Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Dear Kim and Karli

Dear Kim and Karli,

This afternoon, when we attempted to get Tessa to walk across the room, she turned to John and said “No Daddy, stop it.” Clear as a bell.  I’m sure I’m supposed to be annoyed by this, but I bet you can guess that we just burst out laughing because it was a speech victory in our minds!

Later, Little Miss Carnivore asked us to take away her half-eaten brownie and for us to give her more broccoli.  We worked for so long on getting her to eat a real fruit or vegetable and look at her now, preferring the broccoli!  

We owe so much of what she can do to the two of you.  She has come so far… from that little lump of a baby who took an hour to drink a bottle while laying on her side to now happily joining in our full family mealtime, veggies and all.  She is going to start preschool with lots of words and signs to communicate her needs.  And she’s going to rock it!

Neither one of you have ever used the word “can’t,” nor have you ever predicted anything about her based on Down syndrome.  You have never told us that she just does something because of her diagnosis.  You have treated her as Tessa, a little girl with as much potential as anyone else.

We are so blessed to have worked with both of you.  Thanks for giving us so many tools to help our girl, and for being so supportive of our family.  I know that Tessa put you both through the ringer sometimes… especially you, Karli, once we put “persistence through non-preferred tasks” into her ISFP.  LOL!  I know she can be quite the character during her sessions. You both have just been lovely to spend time with.  The new littles that you work with are so lucky to have you.

Thanks so much for everything,


Normal (messy) family meal time….

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Dear Theresa

Dear Theresa,

As a NICU nurse, I bet you meet a lot of families like us.  Your primary job is to treat the patient, I know, but I bet you help a lot with the whole family’s emotional healing, too.  You did with us, that’s for sure.

The very hardest part of Tessa’s NICU stay, truthfully, was my complete incapacity to do well for both my children.  The feeling of being so desperately torn – to need to be home with the big one, who wanted to get ready for Christmas and go sledding and see the lights and do all of the holiday traditions, while also being emotionally incapable of leaving the new little baby’s side, was absolutely enough to push me to the edge.

We had a lot of support of course, but your presence is one that helped me stayed glued together more than most.  I don’t know that we even talked about Down syndrome during that week.  We must have, but it doesn’t stick out in my brain.  What I do remember is talking about mom stuff.  You shared stories of your kids.  I told you all about my crazy Ellie.  We laughed.  Oh goodness did we laugh!  We actually got in some trouble for laughing too much and disturbing the peace of that quiet little ward.

It was so good to laugh.

As we got to the end of a full week, you helped us to convince the doctors to let us bring her home for Christmas.  You talked to me about how she was ready, because nothing that was happening in the NICU couldn’t be done at home.  And you were right.  You even switched your shifts around to work on Christmas Eve so that you would be there to see us off.  And even though I was so scared to take her home, away from the watchful eye of you and everyone else, I felt like I could because you convinced me that I am enough.

Thank you so much for going above and beyond in your care of our little girl… and of me.  It made a bigger impact that you can ever know.

Most gratefully,

Tessa’s Mom


This is part of the 31 for 21 Blog Challenge – blogging every day for the the 31 days of Down Syndrome Awareness month.  To find out more about the challenge, and to see other blogs participating, click here.

This year’s theme has been inspired by the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network’s #deardoctor campaign.  To see more #deardoctor letters, visit their Facebook page here.


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In appreciation of just showing up

In my own process of navigating our Down syndrome diagnosis, I have kind of, for better or worse, made it all about me.

From the moment I learned that there were people who cried when they learned the news about Tessa, I essentially said to hell with their feelings, they don’t get to feel that way, she’s my kid.  I’m content and they had better damn well be content too.

And away we went.

I could go on for a long time about whether this was the right choice or not.  The reality is that we all get to have feelings.  And, perhaps more importantly, our feelings are our reality.  Accepting, living with, even enjoying a world with Down syndrome is challenging for some people.  It may still be a challenge for some of my closest family and friends.

This is a note of appreciation, from me to all of you.  Thank you.  Regardless of your feelings or your place in the acceptance process, you show up.  Every time.

I remember that for a couple of months, it was very jolting for me to interact with older teens and adults with Down syndrome.  I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for this… but mostly, I was afraid of acting the wrong way, of trying to be normal, but maybe coming across as not normal… Afraid of saying the wrong thing or looking the wrong way or God knows what else.

