Your Child’s First Name
Your Child’s Age
Does Your Child Have Siblings?
Soon to be adopted little sister.
Did You Have a Prenatal or Postnatal Down Syndrome Diagnosis?
How Was The Experience Surrounding Your Child’s Delivery?
CJ’s birth mom was living in Florida in 2013. She reportedly did not find out she was pregnant till 33 weeks (first trip to the doctor). She created an adoption plan with a family outside of the United States. Her second trip to the doctor led to a c-section delivery of her baby boy. Shortly after birth, the baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome and the original adopting family backed out due to the diagnosis. This sent the adoption agency into a tailspin as their had limited experience with children with special needs and didn’t know if there would be any families who “wanted” this now b-list baby. National Down syndrome Adoption Network was contacted.
About the time foster care had been placed on my heart, my dream to adopt a newborn baby with Down syndrome was also placed on my heart. I was thinking when I was 35 or 40 and either was married or had decided to start my family without Prince Charming. After completing foster care classes, while waiting to get a call for my first kid, I signed up with the NDSAN.
Nov. 13th – My foster daughter turns five and we have a cupcake party at our house. Earlier in the day, mid-afternoon to be exact, a baby boy had been born in Tampa, FL.
Nov. 14th – At school I notice I have an email from Stephanie at NDSAN asking me to call her. My first thought is what did a do wrong?? She says there is a baby boy just born with Down syndrome and asks if I am interested in being one of the options birth mom chooses from. I say sure, not thinking I have a chance but wanting to always at least turn the key on every door in life. Who would pick a young single mom in Iowa – most people think we grow potatoes (that’s Idaho) and cheer for the Buckeyes (that’s Ohio). I mention it to my paraprofessionals at school, but don’t really give it much thought outside the on going communication with Stephanie. I wasn’t going to let any information about his health turn me away, but I also wasn’t going to get my hopes up, because really, I am a young and single gal.
Nov. 15th – 5pm I call Stephanie back and she tells me that this baby boy is mine! That birth mom picked me over 5 other married couples because “I looked like a nice gal”. OMG! I sat in the parking lot and called my mother. Then I picked my foster children to take them to their mom’s for the weekend. Early on in the drive, I call a friend on speaker to share my crazy news. My foster daughter wants to know details and proceeds to inform me from the back seat that I “can’t come back unless I am this baby’s mommy”. We talk about how this means I can’t care for them come the end of their weekend with their parents. She is more than ok with that and says I should go get this baby.
Nov. 16th and 17th – I run around like crazy and only stay sane because best friend, Emily is my brain the entire weekend. It is decided that my dad is coming with me; that we are driving; and that we will leave early in the week.
Nov. 18th and 19th – Dad drives (I drove through the state of Illinois) and I sleep. We arrive in Tampa during the evening of the 19th. Exactly one year to the date of me going to the hospital to pick up my first foster baby.
God had found me CJ. CJ stands for Charles James. My grandfather is Charles Jr and my late grandfather was James. I knew Charlie wasn’t going to work as his name because that is what grandpa goes by and I didn’t want him to be called Jim or Jimmy. In the end CJ represents both men, and will be easy for him to say/spell/read/write!
What Was It Like Bringing Home a Child with Down syndrome?
After 25 days in the NICU and a few more days in Florida, I was able to start home with my new bundle of joy! Being a special education teacher, I was eager to assemble the best support system possible for CJ!
What Has Development Been Like For Your Child?
CJ came home on oxygen, apnea monitor and with a feeding tube. With a few years of hard work and growing behind us, he is a happy and healthy young man who loves sports, music and dancing.
What Are Some Good Surprises You Were Not Expecting About Raising a Child with Down Syndrome?
His ability to show God’s love to those around him. The fellow families I have met along the way.
What Are Some of Your Favorite Family Activities?
Local Kindermusic group, Miracle League baseball, going to local GiGi’s Playhouse Achievement Center, dancing and singing and just being together as a family.
What Challenges Have You Faced?
As a single mom by choice, adopting and raising a child who is of a different race than you is not for the weak. Looking back, CJ was medically fragile as a baby, but I was too busy raising and loving him to truly realize the hurdles ahead of us. He has cleared so many hurdles with a smile on his face and a giggle.
What Would You Tell Yourself When You First Received Your Child’s Diagnosis Now That You Know What This Journey Is Like?
For me, it wasn’t the diagnosis of Down syndrome that was the scariest. Even though I chose this journey, taking the leap to adopt as a single mom by choice was scary and I wasn’t always positive it was what I was supposed to be doing. It has been an amazing journey!
What Would You Tell a Family Whose Child Just Received a Down Syndrome Diagnosis?
It maybe a different path than they had planned, but that it will be more than they ever imagined. To take it one day at a time and enjoy the journey because it will change their world in the most amazing ways.
Are you a parent of a child born with Down syndrome, and interested in Hope Story sharing your story? Click here to learn more!