The Blessing of Raising a Child with Down Syndrome

About 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. That’s about 1 in every 700 babies born in our nation. The troubling statistic, however, is the 67% of children with Down syndrome who are aborted and never given a chance at life.

In other countries, the numbers are even grimmer. Over 95% of children with Down syndrome in Denmark are aborted. In Iceland, it’s nearly 100%—only one or two babies are born with Down syndrome each year.

In a world where babies with different physical and mental abilities seem to be considered problems to get rid of, how can we promote the dignity of life for every person? Perhaps it starts with sharing the blessings of these unique lives.

Boy plays guitar in classroomMary Cooney is the mother of a 3 ½ year old boy named Christopher. Christopher has Down syndrome. She joined The Cale Clarke Show to share her experience with raising this special little boy.

“I think, in many cases, parents who choose to abort a child with Down syndrome just don’t know what a precious, wonderful, beautiful gift they have thrown away. Instead, when parents are presented with a Down syndrome diagnosis, they are overwhelmed with worst case scenarios and all the things their child may never do,” Mary said.

Mary’s son was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) at birth. They also learned that he had several heart defects that required an extended NICU stay. She remembers the day they brought him home as a day the entire family “nearly burst with happiness.”

Raising a child with Down syndrome isn’t always perfect, as is the case with any other child. It has its ups and downs and difficulties. “The first year he had a lot of doctors appointments, and these were time consuming and made homeschooling my other kids more challenging. But we managed, and we managed with joy because he was, and is, so lovable,” Mary explained.

If you don’t know someone with Down syndrome, you might not realize what a great joy they are to be around. Mary shared that Christopher is so friendly and joyful, and spreads that light to others. He greets everyone at Mass, he has made friends with many of their neighbors, and he can break his teenage siblings out of a bad mood.

“Once at a doctor’s office, there was a long line of people waiting to see the doctor, mostly elderly. Christopher went up to each one of them, put his hands on their knees and smiled at them. You should have seen the faces light up as he did this,” Mary shared.

To Mary, the chance to raise Christopher is a privilege. “We have to look at such a person with the eyes of faith: perhaps God created this person to teach us to be more compassionate, more generous and patient. Perhaps God created this person to show us how to live more simply and to enjoy the little things. Perhaps, and I think this is the case with our Christopher, God created this child to bring great joy to the people around him. To cooperate with God in raising such a child is a privilege, and it’s why many parents of children with Down syndrome call themselves, ‘The lucky, the few.’”

Listen to more of Mary and Christopher’s story:

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.