Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Erica Schmidt

"One of my earliest life memories occurred just a few months before my seventh birthday. My dad picked my younger sister and I up from school, told us my mom had gone into labor, dropped us off at the neighbors’ and told us my grandma would be coming for us soon. That night, my mom and dad called home to tell us we now had a baby brother named Chad. My sister cried because she wanted him to be named Luke.

The next day, my dad again came and picked us up from school to go meet our Chad. First, we stopped by our house so my dad could sit us down and try to explain to a six and four year old what Down Syndrome was. I don’t really remember the conversation other than that it was the first time I remember seeing my dad cry. Years later, my dad would tell me that I would comfort him in that conversation, saying “Don’t worry, dad. Everybody learns different.”
Over the years, I learned that Down Syndrome in many ways is much more complicated than that, but in others, it really isn’t. Chad, as he is, is the greatest thing that could have happened to our family – to me. Growing up, I was extremely protective of him, but he may have been even more so of me. Our whole family supports Chad in all he wants to do, and he did the same for us. He was at all of my sporting events, and trust me, there were a lot. When I would get injured, he was would cry and have to be near me.
So much of who I am as an adult is a byproduct of growing up with Chad, and I didn’t even realize it. He made me more compassionate; he taught me how to communicate with those who are different; and he taught me about how to be joyful in all circumstances. That kid had more hospital stays in his childhood than anyone should have in a lifetime. Each time, by the time he was discharged, nurses flocked to his room for one last dance, laugh or hug. That’s just who Chad is—that’s who he’s taught me to be.

A teacher in high school once told me, “I can always tell when someone is the sibling of someone with special needs. They’re just different…in a good way.” I’m proud to be one of the different ones."

Erica is one of my dear friends from my days at MIZZOU. I remember envying her for the ease she had interacting with any person, disability or not. So, I wasn't that surprised when she told me early into our friendship that she had a brother with Down syndrome. Chad became the first person I "knew" with Down syndrome and I really only met him a few times when he visited Erica in college. 

The morning that Lindie was born I thought of Erica, Chad, and her Mom and her Dad. I thought of Chad's birth story that she had shared with me years before, and I remember being so grateful for Chad and for a friend to relate to. I also have so much hope for my children's relationships in watching and hearing Erica talk about her relationship with Chad.

Thank you so much for sharing Erica! I love having a sister perspective for all our Mama readers!

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Emily Fox


Emily is a Mama to three, living in Kentucky. Her youngest, Boone T., has Down syndrome. She loves sharing their adventures on Instagram and advocating for Boone in their everyday life.

Little Boone will celebrate 2 in just a few months, November 21 to be exact. In a home filled with his sisters' big personalities and high drama, Boone is the antithesis of drama, a laid back, pretty chill, dude until "Alexa" starts playing Mama and Daddy's late 90s rap... then all bets are off and it's a major dance party.
Emily's words:

"No matter how hard I tried I couldn't catch my breath the moment our doctor looked at us and said those words... Down Syndrome. The room was spinning and my body was shaking and the man I always lean on was crumpled at the side of the bed weeping and I couldn't do it, I couldn't breathe. As I laid there trying to catch my breath, my mind quickly drifted to our daughters, then 7 and 11. Their world was about to drastically change with a new baby and now a new baby with Down Syndrome. Guilt sunk in like an anchor, how could I do this to them? Impact their future and expect them to alter their days, their lives for this little human who would need so much. Ignorance breeds fear, right? My ignorance led to fear which led to me not being able to breathe that day. I was completely unaware of the incredible impact he would make on their lives. Now, I breathe easy, full and deep, knowing that these girls have been changed for the better. Their brother has cultivated an unconditional love and fierce passion for advocacy. I watch as they share him with their friends and fight for him when its needed. Little did we know we would all breathe a little easier with Boone T. in our lives."
How does Boone bring you JOY?

"The milestones. The very thing I thought would break my heart, the slower paced, back country roads versus interstate, timeline we are on has changed us. Ask our friends... my husband and I, we are nothing if not "achievers." Boone helps us to slow down, enjoy the ride and find copious amounts of JOY with each milestone when it comes. Rolling Over= JOY. Sitting= JOY. Straw drinking = JOY. He signed the word "Mountain" on our family vacation in the mountains and we all nearly lost our ever-lovin' minds over it. We have JOY because we are so very, very, proud of him and everything he does. Gosh, we are so glad God chose to let us have him!"

Follow Emily & Boone over on Instagram at @emilycarolfox

Thanks for sharing Emily!

