There’s a truth I’ve been sharing with my daughter recently. Sometimes I whisper it into her ear as I change her diaper and then tickle kisses onto her cheek. Sometimes I sing it with loud expression, as I bounce her on my knee. And sometimes without even meaning to, as I notice her studying my face, searching for my eyes, I catch my breath and I solemnly declare it, slowly nodding my head, begging her to know it deep in her soul. I tell her, “Palmer, I love every part of you.”

Palmer, my youngest daughter, now almost seven months old, has Down syndrome.

Being a mother of a child with Down syndrome means I come across a lot of articles, blog posts and videos – many of which have deeply inspired me during this new season of discovery, adjustment and, dare I say, hope.

The hard stuff may chart our course, but I will not let it define our destination.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, a day dedicated to raising public awareness and creating a single global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and well-being of people with Down syndrome. That feels like a good day to write a blog post.

There’s a lot I want to say to those coming up behind me – those mommas who just received a diagnosis for their babe. I’d love to pay forward some of the hope-filled posts that have carried me through restless nights and broken a smile, even if I was determined to wallow. But today, I wanted to speak to you – you who do not have a child with Down syndrome. And there are three things I’d love to say.

ONE: First, I want to invite you into this journey with us. Whether that means you’re a physically present member of my tribe, or that you occasionally, silently and anonymously pray for our family, or whether it means you’ll simply consider changing some of your perceptions of people with special needs, I welcome you.

Palmer needs people other than her mom and dad that believe in her value. She’ll need friends, coaches, classmates and employers. She’ll interact with serviceman and women. She’ll have doctors, teachers, waiters and hairdressers. With each and every interaction, there is an opportunity for someone to either build her up or break her down.

“I love every part of you.”

My hopes for her are high – just as they are for my typical daughter, Beckett. I truly do love every part of her and I believe that God can and will use all of it to give her a life that is meaningful, impactful, fulfilling and inspiring to others. I do not see limits for Palmer. I see today. I see the next step. And I think one day we’ll look back from a mountaintop and be amazed that any of us made it there.

If you would, I invite you to believe that for us, too; and cheer us on along the way.


TWO: Secondly, I want you to know I forgive you. I forgive you, not only things you may have said or thought in the past, but for awkward and strange comments your future unknowing self will make. I forgive you for questioning the impact my daughter’s diagnosis may have your own child(ren) – perhaps as a fellow teammate, classmate or friend. I forgive you for judging the way we do things, for thinking you’d do something differently, even though you have no idea what it’s like. By the way, I hope you’ll forgive me for that one, too.

And lastly, I forgive you for trying to limit her, because I know it’s natural to try to protect ourselves and others from disappointment and pain. But, I am not scared of pain. I am not scared of loss. I can handle disappointment. I am prepared to grieve. What I cannot accept is letting pain or fear keep us, keep her, from pursuing a life of purpose and love.

The hard stuff may chart our course, but I will not let it define our destination.

THREE: And lastly, I want you to know that I want all of this for your children, your family, too. Down syndrome makes Palmer different from a lot of your children. But each of our children have things that make them different in their own ways. And different doesn’t equal less.

Some of these differences are struggles, whether they be medical, developmental or behavioral. Some of the differences are simply superficial – race, size and stature, personality, even. No child can coast along average forever. Rejection is coming. Failure will happen. We all get sick. Definitions of “normal” shift. And I want you to know, I want to be there. Whether I know you personally or not, I am rooting for you and your kid. I am cheering on for perseverance, acceptance and inclusion for the entire next generation. And I plan on doing that by one interaction at a time.

There’s something else I’ve been telling Palmer and hope she’ll always believe it. It’s the kind of personal conviction that can change everything. Because when you live out of a place of love, acceptance and purpose, miracles happen. And it’s true for you, too – “I’m so glad you’re here.”