired from civil service, and now does substitute teaching. Mary was SO excited to see her Grandma at her school today!

Mom chose to spend part of her birthday at the annual Care Net fundraising banquet. This was Mary’s first year to attend the banquet, since she is an (eh hum…) ADULT now! (This kid will be 19 years old at the end of the month!)

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Care Net is a ministry that is near and dear to my heart. I surrendered a child for adoption when I was 15 years old through a similar ministry. That daughter will celebrate her 35th birthday on October 8.

One of the things I’ve done that makes me the happiest is that I was on the steering committee that brought Care Net to Camden County back in 2003. I have hosted a table for the banquet since I first learned of the ministry through today’s banquet. I continue to support Care Net because I believe in what they do. They share the love of Christ with gentleness and humility. They encourage sexual purity. They provide resources for men and women experiencing crisis pregnancy together. They provide post-abortion comfort and restoration. They even provide sexually transmitted infection tests.

When Keith and I found out I was pregnant with Mary we were overjoyed! Then an ultrasound indicated Mary might have Down syndrome, as well as a heart defect. A genetic counselor encouraged us to terminate the pregnancy so we could “try again for a healthy baby.” Abortion was something my husband and I never even considered. I didn’t even submit to having an amniocentesis done to find out if Mary had Down Syndrome. Keith and I knew that Mary was a gift from God, and we didn’t want to do anything to put her life at risk. There was statistically a greater chance that the amniocentesis would cause an “unintended abortion” than that Mary would be born with Down Syndrome.

Well, Mary WAS born with Down Syndrome, but not the heart defect. Her facial features tell anyone in the know that she has Down Syndrome. Mary’s aunt Amy, who is a NICU nurse, recognized the Down Syndrome the first time she saw Mary, but she waited for Keith and me to announce that fact in our time (which truly was only a little while after Mary was introduced to her Aunt Amy and the rest of the Chancey side of the family).

Patrick Eades, who oversees the Care Net centers in Brunswick, Camden County, and Jessup, shared tonight that every abortion results in a story never told. I can’t imagine this world without Mary in it. She is a prayer warrior, and has a compassionate heart. Her story is a story worth telling. I am grateful for her presence in my life, and for the opportunity to share her story!

 

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Down Syndrome Awareness, Day 4

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This picture was taken two years ago at the Special Hearts Prom at Christ’s Church Camden. Mary and her friend Victoria, who also has Down Syndrome, were excited to participate! The Special Hearts Prom is for people who have special needs to have a night set apart for them to be doted on. The church arranges for the girls to have their hair done. The boys can get their shoes polished. When you sign up, you can request a date. Mary and Victoria are pictured with the dates that were assigned to them.

Down Syndrome Awareness, Day 3

 

Mom Dad and BabyMary was born in the hospital in Fernandina, Florida. She surprised us by being 3 weeks early. She was born the day my surprise shower was planned at work at Amelia Island Plantation. I had gestational diabetes, but my boss had called my doctor to get special permission for me to eat cake!

I left work because I didn’t feel well. When I called the doctor and was told to come in just to get checked out, I looked around the office for the calmest person I knew. I needed someone who wouldn’t freak out! Art Freeman, who worked in Maintenance and shared the office building with Housekeeping where I was the administrative assistant, fit the bill. He got me safely to the doctor’s office, and asked me if I wanted him to stay. I’ve always regretted telling him no! My Mom and my husband Keith weren’t there yet, but I knew they were on their way, so I told Art he could go back to work.

I was put in an examination room by myself. The nurse could see I was upset, so she called my husband Keith at work and told him he might want to come to the office because “I’d feel better if he was there.” I had called my Mom to tell her the doctor had told me to come in. She came straight to the doctor’s office.

When the doctor examined me, he announced, “We’re going to have this baby today.” I started to cry. I wasn’t ready! My Mom got there just about that time, and drove me the short distance to the hospital.

Keith had been called at work, but no word to him on the fact that I was in labor! When he was called, they didn’t know I WAS in labor, and back then we didn’t have a cell phone. As soon as Keith reached the doctor’s office they waved him on to the hospital. My mother was with me when Mary was born, and I was grateful for her presence. Mary was still attached to me by the umbilical cord when her Daddy arrived. She came into the world at all of 4 pounds, 12 ounces.

