"I knew it even before the doctors knew," Deidre Pujols remembers. "Minutes after I gave birth to my daughter, Isabella, the nurse showed her to me and I knew that she had Down syndrome."
The 21-year-old single mother knew instantly that her life would never be the same. But, she had no idea how right she was. just weeks after Isabella's birth, friends invited Deidre to a Salsa Club for a girls night out. It was there she saw a tall strapping young man for the first time, Albert Pujols.
"Albert never went to clubs," Deidre recalls. "He didn't drink. He didn't even want people smoking around him. In hindsight, it was amazing that he was there that night."
"It was meant to be."
On their very first date at the Cheesecake Factory in Kansas City, where both lived, Albert made a confession. "He told me he had lied about his age," says Deidre. "He had told me he was 21, but he was really only 18. But, I told him I had a confession of my own."
It was then that Deidre told Albert that she had an infant daughter, and that the baby had Down syndrome. "I found some literature about Down syndrome in Spanish to give to Albert, since he didn't speak much English at the time," Deidre says. "I wanted him to understand my situation completely."
Half expecting never to hear from Albert again, Deidre was amazed when he opened his heart to both mother and child. He said he would always embrace Isabella as his own.
The couple was married on January 1, 2000. Soon after the wedding, the Pujols family found themselves with the Cardinals farm team in Peoria, Illinois. "Albert was making $252 every two weeks," laughs Deidre. "We were truly living on love! We ate a lot of macaroni dinners in those days."
"Then Albert got the call from the Cardinals in 2001, and everything went crazy from there."
The primary focus in Deidre Pujols' life is God and family. Luke 12:48 is one of her favorite Bible verses: "But to whom much is given, much is required."
"We have never forgotten our past or those who are truly in need," Deidre says. "I believe we are put on this earth for a purpose. I believe God has blessed us with our unique circumstances for a specific reason. 'Faith, Family and Others' is so much more than a mission statement to me. I feel it's my calling."
Deidre Pujols has served as a driving force for the many good works of the Pujols Family Foundation since its inception on May 5, 2005 (5/5/5). Among her many new projects is the launch of a Web site devoted to her passion for Dominican cooking and the disadvantaged women of her husband's native country. As part of that project, Deidre recently launched a cookbook/calendar with some of her favorite Dominican recipes, which is available from the Pujols Family Foundation store.
Albert and Deidre Pujols live in St. Louis County and have five children.