Kelsey lives in San Diego with her husband and two beautiful daughters, one of whom has Down syndrome. Kelsey shares her thoughts with us here about her faith-enhancing experience of being a caretaker for her.
On Mother’s Day in 2010, my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child. A few months later, in August, we had an ultrasound done to determine the gender of our unborn child. It was a girl! And we were terrified! Girls can be so emotional and self-conscious, and they like boys! Already, in my early stages of motherhood, things were not going the way I’d planned, and I was scared.
I remember many occasions praying to Heavenly Father and pleading that our daughter would somehow be different from the typical girl—that she would be healthy and strong, of course, but mainly that she would be obedient and not allow worldly temptations to influence her (like they did for me and so many other teenage girls).
At 36 weeks pregnant our little baby girl was born. One of the best feelings I’ve experienced as a mother has been holding my newborn children in my arms for the first time. Unexpectedly, the day after our daughter’s birth there were health issues that required her to be admitted into the NICU. While there, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome as well as a heart condition that prevented her from breathing and eating on her own.
At the time I knew little about Down syndrome. It was just a label. What I did know was that this beautiful, perfect, tiny (she wasn’t even five pounds when she was born!) baby girl was mine. I was her mother. Heavenly Father chose me to teach and raise her. That was all that mattered.
Over the years we’ve had our challenges. They began with her NICU stay that lasted 26 days. She was on oxygen 24/7 for months, and then it was trying to teach her to breast feed rather than bottle-feed breast milk. At six months old she began physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, which is ongoing. She has constant visits to the pediatrician, cardiologist, endocrinologist, and ENT, among others. All of the typical developmental milestones, such as sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, and so on, were delayed. It seems like these trials never end, and in reality they don’t. But with these challenges come great blessings and pure happiness.
My husband and I have learned patience and long-suffering as we’ve diligently worked with our daughter to support her growth and development. We have a greater appreciation for the small and simple things in life. Our relationships with extended family members are strengthened as we rely on them for physical and emotional support. People in our ward reach out to lend a hand and show interest in our daughter and her well-being. It seems like Heavenly Father places people in our lives at just the right times to help us get through the next challenge.
As a new mother I met a 14-year-old young woman with Down syndrome who reminded me as she sang “I Am a Child of God” that we are all sons and daughters of God. No matter who we are, we can each find comfort and joy in knowing we have a Father in Heaven who will lead and guide us in all things. I am grateful for the peace I feel as I pray for direction in helping my daughter reach her fullest potent