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Maggie Szafranski


Maggie is a stay-at-home Mama to five boys. Her youngest, Matthew, has Down syndrome. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her boys and hubby and documents their days through her blog, Mighty Matthew and Instagram, using her mad photography skills-- evidenced below!

Matthew is the sweetest little guy who lights up the room with his infectious smile. He turned 1 in May and is the youngest of 5 boys! He is one of the happiest babies I have ever been around. Matthew tries so hard to keep up with his brothers, and I believe they are the best therapy he will ever get.
Maggie's words:

"At our 20 week ultrasound the doctor told us that they saw a few possible markers for Down syndrome and recommended we do genetic testing. Ten days later I got the call that my doctor wanted me to come in to go over the results. I knew instantly why they weren't telling me over the phone and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. The doctor told us that with 99.5% certainty that our baby boy would be born with Down syndrome.
When we got in the car to drive home, my husband held my hand and looked right into my eyes and said "God has been preparing us for this baby for a long, long time, we just didn't know it." He was so right.
One of the major ways that God prepared us for Matthew was by leading us to our school and church community. The school my older boys attend is one of the only private schools in Oklahoma with an inclusive education program. On that car ride home, being overwhelmed and flooded with emotion, one of the most comforting thoughts for me was that at least I knew he would be able to go to the same school as his brothers.
Since that day, inclusive education has become a passion for both my husband and me. We firmly believe that inclusive education, whether public or private, benefits every single child. Most people would acknowledge that it benefits those who need the extra attention, but what often goes unnoticed is how much others are affected by having people with different abilities in their class. It promotes acceptance and understanding which will be beneficial for the rest of their lives.
Since Matthew was born, my husband has worked closely with a group of others to start an inclusive education program at our local catholic high school. Knowing that Matthew has his education lined up through high school takes a ton of stress off our shoulders, and knowing that he will be with his brothers just makes it extra special!"

How does Matthew bring you JOY?

"The joy Matthew brings to the world is palpable. His smile lights up a room. His funny little laugh is infectious. The look of pride he gets on his face whenever he finally accomplishes something new will melt your heart! You can see the joy radiating out of Matthew from his hands and feet when he gets excited- he expresses joy with his entire body!
In this world we live in, where everything is fast paced and everybody is busy, Matthew has reminded us to slow down and enjoy the little things. He has taught our big boys to celebrate all the little victories, and they are right there cheering him on!"

To follow more of Maggie & Matthew's story, find them over at her blog, Mighty Matthew, or Instagram: @mighty.matthew & @mbszafranski

Thanks for sharing Maggie!

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Steph Ferguson


Steph is a Mama to Syler and Arbor, who has Down syndrome. She and the boys, along with her hubby Cody, live in New Albany, Indiana. Arbor is a year and a half (19 months). He loves to observe and has a laugh that could melt anyone's heart.

Steph's words:

"I didn't know that Arbor had Down syndrome until he was born. I freshly remember the emotions that washed over me, mainly the fear. I had so many questions. The Lord gave me a peace over the next few days. I don't remember praying for peace, but I know someone must have been.
I started to quickly see all of the joy that Arbor's life was bringing me and I knew that even more joy would come from his life! His Down syndrome diagnosis has caused me to step up as an advocate. I have learned patience- so much patience! Most of all, Arbor's life is teaching me the value of stopping to enjoy the moment. The baby years go by so quickly- raising my older son is a testament to that- and Arbor is taking longer to reach milestones, so each one he meets along the way is a cause for celebration to the point of tears. So many people cheer with us when Arbor learns to do new things. It is pretty incredible to see how he inspires people, especially me."
How does Arbor bring you JOY?

"I think Arbor is changing the world for the better every day. Life is not about "likes" and "follows" on social media, but I see that a certain number of people follow our journey with Arbor is it humbles me because I know that these people care to see him and are curious. The community around us and our family are so loving and supportive, and that brings my Mama heart so much joy."

Find more about Steph, Arbor & their family over at her blog or on Instagram:
Insta: @thefergseveryday

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Christy Cooper


Christy is a stay-at-home Mama to Tierney and Kellan, where they and her hubby live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Kel, who has Down syndrome, is 14 months. He LOVES to make music, especially with his drum set. He is easy going, snuggly, empathetic, and charming beyond words. He is also a burgeoning high chair comedian.

