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Sweet Baby Gabe - A Surprise Blessing

By Margot Slowick

When I first received that phone call I could not imagine what our lives would be like with a child with Down syndrome. How things have changed. Now, I can’t imagine our lives without Gabe! He truly is a blessing.

I will never forget that fateful phone call from the genetics councilor.  I was 12 weeks pregnant and I was so overjoyed.  I had some prenatal testing done, just because we were advised to, but I had no fears.

So, I could not believe it when the voice on the other end of the phone said: “Well, Margot, we were surprised to find an extra chromosome.”

‘What does that mean?’ I thought.  “An extra 21st chromosome.” She continued. I was still confused. “I don’t understand?” I said. “What does that mean?” Then the clarification followed…“Your baby has Down syndrome.” 

The whole room went sideways. My head started to pound as I tried to catch my breath. It was one of those defining moments in your life.  I went through a myriad of emotions simultaneously.  I called my husband and told him he needed to come home right away.  We were both shocked with the news, but decided after about 15 minutes that we would face this new path together. For some reason, this was our path, an unexpected and unplanned one, but, our path nonetheless. We were both feeling overwhelmed.  My biggest fear was that we would be alone in all of this. We didn’t know anyone who had a child with Down syndrome.  Would we know how to do this?

The MDSC was instrumental in helping to turn our fears around.  I distinctly remember receiving a welcoming email from [Family Support Director] Sarah Cullen. It was so great to have someone reach out to us. Shortly after we received a beautiful hand knitted baby blanket and a sweet congratulatory card from the MDSC.  The literature included explained the possible health and developmental concerns for a child with Down syndrome, but also said that a baby with Down syndrome has the same needs as a typical baby. I wrapped myself up in that blue blanket and started to breathe normally again.  I remembered that we were having a baby-not a “diagnosis”.

Then more connections followed.  Sarah linked us up with local families in the First Call Program. She also organized a get–together for expectant parents.  This was so pivotal for us. We were NOT alone! There were others who also chose the path we were on! We met three other couples who were also expecting their babies within weeks of our due date.  All have become friends of ours.  

More connections followed. Children’s Hospital put us in touch with Early Intervention services, and a friend introduced us to the local playgroup she helped start: Morning Travelers. I met even more wonderful families there. Our support network was growing!

On September 27th we celebrated Gabriel's first birthday! As I look back, we definitely had our challenges. Starting with the emergency C-section because of his heart defects, continuing with the countless echocardiograms and numerous doctor appointments with almost every kind of “ologist ‘ there is!  However, the challenges do not overshadow the sheer joy that Gabe has brought into our lives. 

He is such a sweet soul, who makes us laugh and smile every day.  He has opened and expanded our hearts more than we knew possible. Gabe has taught us not to judge, to fear less, to be grateful for each day, and to face the unknown with grace.

Because of Gabe, we have met so many wonderful new friends who are supporting us on our path. 

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