The BLOG: Voices

What my Down syndrome son has taught me

I have to admit that, despite the fact that I was aware that my baby might have Down syndrome, it was still a surprise for me when he was born with it. I had refused the amniocentesis tests because I knew that there could be a potential risk for the unborn child (if he happened to move at the wrong moment and get hit by the needle, for example) and I generally live by a “better safe than sorry” attitude.

Being a mother of nine children (ages 25 through 2) already taught me that facing reality is necessary for day-to-day survival, so it didn’t cross my mind to be “in denial” about the possibility of having a “retarded” child. One can also probably figure that, having that many children I must be some sort of a traditional Catholic, which would lead one to also deduce that I would believe that God not only has a Plan, but that He will provide what is needed – temporal, emotional and spiritual. All this is true.

So when Quinn was born and we were told that he had Down syndrome, we took it pretty well, I think. Please don’t get the impression that everything went smoothly without bumps, however. There is no way many folks who have a “special needs” child would have necessarily ordered one if the choice had been theirs. There is, after all, the human element of pride that exists in all of us. Combine that with the fact that we’d already been blessed with nine exceptionally perfect, beautiful and smart children, of course there is the emotion of a bit of embarrassment that you now have a child who doesn’t quite fit what you are used to.

Quinn and Honey Bunny (Courtesy of the Pollock family)

Quinn and Honey Bunny (Courtesy of the Pollock family)

We had some health issues to deal with (all surmountable), and challenges (also all equally surmountable). We also were blessed to have friends who considered me to have given birth to a saint, which is really good for confidence! Through the newness of it all, we had friends and family around to offer support, encouragement and help almost whenever it was needed.

From the get-go, Quinn has been a delight! If you have never experienced a baby with Down syndrome, I highly recommend that you go and make friends with someone who has one. They are delightful beyond the norm. Don’t get me wrong – I am a baby lover; their innocence is captivating – but a baby with Down syndrome is especially beguiling.

And they get more and more beguiling as they grow. There is something so charming about them; having one of my own you would think that I would be able to put my finger on it, but I can’t sum it up in words, it seems.

Quinn is so funny! Even from his littlest days, when he began to communicate, he would do things to try to be funny and make us laugh. He is now almost 16 and has honed the skill to an art. He is sharp.

But I think that the most wonderful and delightful and entertaining part about being Quinn’s mom and being able to watch him develop and grow is his absolute no agenda attitude towards life. He just does. not. care. about what people think of him! A perfect example is something that happened this past summer.

I have had a booth at our local farmers’ market where I sell my homemade herbal salves, creams, teas, etc., for the past eight years. Since I began, I have taken Quinn with me, so he’s quite comfortable there. He’s made friends with the other vendors and schmoozes them out of their products by helping them unload, sell and then re-load when it’s time to leave. His favorite vendor is SoCo, the local ice cream vendor. I frequently check with the vendors to make sure that Q (as we call him) isn’t driving them nuts, but most of the time I get assurance that he is not only not driving them nuts, but that he is entertaining them as well as lending a hand. Now, Q has a rule that he has to check in with me at my booth every so often so that I know he’s safe. On this particular day I was scanning the area, looking around for him. I looked over at the musicians, where he often hangs out and, yep, there he was. He had a bowl of chocolate (which I knew from experience) ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other hand and was dancing in front of the musicians with his eyes closed, eating his ice cream, completely rapt in the enjoyment of the moment. When I picture that memory of him, silly as it sounds, it still brings tears to my eyes!

I turned to my next-door-vendor and said, “Look at Quinn. You know what? He makes me wish I had Down syndrome!”

“Why?” she asked.

“Well, because he doesn’t give a thought to whether it’s conventional to dance by himself with his eyes closed in front of the whole farmers’ market!”

“So why don’t you just do it?” she asked (she is kind of a free spirt).

“Because I don’t have the liberty! I don’t have Down syndrome! Everyone would think I was crazy!”

And I would be. That’s the beauty of being “special needs” as they call it. Along with whatever extra burdens you may have to bear, you get a ticket to happiness and freedom that other “normal” folks don’t get. And not only that, but half of the time you don’t even realize that you have those “extra burdens.” Quinn is quite happy not having to do long division, for example … he’d much rather be in the hallways, chatting with his buds and charming the girls (or he thinks, anyway!).

Jean Pollock

Jean Pollock

Jean Pollock has been married to her husband, Patrick, for 41 years. She is the mother of 10 children and grandmother of 12. She is a passionate lover of the Catholic faith; she homeschooled her children and was very involved in the pro-life movement, especially in the 1980s.