Mike and Amber Elwood are parents to Natalie. Mike was on staff with SOMO for about nine years before he joined the force at the Sedalia Police Department, and Amber is a teacher. They are both Unified Partners. The family lives in Columbia.
The words “we’re pregnant” brought bounds of excitement to our family. We had no idea the words “1 in 160 chance” would bring rushes of tears and would change our lives forever. We heard those words from our doctor indicating the possibility of us having a child with Down syndrome. We decided that our baby was given to us for a reason and we were having the baby no matter what and would not take the risk of losing our baby for further testing. Our fear was relieved after our ultrasound indicated our baby girl was developing typically with no signs of Down syndrome. We knew that didn’t guarantee she didn’t have Down syndrome, but it was a good sign that the baby did not have the typical indicators.
When our beautiful baby girl was born, we knew we were blessed with a typical baby girl. She looked just like her daddy and was perfect. The thought of Down syndrome never entered our mind until a hospital doctor suggested that we have her tested because our risk factor was so high. He told us her routine newborn testing did not indicate anything out of the ordinary, but we should probably have her tested so we could have early intervention if she did have Down syndrome. We felt she had been tested enough and chose not to do any further testing until it was recommended by our doctor or we felt it was necessary.
When Natalie was six weeks old, we had her blood drawn to test for Down syndrome. That was both one of the hardest and easiest decisions we ever made. Easy, because we would know for sure if Natalie had DS. Hard, because we would have to face the fact that Natalie had DS. When we heard the words “Natalie does have Down syndrome,” we cried for hours. We cried because of the challenges Natalie would have to face in her lifetime, not because we felt sorry we had a baby with DS, and not because we were sorry for Natalie.
What we didn’t know is that the facts associated with Natalie’s Down syndrome would be the best experiences we have ever faced.
Fact, Natalie loves us.
Fact, we love her.
Fact, she is healthy.
Fact, she successfully nursed for one year.
Fact, she learned to hold her head up, roll over, sit up, feed herself, wave hi and bye, clap, play with toys, say “Mom” and “Dada,” and simple sign language.
Fact, she is stubborn (just like her mother and father).
Fact, Natalie will walk.
Fact, Natalie will grow up.
Fact, NATALIE IS PERFECT, for us.
We could not have asked for a better addition to our family. Yes, Natalie has Down syndrome. Down syndrome does not define who she is, nor what she is capable of now and will be capable of in the future. We define who she is and who she will grow up to be. We know Natalie will grow up to do great things because we see it every day!! We see it in the smiles of every person with special needs who takes the oath to “…be brave in the attempt.” We are so thankful to have a family in our SOMO community who support us and Natalie with education, sport and love!