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New Mothers Luncheon: One Mother’s Perspective
October 17, 2012
By: Ann Weissenbach
It would be easy to tell you how wonderful the Pujols Family Foundation New Mothers Luncheon was. I would have no trouble describing how delicious the food was from Patrick’s at Westport Plaza. I could go on and on about how nice it was to hear Deidre Pujols speak and share her testimony of being a mother to a child with Down syndrome. I could also tell you how amazing it was to be surrounded by other mothers of children with Down syndrome: which it was. To understand my experience completely, though, I first need to tell you the truth about Sweet Caroline.
May 15, 2011, was the day my daughter, Caroline, was born. We had no idea she would be born with an extra chromosome. No ‘fair’ warning. No time to prepare. Nothing. I knew immediately upon her arrival that something was not right. In the moments that followed, there was no time to even feel happy that we had a baby girl. I felt robbed of a happy delivery, robbed of a happy welcoming. It is impossible to describe how a person feels when such news is delivered. I will never forget the nurse’s face when I heard the words, “We have suspicions your baby has Down syndrome.”
Plain and simple – nothing can prepare you for hearing those words. My mind just started playing tricks on me. Crazy, random thoughts and lies just began taking over, one after another. “What a waste of nine months,” I thought. Lie. “No one will want to visit or hold her.” Lie. “Our family and friends will be so disappointed.” Lie. “She will not be beautiful.” Another lie. “She will just be a disappointment.” Again, lie. “Benjamin has been cheated out of a sister.” Not true.
This must all be a mistake or a bad dream. I was afraid of her. At first, I didn’t even want to hold her. I was so fearful of Down syndrome. “Why was God punishing me?” These are just a few of the thoughts that filled my head, while my stomach and heart ached. There are things I don’t even remember about that day. There are things I will never forget.
The days and weeks following her birth are a blur. We didn’t choose Down syndrome, but it was part of our lives now. Not long after Caroline’s birth, a parent of a girl with Down syndrome told me about the Pujols Family Foundation. I remember looking at the organization’s website. It was filled with happy photos of people with Down syndrome. I noticed they had recently hosted a luncheon for mothers who were new to Down syndrome. “How sad that luncheon must be,” I thought to myself. I was sure it was a group of women sitting around sharing their stories and crying, right?
Fast forward a little over a year to August 25, 2012. I walked into a room filled with beautiful, happy women. I couldn’t help but notice their joy and laughter. Mothers were showing pictures and sharing stories of their children. There were no tears. There was no sadness. We were welcomed by the Pujols Family Foundation and by the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. We enjoyed a fantastic meal and were given the opportunity to talk and share stories, information, and resources. There were women from various cities and towns, a range of ages and all walks of life. These women all shared one common element – being a new mother to a child with Down syndrome. We all had the distinguished opportunity to hear Deidre Pujols speak. She shared her joys and challenges of having a child with Down syndrome. Her story was so real and so honest. She truly is an inspiration to this group of new mothers.
As I left the luncheon I couldn’t help but think back to the day Caroline was born; all of the lies that filled my head then. I couldn’t help but think back to my first thoughts about how sad a luncheon held for new mothers of children with Down syndrome would be. The truth is I discovered the New Mothers Luncheon is a wonderful way to connect with other women who share the same blessings and challenges. I am so grateful to the Pujols Family Foundation for bringing us together not only at the luncheon, but also at the many other events for families with Down syndrome in their lives. By meeting other mothers and families of children with Down syndrome, those lies that once filled my head have been set straight. Thank you to the many mothers who shared their stories. You are a source of strength. Thank you to the Pujols Family Foundation for making this gathering of new mothers possible. Now I know the truth about Sweet Caroline.