Raising Izzy

My family’s journey to GiGi’s playhouse started in 2019 when prenatal testing indicated that there was a high likelihood that our baby had Down syndrome. When my wife Anna and I got the news I did what most people do, I googled it. Bad Idea…. The Google results brought back medical articles about the high likelihood of heart defects, breathing complications, ear and sinus infections, developmental delays, early onset of Alzheimer’s, and all kinds of other scary stuff. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt crept in and it can be overwhelming. Negative thoughts and thinking of various negative scenarios caused the joy of welcoming our fourth child to be replaced with feelings of despair, yet we began the journey of accepting our new reality and the new life we are now blessed to have. 

As I read, learned more, and discovered podcasts and information from people that actually experience life living with someone with Down syndrome instead of medical professionals, we realized that there is plenty of upside too. By the time our daughter Izzy was born, we were ready and eager to meet her, and fired up for the journey. Izzy’s birth was fine, she was happy healthy baby, and all was well. 

That fall, as Izzy was nearing her first birthday, my wife Anna and I saw an advertisement for a GiGi’s Playhouse fundraiser held by the Cincinnati startup team and we jumped at the chance for a much needed date night. During the pandemic, we found GiGi’s Playhouse Cincinnati when we most needed it, and it’s been an amazing ride so far. 

Yes, there have been challenges with raising  Izzy. There have been surgeries for ear tubes, tonsil removal, hospital stays for RSV and Pneumonia, and Izzy has heart defects that may require attention in the future, but I can tell you, the reality has been a whole lot better than what the Google results told us to expect. Through GiGi’s we’ve met people with Down syndrome that drive, work multiple jobs, that have graduated college, that get married, drink beer, live independently and entertain others. We’ve learned that everything is possible and that Down syndrome is not something to fear, but something to embrace. We are proud to be some of The Lucky Few. Life is amazing, and Down syndrome has enhanced our lives. 

It’s been great to see Izzy around GiGi’s Playhouse Cincinnati. She charges in to find her favorite people and her favorite toys. It gives me great joy to see her thrive there, and it gives me comfort to know that GiGi’s will be there for her throughout her life. I watch her in the toddler programs, and look forward to seeing her in the teen, and adult programs. 

Interactions at the playhouse with other children help Izzy grow, and help teach us how to teach her to interact with others, in a judgment free place. We learn from other parents, from the volunteers, and from the programs. GiGi’s offers Izzy’s siblings (Charlee, Josie, and Leah), a place to learn how to interact and embrace those with disabilities. The GiGi’s network offers us a place to do this in other cities. We’ve visited multiple playhouses while on vacation or when we’ve been passing through other cities. If we ever move, there is comfort knowing we will likely have a GiGi’s nearby. 

We appreciate GiGi’s Playhouse for raising awareness of Down Syndrome, and for helping those with Down Syndrome live longer, healthier, rich and meaningful lives.

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