I am sure that this is a challenge that my family sometimes faces.  But it doesn’t stop them from showing up.

I had this moment of clarity and deep gratitude last Saturday morning… One Friday per month, our local group puts on a Family Friday event where kids and their siblings get to run free in a daycare facility while the parents chat.  It’s the highlight of our month. 😀  This month, John’s sister and her family were in town and we asked them to join us for Family Friday.  Without hesitation, brand new baby in tow, they were in.

There are a million great excuses that they could have used to duck out.  Instead, they ventured into our community and got a little more cozy with Down syndrome.

I cannot tell you how much it means to us when friends and family just jump on board.

There are so many other examples of this.  Team Tessa and our amazing friends who raise money for our group.  The friends and family who come and hang out in our UPS for DownS tent on race day.  The willingness to be a part of things that help us connect to a community… The acceptance of Tessa as just plain Tessa, with or without an extra chromosome.

There is no greater gift that can be given to our family than to just show up.  Thank you all for doing that, time and time again.


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Lesson #15: We owe a lot to parents of the past

This is part of the 31 for 21 Blog Challenge!

I’m cheating a little tonight…. not because I don’t have time to write.  Actually, one thing I DO have tonight is time.  However, I want to share the words of another mom… words that I’ve been trying to find a way to express for quite some time and frankly, she does a better job than any of the drafts that I have come up with.

Please click below to read…

To the Mother of the Adult Son With Down Syndrome in the Grocery Store Today

Tessa, 20 days old


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Lesson #3: Amanda really did us a favor

Amanda is the Nurse Practitioner that delivered the preliminary diagnosis of Down syndrome to John and I.  For a long time, I really struggled with her decision on how to tell us about Tessa.  But in celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness month, we’re sending her a letter of thanks.  Here’s the letter:

October 3, 2014

Dear Amanda,

You may not remember my family, but I am writing today to thank you for an experience that we had with you that I will never forget.  In December of 2013, my daughter, Tessa, was born at your hospital.  You might remember her looking like this:

Her birth happened very quickly and as I vaguely recall, you were called to the delivery because her heart rate was dropping.  Within moments after her delivery, while I was still in the process of delivering the placenta, you told my husband, John, that she had strong markers for Down syndrome.  We did not undergo any prenatal testing, so this news completely blindsided us.  I was frozen in that moment for a long time.

I will be very honest with you, at first, I was very angry at the way you shared her suspected diagnosis with my family.  I felt, at the time, that it could have waited until I was at least done with my labor and had had the opportunity to hold my sweet girl.  But with time comes perspective, and I want you to know that the way you shared the news with us was quite possibly the best thing someone has ever done for my family.  I have never felt angry or devastated about my daughter’s genetic make-up and while there are many factors that play into my outlook on Tessa’s life, you were certainly key.

You see, I have joined a lot of communities for families with children with Down syndrome since Tessa’s birth and have consistently heard horror stories of (probably) well-meaning doctors delivering a diagnosis like a death sentence.  However, the way that you treated her extra chromosome… as a passing fact rather than a defining characteristic… set a precedent for the way we have approached Tessa and her life.  She is our daughter, a person first, more alike than different.

Tessa is nine months old now.  She is happy-go-lucky, quick with a smile, laid-back, and is totally thriving.  Her older sister absolutely adores her.  She is the favorite “toy” in her daycare.  We were in tears when we got to experience her first giggles.  She is almost crawling on all fours.  My whole family is smitten with Tessa.  She has truly changed our life in the most amazing way.

The team at CDH who took care of us during Tessa’s time in the NICU was absolutely stellar and we recommend everyone we know to this hospital.  In the spring, when Tessa was admitted to a different hospital in respiratory distress (she had pneumonia), we insisted on being transferred to CDH once she was stable because we knew that the care our family would receive is unmatched.  I sincerely thank you for not defining my daughter by her diagnosis and for not giving us a single reason to feel sorry for our beautiful little girl.

Most sincerely,

John, Maggie, Ellie, and Tessa

PS: For other resources for delivering a Down syndrome diagnosis, I highly recommend the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network.  They have great resources for physicians and familes alike:  http://www.dsdiagnosisnetwork.org/