Sometimes you have to search hard for good news. I missed this story that went viral on Twitter last year. Every year Gerber Foods chooses a baby of the year and with it a prize of $50,000. For the first time, Gerber chose a child with Down Syndrome to represent the company. The story broke into national news when the winner, 18-month-old Lucas Warren, met the original Gerber baby, 91-year-old Ann Turner Cook. The charcoal drawing of Ann Turner Cook had been on Gerber jars since 1928. Could this acceptance of children like Lucas Warren be a trend?
Two years ago, OshKosh also chose a child with the extra chromosome. Recently, a popular video appeared on Facebook highlighting a young man, also with Down Syndrome, who appeared on the British talent show called The Greatest Dancer. He captivated judges and audience alike with his expressive style.
Movement is afoot on the legislative front. Last year, Indiana passed a bill banning abortions that target unborn babies based on race, sex, and those with Down Syndrome. North Dakota passed a similar bill and Ohio’s bill is now being discussed before the Supreme Court. Several years ago, a public uproar was heard when Iceland announced that the country had virtually “eliminated” Down Syndrome. Of course, they did not find a cure: quite the opposite.
Perhaps the world is learning a lesson I learned five years ago. When an ultrasound was done before my grandson’s birth, it was discovered that he had a serious birth defect that would require specialized surgery by highly skilled doctors. My grandson was born at Beth Israel Hospital and immediately whisked over to Boston Children’s Hospital. At his birth, we did not know for sure that he had Down Syndrome.
On the day after his birth, I walked into the hospital room and saw a photograph of him minutes after birth. I thought that he looked like his older brother. I walked away, but then did an about-face. I took a closer look. He was cute, all right, with blond hair and pink complexion, but another attribute caught my attention. Sure enough, he had that extra chromosome. It took several minutes for the news to sink in. I looked out over the rooftops of tall buildings, into a crystal blue sky. I said a prayer. In my heart, I heard an answer. That answer was clear as a bell: “It is all about love.”
That proved to be true, more than we could ever realize. Over the years, he had many surgeries and long stays at Boston Children’s Hospital. His parents had to rise to levels of self-sacrifice that seemed almost unbearable at times. Still, they persevered in love. Family and friends also rose to the occasion, supporting the family with money for housing; grandparents provided childcare for the older brother; the church collected funds to buy gas cards; a big pan of lasagna was delivered via taxi by an aunt.
To this day, my heart skips a beat when I think of this outpouring of love, sometimes from surprising places. At his baptism, on a gray day complete with freezing rain and treacherous roads, the chapel was jammed with neighbors and family, all there to honor this little baby who has the miraculous ability to bring people together to levels of kindness none of us could ever have imagined. Yes indeed, it is all about love.
Copyright 2019 Kathryn Swegart