We were having our medical exam when we first learned about it. Six months before that, my wife and I made a huge decision to migrate to Canada and the medical exam is usually an indication that we have passed the initial evaluations. Finding out that we were at the final stages of the immigration process and to be told that we were having another baby, almost at the same time, was a double cause for celebration. It was a surprise, truth be told, as it was unplanned, but we were happy nonetheless. My wife looked at me with a worried look and I quickly said, “Smile, the baby will know what you feel.” She smiled and very quickly, almost instantly, accepted that God has a plan for our family, and this baby was going to be a huge part of it.
Once we decided that the best course of action was to have the baby born in Canada, we moved quickly. We received our visa in January and landed in Canada by February so that he could be born as a Canadian. Looking back, I realize that this baby, the size of a walnut, made us change our plans, our future, our very lives, just by the mere act of being.
Then he was here. I heard him cry, I cut the umbilical cord, I held him in my arms, I felt my knees buckle, I hugged my wife. We were so happy. When everything had settled down, the doctor faced both of us and in a calm voice asked us: “Do you love your child?”
“What the heck? Why is she asking this?” I thought to myself. That was when she told us that our baby may have Down syndrome. She said a lot of things after that but they didn’t matter much to me because in truth, they offended me. “Do you want to keep your child?” Who asks that to a parent? I realized later that not everybody says “Yes, I love my child. Of course we will keep him.” The questions were meant to keep the child safe and loved.
To keep or not to keep, that was the question. To us, the answer came easily. This is our child, and no matter what, he remains our child and we will not abandon him because he was born different.
As much of a challenge as it was to raise a baby with Down syndrome as a new immigrant from another country, while starting a new career and without any support from any relatives, I believe that our lives would never have been as full and enlightening without him. He broadened our horizons, and made us appreciate things that we take for granted, such as the simple acts of communicating and learning. What takes us minutes to learn may take days for my son. He will probably never learn to drive, but it makes me appreciate it more that I could.
Our family has also become aware of our inner strengths as we’ve endured all the sacrifices that we’ve had to make to cope with the time, financial, physical, emotional and logistical complexities associated with raising a child with Down syndrome. We’ve become forward thinkers as well, planning on what will happen should we as parents not be here anymore. Thankfully, I am also blessed with three other children who I know would be supportive enough to include their brother in their plans.
It truly is a matter of perspective. If one were to dwell on the negatives, the hardships the family has to endure might seem numerous and insurmountable. However, focus on the positive, and everything becomes a lot easier. In our case, we choose to acknowledge not that we had him with Down syndrome, but that we had him after we moved to Canada, so we had the full support of the government and other institutions to help us through it. The medical system, the very nice nurse who helped us, the mountains of Christmas gifts we got from the Christmas hamper on our first Christmas, grants from charitable institutions, DSRF… all of these are things we would not have received had we been in the Philippines. We choose to believe that God gave us Darryl because he knows we have so much love to share, and that we will love him and take care of him, Down syndrome or not.
There was a saying, “Worry not on things you cannot change...” My baby has Down syndrome, and that cannot be changed. His life will presumably be linked to mine and my family’s, perhaps even forever. But my life is ahead of me. That I can control. If I live a full life and my life affects his, then he will live a full life. This is what I choose to believe in. It might not be true for all, but this is the truth for us and it is a truth my family and I wholeheartedly accept.