This post was written by Gina Alternburg, mother to Gracyn and Gage. Thank you so much for sharing your special story with us!
There were two things I always knew I wanted to be when I grew up. One was to be a special education teacher and the other was to be a mother. In 1996 I got my first teaching job and I have been a special education teacher ever since. By 2011 however, my dream to be a mother still had not come true. It was then that I realized adoption would be the way that dream would come true for me.
During my research of “all things adoption” I came across the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN). NDSAN provides information and support to birth families as well as to families who wish to adopt a child with Down syndrome. Their mission is to ensure that every child born with Down syndrome has the opportunity to grow up in a loving family.
On January 12, 2012 we received a call from Robin Steele at NDSAN saying there was a baby born in Cincinnati and the birth mother liked our portfolio book and wanted to meet us. By January 14 we were in Cincinnati meeting our daughter Gracyn for the first time. It was one of the happiest days of my life! I come from a very loving and supportive family and I knew that this baby would be so incredibly loved. My parents could not wait to meet their newest granddaughter so they flew to Cincinnati from Arizona to be with us!
Fast forward a couple of months and Gracyn’s father and I received more good news…Gracyn was going to be a big sister! I was pregnant! Gracyn’s brother, Gage, was born 13 days after Gracyn celebrated her first birthday…January is a very busy month for us!
Thinking Gracyn would grow up as an only child, the surprise of her brother Gage was truly a gift. With them so close in age, it really is like having twins! It has been so wonderful to watch the two of them together and see this special bond they share. Gracyn LOVES to talk and always has so much to say, however, her biggest area of need is her expressive language. To an unfamiliar listener she is difficult to understand. She does not give up though. When she wants to get her point across she will do everything she can to make sure her communication partner understands what she is trying to say. She uses signs, gestures and word approximations. One of my favorite times to witness Gracyn and Gage’s interactions is in the car. If I am not familiar with the context of what Gracyn is talking about, it can be somewhat difficult to figure it out. Since Gracyn uses signs and gestures, I miss many of those signs while I am driving. However, I can pick up exactly what she is saying based on Gage’s responses to her. He never seems to have any trouble figuring out what she is saying and listening to their sweet little conversations is just priceless. Don’t get me wrong though…they also engage in their fair share of typical sibling teasing and bickering! However, I love the sound of that as well!
Gracyn and Gage mean more than anything in the world to me. This February I did a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt. Beginning on February 1st, up until Valentine’s Day, each morning when they woke up there was a heart for each of them to find. Each day on their heart was a note from me telling them all the ways I love them. It just made my day to see Gracyn jump out of bed every morning and very excitedly (and pretty clearly) say “Find heart, Mama, love me!”