Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society


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Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society

667 US-51 Suite C
Ridgeland, MS 39157
601-385-DOWN (3696)

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Hartung, Savannah

I had just turned 40 and was pregnant with my second child when I received a phone call from my doctor that would change my life. “Debbie, you’re having a girl, and she has DOWN SYNDROME.” I went to a specialist, who gave me a piece of paper with a list of possible problems, all in technical terms. He said we had to make a decision whether or not we wanted to keep our baby. My first impulse was NO, I don’t want to do this. A million reasons went through my head of why I could not keep this baby. But thank God for my now ex-husband, Richard.

God gave me the greatest gift I’ll ever receive.

We sat down, and I began to pour out my reasons why I should terminate this pregnancy and very calmly, he said, “In theory, legally, I have always thought a woman has the right to choose, but now that it is my child, I’m just not sure.” I called my obstetrician back, and said “Please help me, Richard wants to keep the baby, and I’m scared.” Her words saved my baby and me. She said, “I have seen sick children, and these are usually not sick children. They are truly a blessing. They seem to have been given something extra to make up for anything they might lack.”


Sixteen years after Savannah’s birth, as I look back at that terrified pregnant person I was, how I wish I could have shown her the future. I believed the positive things I read on the Internet HAD to be biased, that they couldn’t REALLY be being honest by saying they were happy with their “special needs” child. But I am here to tell you that raising my Savannah has been an absolute JOY.

I’m not saying life has been perfect. Yes, she was sickly for the first 5 years of her life. She was very small, and whenever she got a cold her tonsils would swell. We’d end up in the ER getting a breathing treatment of Epinephrine to reduce the swelling (chronic croup). And she did have a heart cath at age 3. But through all these procedures, you never saw a sweeter, more pleasant child. I sang twinkle-twinkle and wheels on the bus at least a million times to keep her calm, and as long as I was calm, she always followed suit.

I took her to ballet at 2, dance and gymnastics at 3, and cheer at 5, just like I did her sister. And I made her stand in her spot, pay attention to the teacher and participate, just like I did her sister. And she did. She played t-ball and soccer. We flew on planes, went on cruises, traveled all over the country in my mini-van, and she even snorkeled at 7 when her 11 year old sister was too scared. I fussed at her when she was bad. I made her apologize when she did something wrong. I never “assumed” she didn’t understand or “couldn’t help it.” I treated her just like I did my other child. I have expectations for both. They are not the same, but they are fair and tough. Everywhere I go people tell me she is the sweetest child they have ever known. She is polite, respectful, and just full of joy. I wish I could say that I made her that way, I didn’t, God did that. I just get to enjoy it.

All I can say is, don’t sell your kids short by limiting what you “think” they can do, they may surprise you. Let them try. Let them fail, pick them up, keep them going, just like all your kids. God gave me the greatest gift I’ll ever receive. He gave me a person who always sees the good in everyone. Who loves me the minute she wakes up until the minute she goes to sleep. He gave me a best friend for life. He gave me a little glimpse into what Heaven will be like where everyone is good and kind and full of joy. So I sit here 16 years later and say…Thank you to Richard for seeing the light and helping me see it as well and thank you to God for giving me a gift I totally did not deserve. And to my Sweet Savannah (Vanna) I love you with all the heart a mom can love with… thank you for being mine!!!!!

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