By: Andy Knauss
I am Anna’s Mom. My daughter is twenty-four years old and was born with Down syndrome.
When her friends see me they say, “Hi, Anna’s Mom!” My identity had become synonymous with my daughter’s birth.
The morning Anna was born, a Nun came into my hospital room and said, “God has a big job for you!” That same morning a photographer said, “I guess you don’t want pictures of your baby, do you?” Another nurse said, “Are you accepting your flowers?” I felt like I was in a bad movie.
Didn’t these people know that I just gave birth to my beautiful third daughter? I was too happy that she was alive to be mad at their ignorance and insensitivity, and I was too concerned with how to have the right words for my two other daughters waiting at home for their new sister.
When Anna was born, I wanted to know how to talk to my daughters about their new very special sister.
At the time, they were four years old and twelve years old. I wanted to know the right way to talk to them about Down syndrome. So, I asked my nurse if I could have a visit from the hospital social worker to seek her advice.
When I met with the social worker she said, “The way you handle the new addition to your family is the way your daughters will handle the news as well. If you’re relaxed and accepting, then they will follow. If you’re upset, they will be too.”
At that time in the hospital, I stated to the social worker that I wanted to see a book or watch a video of a child with Down syndrome at two years old, at five years old, at ten.
I wanted to know how she would talk, play, grow with her siblings, what the experience of puberty would be like, school, would she be able to read, ride a bike, get married?
She said that there was no such video or book to look at. She did state that I should not read a book written before the early ‘80s as that would get me upset.
At the time my daughter was born, people were starting to think differently about people with different abilities.
The new buzzwords were, “reaching potential.” Yes, that is what I wanted. I wanted Anna to reach her true potential!
I wanted her to be independent! Have a wonderful life. Isn’t there a book, a video out there that speaks to this? But there wasn’t.
I was really in shock about that. I thought at that moment, someday I would like to make a video or write a book so that people could see how many things are possible for people with Down syndrome.
The social worker was a wise woman and could tell I was wrestling with many different emotions.
She expressed that I would have a best friend my whole life.
She said it would not be easy but that I would find my strength in the many milestones that Anna would reach. “The things that came easily to your two other daughters will be life long challenges with your new baby. She will need you everyday of your life, but she will help you stay young, as she will have the heart of a child,” she told me.
Meeting the social worker was a blessing. Her words and counsel have resonated with me many times in my daughter’s life.
I finally found my strength to go home and bring the family together with my three daughters and my husband through faith, comfort, encouragement, love and support by people who knew how to come alongside a new mom, yes, Anna’s mom.