Christy's words:

After I received a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, I spent six whole months of my pregnancy angry and resentful. I would scroll through photos of friends' kids and feel bitter that their babies didn't have an extra chromosome. I tried to focus on all the typical, happy aspects of having a baby, like washing the tiny clothes and choosing a name. But running in the background was a constant reminder of how sad and hard my life was about to get. I was prepared to be afraid and disappointed when my son was born on July 17, 2017. Instead I fell deeply in love the moment I saw him. In my dreams he had come out and it would be immediately apparent that he did not have Ds and the doctors had just screwed up. The reality was more magical; his eyes were a gorgeous almond shape with an extra fold that was obvious. He had Down syndrome. And I didn't care one bit. He had claimed me, and it didn't matter how many fingers, toes, or chromosomes he had. He was, and is, the joy and love of my life.

How has Kellan brought you JOY?

He brings out the best in other people. I fall more in love with his dad and his big sister because of seeing the parts of them that Kel puts a spotlight on. He is also my cuddler. His sister has been independent since she was in the womb. I adore her strong will and adventurous nature, but Kellan fills in that mama need I have to hold my sleeping baby for hours. He also has the best smile and laugh. His entire face lights up when he smiles, and he laughs with his whole body. No one can stay sad when Kel is happy.

Follow Christy & Kellan over on Instagram: @mellokello717 & @shutters527

Tulsa Buddy Walk | Team Fern & Friends

Every year the Down Syndrome Association of Tulsa (DSAT) hosts the Tulsa Buddy Walk. It is organized not only by DSAT but also by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). Each year the families that are a part of DSAT create teams centered around their "Buddy" and raise money for our local chapter (DSAT) and the NDSS.

This was our second year to participate, and we had a blast!
 DSAT does a great job making this event fun and free for everyone. We ate yummy BBQ provided by Oklahoma Joe's. The kids got to interact with various animals thanks to Safari Joe's and get balloons made by Balloon Man Neil. Cindella and Spiderman even made an appearance!
The event ends with a victories walk, hence the name Buddy Walk, where each team walks with their Buddy. Lindie had quite the crew supporting her this year, which we are super thankful for. Can't wait for next year already!
 Thank you to everyone who joined us this year to celebrate team Fern & Friends!

 Click here to see the 2017 Buddy Walk

Down Syndrome Awareness Month | Joyful Mamas | Guest Blogger: Kimberly Wyse


Kimberly is a blogger, speaker and stay-at-home Mama to Eliana, Charlie and Redmond. She lives with her husband and children in the rural Midwest and loves sharing their lives through her blog and Instagram.

"Redmond, who has Down syndrome, will be 19 months old on October 1. He has a great sense of humor. A few days ago, he and I spent the day together in doctor appointments. All day he kept smiling at me and saying, "Mom, mom, mom..." It was so sweet. Then a doctor pointed to me and asked him, "Who's this?" With a twinkle in his eye, he shouted, "Dad!" Then he laughed and laughed. When the doctor left the room, she waved goodbye at him. I've been trying to get him to blow kisses at me for months and he never has. When she left the room, he dramatically kisses his hand and blew it to her! He hasn't done it since."

Kimberly's words:

Redmond's diagnosis was a surprise to us at birth. We'd seen no signs of it prenatally, so when he was born with major health issues and this diagnosis, we were shocked. As older parents, we'd been warned of the possibility. I'd been particularly afraid of it, but felt hopeful that God wouldn't allow that to happen to us. We'd waited to have children until we found one another, much later in life than most, and I felt we deserved a free pass from further challenges. It never occurred to me that my foolish idea also meant that I thought other families deserved medical complications and disabilities. We nearly lost Redmond when he was born, and it was two weeks before we knew for sure that he actually had Down syndrome and that he was going to live. We were so grateful that we get to keep him that Down syndrome became much less of a big deal than it might have been otherwise. God has dealt with my spiritual pride and other secret places in my heart through all of this. I never realized how much I desired to be "normal", how much I associated difficulty and sickness with sin and God's displeasure. God has shown me so much more as I've learned to love my precious son. He has taken me to the very end of myself and I've learned to lean on Him more than I knew was possible. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "...My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Through Redmond, I've learned the truth of this Scripture. People may see Redmond as weak - and low muscle tone means that his motor skills are delayed, but I've also seen the phenomenon of God's strength moving through him. Miracles heaped upon miracles have bolstered our faith. And when I look at my precious son, I see more of Jesus in him than in most people. He is my great reward.

How has Redmond brought you JOY?

Redmond lights up the room with his smile and laughter. When he works so hard to reach a milestone that comes easy for most, we celebrate enthusiastically. He delights his big brother and sister too. Everyone in our family is absolutely smitten with him and I'm pretty sure he knows it! He has brought more JOY into our home than we ever knew possible.

Thanks for sharing Kimberly!

Follow Kimberly & Redmond over at her blog, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook:
Instagram: @Kimberlywyse & @redmondthewise  
Twitter: @wyse.kimberly
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