Down Syndrome Awareness, Day 2

Mary Bubble Run August 5 2017

My Mary has done something I never have…run a 5K. She became interested in 5Ks when her brother, her aunt, and some of her cousins ran one to raise awareness for autism. She decided THAT MORNING that she would run. I told her it didn’t work that way, that she had to train to be ready. Mary’s Aunt Darcy suggested the Bubble Run in Jacksonville as a first 5K. We had several months to get ready.

Mary made the effort every day to get up early and train. She ran and walked, and I walked and rode a bike to keep up with her. There were days we didn’t want to get up and get out, but I always reminded Mary that if she didn’t practice, she would not be able to be in the 5K.

During training I got sick for a bit, keeping us from practicing. And Mary got sick for a bit, also keeping us from practicing. When it got down to the wire, I wondered if Mary would actually be able to finish.

Aunt Darcy and the cousins ran with Mary. It was a walk/run/walk/run. Darcy told me afterward that she had to provide Mary with a lot of encouragement, but knowing my sister that was no hardship.

Mary finished her very first 5K in an hour and fifteen minutes. I am so proud of her!

Down Syndrome Awareness

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Down Syndrome is also known as “Trisomy 21” because it is identified by having a third copy of the 21st chromosome. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation identifying October as Down Syndrome Awareness month.(http://www.downsyndromeprenataltesting.com/happy-30th-anniversary-national-down-syndrome-awareness-month/) It’s fascinating to me that October is Down Syndrome Awareness month, and my daughter Mary was born in October. She has spent 19 years giving us a crash course in dealing with someone who has Down Syndrome.

I think Emily Perl Kingsley explained raising a person with Down Syndrome best in her brief essay, “Welcome to Holland.” If you would like to read it, you can do so here: (http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html).

In the days ahead I will share some of the lessons my husband Keith and I have learned on this parenting adventure.

Slow Down, Woman!

Stop! Smell the flowers. Resume tearing through your life like a maniac.

 

I must say, I was pretty proud of myself this morning. I was on my usual morning route, taking teenagers to school. As I rounded the corner into the neighborhood, a group of children walked toward their school, and toward my car, taking up much of the road. I came to a complete stop, feeling a sense of pride for keeping these children safe. They moved to the side of the road, and I pulled forward and around them. As I went by, one of the boys yelled out “Slow down, woman!”

I was taken aback. Didn’t he know I had just kept him and his friends safe by stopping while they got out of the way? But then I smiled. I hadn’t really been that heroic. The boy was right. I came around the corner quickly, and stopped completely when I saw the children. When they were out of the way, I turned my steering wheel away from them, and stepped on the gas…not realizing how fast I was driving. Yes. I needed to slow down. Truth from the eyes and heart of a child.

So where do I go from here? Tomorrow is a new day. I will work at having a lighter touch on the gas pedal. I will try to be more aware of my surroundings, and of speed limits. I will concentrate on being present in the moment rather than allowing my mind to wander as I drive. And so we shall see what tomorrow brings…

So This is 50

 

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I’ve been 50 for ten whole days now. I’ve hit the half-century mark. My 30-year-old daughter planned my party (a Sound of Music theme). My 70-year-old mother made my birthday cupcakes using my great-grandmother’s carrot cake recipe. I collected my Facebook birthday greetings and printed them out…64 pages worth!

I don’t remember what I thought “50” would be like when I was younger. But I don’t think this was it. I recall at some point thinking 50 was “old.” I’m not sure what constitutes “old” now, but I don’t even consider my 70-year-old mother to be “old.” Perhaps my 89-year-old mother-in-law is old, but I’m not even sure of that.

I’ve enjoyed musicals ever since I can remember. In my 50 years of living, I can identify with the emotions lines from musicals bring on. “I could have danced all night” from My Fair Lady. “To every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and, snap, the job’s a game!” from Mary Poppins. The entire song “A Puzzlement” from The King and I. “Tomorrow” from Annie. All of the songs from Fiddler on the Roof have become dear to me since my family and I performed in the community production at Camden County High School in 2012.

I have accomplished much in my 50 years. Most importantly, I am a wife and a mom. I have held many different jobs, from fast food restaurants to offices. I have volunteered for causes I care about, like the Special Olympics, the Salvation Army, Care Net, and Justin’s Miracle Field. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2015.

I have learned much in my 50 years. I have learned the importance of kindness. I have learned the importance of offering and accepting forgiveness. I have learned that things done for selfish motives fade quickly, but things done from a heart of love last. I have learned that love conquers fear. I have learned that you don’t have to agree with people to be polite and kind to them. I have learned the importance of investing time in the people we love. With all I have learned, I think the most important is that I still have much to learn!