A Black Mother’s Journey with a Son with Down Syndrome
Meet Meeka Caldwell and her son, Anian.
Meeka is a wife, mother, author, and dedicated advocate in the Down syndrome community. Anian is a curious 6 year old who loves people and loves to help others. He is a problem solver, has a great personality and a wonderful sense of humor! He also has Down syndrome.
Meeka received that diagnosis at 15 weeks pregnant and it was devastating; not because of the diagnosis itself, but because it did not come with help or support. It came through a phone call from the doctor’s office followed by an in-person appointment that left her even more upset. As she stared at her son’s sonogram on the screen her mind raced with questions. “Do I need to know anything special about breast feeding or how to care for him”. Before she was able to ask those questions, she was being asked if she wanted to terminate her pregnancy. There was an automatic assumption that she would want to terminate because of a Down syndrome diagnosis. She did not.
Instead, having not known of or seen any people of color with Down syndrome in her life, she asked geneticists at her doctor’s office if there were any Black families they could connect her with that also had Down syndrome. The answer was no.
So Meeka hit the internet, searching through Google and Facebook, until she finally found a great community online. But in her local community, it took a bit to find another Black family that had a child with Down syndrome. Eventually, she was able to find more, but questioned why they were not represented. Why were they not coming together to share their experiences?
Few Children’s Books about Down syndrome
Meeka’s journey since that appointment is a perfect example of how a mother’s love and dedication can change perceptions. She is “tearing up the pavement dismantling barriers, stereotypes and ignorance in the fight for equity, inclusion, access, and fair treatment for those with rights afforded to them for the unique abilities they were given!”
Being a mother of a Black child with Down syndrome, she noticed that there were few children’s books about Down syndrome and none featuring a Black child. So Meeka wrote “A Friend Like Anian”. It’s the first of a series, inspired by her son to show diversity and representation in the Down syndrome community.
She highlights Anian’s daily life and errands with mommy. His milestones. His life. Just him. How he’s helpful and how people help him. “That’s how I envision the community coming together,” Meeka said. “I want people to feel comfortable. These are children or adults or teens in our community. They are in our schools. They are working. You can embrace everyone in the community.”
Watch a video of Meeka reading “A Friend Like Anian”.
Her book, and future books in the series, are meant for a wide audience, not just Black families. Her wish is that “it becomes available in every school, library, in every state and abroad!” Understanding the need for and importance of representation, we were honored to have Meeka join us for a special virtual reading of “A Friend Like Anian”. It is now available for families to read at all of our Playhouses.
We encourage you to watch the video reading here with your children and family members:
What do you wish people knew about Down syndrome?”
A fellow Mom on social media asked Meeka, “What do you wish people knew about Down syndrome”.
Her reply was “…let’s see… EVERYTHING! LOL! I want people to know that a diagnosis is not gloom and doom, it’s not sad, it’s not pity, it’s not anything but information that will help you understand how you will nurture and push your child to be their full selves. We do that anyway as parents, a diagnosis will cause you to go a bit deeper to understand YOUR child, educate and advocate for their best interests! I remember saying “when will he walk”, now I need a fence, then I said “when will he talk” and now I need all ya’ll numbers so he can call ya’ll, LOL.
Our community is awesome, the support is immeasurable, and I’m so honored to have this opportunity in life to raise Boo Thang and his sisters! Having a child with Down Syndrome is joy in itself as every milestone means everything, and he has a whole family whose teaching, encouraging, and celebrating along the way and his sisters are the main ones, even when he busts in their room, jumps on their bed and snatches their toys.”
But What If We Did?
If you don’t already follow Meeka on social media, do it! You’ll see inspiring posts like this one:
“This year I’m thinking about all of the challenges that we’ve had going to Kindergarten and this shirt was inspired by a post where another Mama said in response to everyone simply giving a chance to our babies: But What If We Did… what if we made inclusion the norm, what if we presume competence, what if we extended more job opportunities, what if we invited that classmate that is in the wheelchair to the birthday party, what if daycares truly accepted all…But What If We Did…”
Thank you Meeka, for being part of the GiGi’s Playhouse family in Annapolis. When she was the only Black mother during a visit to her local GiGi’s Playhouse, she said she stood tall and proud, refusing to hide in the background. She has since asked the tough questions and conversed with us about how we can continue to address equity within our organization and throughout our communities. We have always encouraged acceptance for all but know that there is more work to be done.
We are thrilled to join Meeka in showing the world that Down syndrome comes in all different colors, shapes and sizes. Above all, let’s continue to join our voices to proactively promote inclusivity and community involvement. Because together we can break down stigmas and misconceptions to make the world more accepting, generous, and kind.
Buy the Book!
To purchase “A Friend Like Anian” visit brownbaby321.org. And keep an eye out for Meeka’s new book, “A Friend Like Anian” The First Day of School. They discuss his aid, new school environment and making friends! She gave us a sneak peek of the new illustration style that captures the sparkle in Anian’s eyes beautifully! We can’t wait to purchase it for all of our Playhouses!