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!

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