Finding out a grandchild is going to be born with Down syndrome sometimes bring with it a double dose of worry: concern for the grandchild and also concern for the child. While those initial fears are normal, every grandparent we’ve ever met has fallen head over heels in love with their grandchild. However, it can sometimes be tough to navigate those first few months, so we have a book, “Your Loved One Is Having a Baby with Down Syndrome,” just for you.
Friends and family can read more about how they can offer this kind of positive support in our booklet, “Your Loved One Is Having a Baby with Down Syndrome.”
See also: Sharing the News with Friends and Family chapter in our book, “Diagnosis to Delivery: A Pregnant Mother’s Guide to Down Syndrome.”
You can also look here for a list of other great grandparent resources by columnist (and Lucy’s grandma), Beverly Beckham.
Reflections from parents and grandparents about their experiences and how grandparents have shown their love and support for both their child and grandchild.
From Stacy Hopper, sharing how her parents rallied around her as a young mother when her first baby was born with Down syndrome and her husband was deployed in the military:
“I was 20 years old, married for less than a year and in another state, when we found out our firstborn was going to have Down syndrome. Obviously shocked and scared, I called my mom and told her the “bad news,” and she and my fathers responded, “Okay, so what’s the bad news?”
I kid you not! My family rallied around us and researched, joined groups, and called daily with encouragement and hopeful words.
My mom came out when Josephyne was born and stayed til she was 18 days old. Sadly she had to go back home before our girl came home, but she was with her everyday until she left!
When our baby was 5 weeks old, my husband was deployed to Iraq, and Joey Grace and I were all by ourselves. My family didn’t like that so my dad and two of my three brothers drove from Missouri to Coastal North Carolina to pack us up and bring us home while he was deployed. My dad had only seen her in pictures until they pulled up in front of my house … and when he saw her for the first time, it was amazing. A complete and utter love that knows no bounds and that is palpable to anyone around. Our girl is now 10, turning 11 in November, and her absolute best friends and biggest champions would be my amazing parents. Involved in every aspect of our lives, they always make sure love and time spent is equal among their 10 grandchildren but there is something between my daddy (Papa) and my girl (Joey Grace) that no one will ever understand: true and honest love that is never ending.
I come from an amazing and large family, and no one has ever treated her any different than they would any other child, and that is all due to my parents examples in our growing up and in their reaction to our amazingly genetically enhanced girl.
Low you Nana-Bean and Papa-Bean!”
From Amy Allison, the Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City, describing how the love and support Stacey’s grandparents made a difference:
In 2002 DSG received a phone call from a grandpa to be indicating his daughter was living in another state and was just informed she is carrying a baby with Down syndrome. Grandpa was concerned and anxious to get educated about the condition and the best ways he could support his daughter and granddaughter to be. I met with Grandpa within a few weeks of his call and provided him up-to-date accurate information to help him prepare. He called me a few months after his granddaughter was born to say that his son in-law was being deployed and he was concerned, so he was moving his daughter and granddaughter to Kansas City to provide help. As grandparents go, he was the biggest cheerleader and supporter I have seen. Always proud and always looking for ways to get engaged with the DSG.
From Christy Pate, explaining how her mother was a tremendous source of strength when her daughter with Down syndrome was diagnosed with leukemia:
My kids have the best grandparents!
When my loved one with Down syndrome was diagnosed with AML (leukemia), we had one week to get everything in order and spent most of the next 6 months in the hospital. Since he was so young and exclusively breastfeeding, we decided it would be best if I was with him the entire time. We were able to accomplish this because Grandma set her life on the table, and stepped right into mine. She basically moved into my house and ran my household which enabled me to stay at the hospital for 6 months and my husband to continue at work without any loss of time, pay, or vacation. My older kids did great because they didn’t have to become latch-key kids or feel neglected. She was even able to manage the complications of a high schooler and a homeschooler.
I could never have been away from my home, my family, my older kids, etc. without the reassurance my mom provided by being with them. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without Grandma! My dad was behind it and gave his full support saying, “where else would she be?”
From Vickie Wood, describing her strong bond with her granddaughter who has mosaic Down syndrome and multiple medical issues:
I have been a special education teacher for over 20 years. It is my calling, and I love what I do. I am also a very proud grandmother of 11 grandchildren whom I love with all my heart. That said, I have to ‘fess up’ that my precious granddaughter Darcie is always going to hold a little extra special piece of my heart. Darcie was born with the rare chromosome difference Mosaic Down Syndrome. She also arrived with congenital heart defects, and we recently found out that she is profoundly deaf. Darcie has already overcome many challenges including jaundice, open heart surgery, slow growth, and feeding and digestive difficulties, but she has proven herself to be a fighter as well as a precious sweetheart full of smiles and sunshine. Our family has been enriched by her presence in our lives, and she is already changing perceptions about people with different abilities in very positive ways. She is fiercely loved and deserves all the help, encouragement, and protection we can provide. My daughter and I will be signing up for a course to improve our skills in American Sign Language so we can teach Darcie to sign and help others learn to sign so they can communicate with her. I just know that she has a lot of very important things to teach the world!
From Bernice Hall, talking about how she supported her daughter after her first child was born with Down syndrome and the fun they have had since then:
When I found out that my youngest daughter was expecting her first child, I was overjoyed. The day of Andy’s birth was eventful. I was overcome with joy. However, that joy was short-lived. We were told that he had swallowed meconium and would need to go into the newborn intensive care unit right away. It wasn’t long before we were told that the doctors suspected that Andy had Down syndrome. My first reaction was to deny that my 23-year-old could have a baby with Down syndrome because I thought that only happened to older women.
The genetic testing confirmed the doctor’s suspicion. At that point, I had to say goodbye to the baby that I thought we were having and welcome this precious little boy for the beauty of who he was. Embracing that reality came quickly and with much love.
One memory that will stay with me forever involved a riding lawn mower. When Andy was about three-years-old, my husband bought the mower. He couldn’t have purchased anything that Andy would have loved more. For a couple of years, he just rode with his Papa. Then, he was allowed to steer. Andy put more mileage on that machine just riding for fun than Papa did cutting grass.
During that time, we took him to an animal park. Our means of transportation around the park was a large tractor that pulled a flat bed covered with straw. Andy was so excited that the attendant allowed Andy to sit with him. At some point during the ride, he allowed Andy to steer. He was able to maneuver through an open gate without hitting anything. The smile on his sweet face was priceless.
Andy continues to amaze me with his computer skills and his photography talent. He patiently helps me with my computer. Best of all, I love when he puts he arms around my neck and gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, “You’re the greatest Mawmaw in the world.” Of course, the love that we share just grows stronger.