“…so we believe she has Trisomy 21.”

“Trisomy 21?”, I asked confused and concerned.

“Down syndrome”, the doctor clarified.

I felt pain in my chest and my heart shattered to pieces, I could barely breathe. As I held my first born child, all of these horrible thoughts flashed by in my mind,

“She will never walk, she will never talk, she will die at a young age”.

I looked down at my brand new baby girl, only a few hours old, and felt so confused.

“No this can’t be, they are wrong.”

I was mad, I was sad, I was confused, I felt so alone. I had no idea who to talk to, no idea where to go, and I knew nothing at all about Down syndrome. I was only 19 and all of my dreams for my life with my baby girl had been destroyed in an instant with one diagnosis.

All this talk about “she probably won’t breastfeed”, “you want to get her started in services right away”, “she could need heart surgery”, “she may have a lot of health complications”, and I had no idea where to even start.

It wasn’t until my daughter Ariana was one month old that I finally decided to find something online where I could find out more about Down syndrome and connect with other parents. I found my local Down syndrome information organization in Texas. I was connected with a handful of moms, we had a couple of playdates, but our relationships were mostly online and over the phone.

This is Why GiGi’s is so important to me and what drives my passion for spreading the message of global acceptance. Could you imagine if every single person in the Sacramento area knew about GiGi’s Playhouse Sacramento and that it is a Down syndrome achievement center!? If these individuals received a diagnosis for their child or knew someone who just received a diagnosis they would know exactly where to go!

What if every hospital passed out GiGi’s Playhouse Sacramento Brochures instead of a print out of a medical textbook that “explains” what Down syndrome is?! The whole world’s view would change!

Instead of a mother’s internal dialog sounding like mine, “Who can I talk to? Where do I go? What is Down syndrome? Will my baby be okay?”

Her internal dialog will sound more like, “I know exactly where to go, GiGi’s Playhouse Sacramento! There will be so many people there to talk to and they can answer all of my questions! I can get advice on breastfeeding, I can start her in free programs at GiGi’s right away, I can ask about heart surgery and other health complications she may face! I still feel a little scared, but I feel so much better knowing that I can walk into GiGi’s Playhouse Sacramento and feel supported.”

What a drastic difference GiGi’s Playhouse makes!

Mothers and Fathers who receive a pre-natal or post delivery diagnosis will be able to physically walk into the Playhouse and be greeted with a warm hug and a sincere “Congratulations”. If I had a GiGi’s Playhouse when my daughter was first born, it would have changed so much for me and my husband. We wouldn’t have felt so alone and hopeless!

Almost four years later, I am so happy that Ariana was brought into my life. I am no longer afraid of Down syndrome. I love welcoming new parents into my circle of love and support. Ariana has made the world a better place for our family and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. And to all the doctors and nurses who doubted her, she breastfed for three years, is a mighty heart warrior, and thriving! I am so proud of her and I am so excited for GiGi’s Playhouse Sacramento to open their doors and continue to spread the message of acceptance around the entire world!

Olivia

2 Comments

  1. Jane Odell on May 5, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Livi,

    So well written. You and Brandon are amazing parents, chosen by God.
    I’m very proud of you, and Brandon for your love and strength from Air’s birth, up until this moment, and beyond.
    You will be such a blessing and a great support person to all, as the Community Director for greater Sacramento for Gigi’s Playhouse!!!
    You are my amazing Great Niece!!

    Much Love,
    A. Jane

  2. Jennifer Park on June 16, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Ariana is so strong and I know she has made you, Brandon and the rest of your family stronger too. She is funny, smart and amazing. Jenny Park, PT, EasterSeals

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