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The Dad and Down syndrome

Posted Oct 16 2009 10:03pm
My husband, Shawn, is the best! We have been married for sixteen years and have six children aged 12, 9, 5, 4, 2, and 8mos., three girls first and then three boys. He has welcomed every child with open arms and Eon is no exception.

When I was pregnant and told that our baby had a 5% chance of having Down syndrome, Shawn took it in stride and said we could deal with whatever comes. When, however, a mere minute after birth we were confronted with the reality of Ds, we were both a little taken aback. All the color drained from Shawn's face and he appeared completely stunned. While I was instinctively trying to remain positive so that no one would issue the dreaded "I'm sorry", Shawn just stood there looking shell-shocked. I had to direct him to take pictures. The air had left the room and he moved rather woodenly to complete the task.

I recovered quickly. As soon as they finally let me hold our boy, I knew it was going to be ok. I was instantly smitten! While I nursed our little peanut, the nurses finished their clean-up, filed out, and we were left alone. Neither of us spoke. I attempted conversation, but everything fell flat, so I remained silent...and prayed. I knew then that if Shawn would just hold him, he would recognize the truth - that he was a gift, that we would be fine, that we could do this.

So, after about 20 minutes, I asked him to hold Eon while I buttoned up. He complied out of habit, but no real desire. He moved across the room and sat in a chair, and stared out the window. I watched him and prayed some more. Finally, I saw him looking at our baby. Pretty soon he was whispering things to him. I'll probably never know what they discussed, but after awhile, he looked at me with renewed strength and asked, "Ok. So what are we dealing with here?" Relieved, I shared everything I thought I knew about Down syndrome. When I completed the list, he grinned and asked, "So, one day at a time?" Exactly.

While I have waffled at times in my resolve to embrace Down syndrome, Shawn has never looked back. He is proud of his third son for everything he does and everything he is. I have read that fathers have a particularly tough time accepting this diagnosis for their sons. I am grateful that my husband is not one of them. I worry about Eon's development, health, future, etc. and Shawn just enjoys him. I share my concerns that I am not offering enough stimulation or doing enough therapy, and Shawn doesn't hear me...he's too busy exchanging belly laughs with his boy. He fully embraces all that makes up Eon, including his extra chromosome. He truly takes our life with him "one day at a time." I want to be more like him.
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