If you are reading this testimony, it is most likely because we share something in common in our lives. We were blessed with having a child with a little extra – an extra 21st chromosome – and so much more.
My name is Beth Vanderloo. I am a pediatric speech-language pathologist, wife and mother to three beautiful children: Elizabeth, 9 yrs. old; Thomas, 7 yrs. old; and, Mary Catherine, 6 yrs. old.
What I thought was the worst day of my life would turn out to be the BEST day.
On March, 11, 2011, our third child, Mary Catherine, was born. We were excited to find out we had another precious girl. While I was in recovery, Mary Catherine was being examined by the neonatologist. They then told my husband that they suspected she may have Down syndrome. Though numerous sonograms were performed throughout my pregnancy, nothing showed any suspicion of Down syndrome and I had a normal pregnancy. My husband came and shared the doctor’s thoughts, then brought Mary Catherine in to me. I took one look and knew right away their suspicions were correct, and later testing confirmed her diagnosis. Hearing those words changed my life forever.
Although I have years of experience with treating children of various diagnoses, to know it firsthand was extremely hard to accept. Not me, not us! It felt like something was taken from me, as if my pregnancy was all a lie; I was blindsided with the news. What would her siblings think, my family, my friends? I thank the Lord every day for my husband, Matthew, who never once viewed anything about her diagnosis as negative. All that mattered to him was that she was ours and she would be no different than her siblings.
Mary Catherine was born with an ASD (a heart defect that resolved itself on its own, without any surgery), but other than that, is very healthy. She ate well, slept well and, all in all, was a very easy baby, just like her siblings. We came home with her two days after her birth and I began to go into “therapist mode.” I began researching and trying to do all I could to figure out what we needed to do that would help her reach her fullest potential. Although I was busy with research, I continued to struggle with accepting her diagnosis and cried often.
After going back to work and talking with other parents about their journey and watching our Mary Catherine meet skill after skill did I began to see her as Mary Catherine, not a child with Down syndrome. Mary Catherine is so much more than that little diagnosis. I look at her and literally cannot get enough. I can hardly wait to see her precious face every afternoon in carpool when I pick her up from school. Her first words when she gets in the car are, “Hey Mama, Bit Bit and Tom?” Asking me “Are we going to get Elizabeth and Thomas next?” (which we are). She adores her siblings more than anyone and they adore her back. She has taught and continues to teach them the joy and appreciation of all human life. How no matter who you are, what color your hair is, how tall you are, we are all different in many ways, but all the same in the image and likeness of God and that is all that matters in our world.
When I look back, I often feel a sense of guilt as to how I felt at the time of her birth and for some time after. I know now that it was just part of the process for many parents to experience and that is ok. If you have these struggles in the beginning, I can assure you 100% that you will realize how blessed you and your family are.
I could not imagine life without our Mary Catherine. We are privileged as parents and I can certainly say that God has gifted our family with our precious child, just as He gifted us with her siblings and just as He has gifted your family.
So in closing, I thank God for allowing me to say, “Yes me!” Thank you for allowing me to hear those words and for changing my life. What I thought was the worst day of my life would turn out to be the BEST day, and every day with her and her siblings is a BEST day!
Please contact me with any needs you may have. It is a joy and privilege to meet new parents of children with that extra chromosome.