World Down Syndrome Day

For your reading soundtrack, please hit play:

I met Rachel my freshman year of high school. Tom Petty’s “Last Dance for Mary Jane” is our eternal jam! We had a blast through those years, running around with the same group of tight girls. A lot my favorite memories with Rach are around going to school dances together, the slumber parties afterwards, student council activities, Andy’s Frozen Custard, and the same weird sense of humor that tied it all together. I particularly remember our senior year when we became even closer during hell on StuCo Cabinet, and a related float trip that I’m a little foggy on.

When college came around, we both went to different colleges, but in the same town we grew up in. Our other best friends scattered about the Midwest. It was our freshman year of college that we became the closest and haven’t stopped since. New freedoms, fun, road trips to visit friends, new boys, new friends, hard times, and sneaking into each others’ dorm rooms to stay the night. We bonded so much that year in ways we only know.

We ended up living together our junior year of college. Just keep adding to the arsenal of great stories and funny memories, that year included our not-so-proud dating of some major jerks. But we both traveled separately around the world, continued to grow in our faith, and blossom as women, always laughing together. Our friends from our separate worlds blended into one, time and time again.

Today we know each other by pages deep conversations, inside jokes and Will Ferrell quotes, inappropriate mishaps that I wish I could blog about, and nicknames like “Crickersnatch”, “Tinkerslut”, “Wifey”, “Hubs”, and “Wuver”, to name a few of the least embarrassing. Soul sisters. I feel so blessed to say that although our circumstances have changed so much over the past few years after college, our friendship hasn’t.

Just a few months ago, on Oct. 26, 2011, Rach and her incredible husband, Jordan, brought their first child – Hudson – into the world! While you expect a baby to forever change your lives, they could not have expected how. Only a few days after his birth, Hudson was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, or trisomy 21, a condition cause by an extra 21st chromosome.

The rest of this post was easy to write… I’ve been sitting here awhile trying collect thoughts. So I will just write: I have always admired and looked up to Rach. I deeply respect the man Jordan is, and I’ve looked up to their relationship and friendship over the years. I knew, as did everyone else, what amazing parents they would make. So it should be no surprise how they reacted to this news about Hudson.

When Rach called to tell me the news about Hudson, she told me through her tears that she wished when people found out he had Downs Syndrome they didn’t say, “I’m so sorry!”. She said, “I’m not sorry! I feel like God chose us! That He blessed us. That Hudson is a gift.” This statement sums up her and Jordan’s perspective from the beginning.

The scary part has been Hudson’s struggle with health problems, long hospital stays, and surgeries, all of which are common with Down Syndrome babies. Not only have Rach and J fought, but Hudson has fought, their families and faith communities have fought. I know I speak for everyone with bursting joy that he is doing so well today! As dedicated, loving parents, they have constant doc check ups, work with therapists on his development, do frequent research to learn more and best equip themselves, have connected with dozens of other families in the Down Syndrome community where they live, and have already reached out to and encouraged other new parents of Down Syndrome babies.

WOW. I have felt humble and blessed to watch it unfold. To see Rach and J rise to all of this uncertainty and unpredictability with courage and overflowing love has been a sight to behold. As one supportive mom told Rach, “It’s like becoming part of a club you didn’t know existed.”

Today I got this text from Rach, and wondered how I could contribute:

3/21 – Today is World Down Syndrome Day (3rd month and 21st day – symbolizes the extra 21st chromosome). This is the first year TODAY recognized by the United Nations. Do something “extra” today to celebrate Hudson’s extra chromosome – emil or text me what you did. I’ll be making a list of what friends and family did in his honor to put in his scrapbook. Love you guys!”

I’m hours away, and so Hudson, Rach, and J – I give you my extra! My words, this post – the things I don’t know that I’ve told you yet. I write this in complete awe of you, and God at work in and through you. I love seeing Hudson’s personality grow each week through all you share. I love seeing your excitement, and how you are growing into parenthood. I love the opportunity to be a part of it, to learn from you, to be there for you. I love and respect you, the people you are, your mark on this world, and your example to all. I am so blessed by knowing you, and thankful that you are in my life, shaping who I am, not just in my formative high school and college years, but today as I grow into adulthood. Rach, I am happier and sillier and more ME for knowing you. I am honored to call you my best friend, to get to go through life with you. You are my hero. It sounds cheesy, but it is the absolute truth.

Hudson! WE CELEBRATE YOUR LIFE AND ENTRANCE INTO THIS WORLD! You are such a handsome little guy! I can already see so much joy and love in you. I can’t wait to watch you grow, and see how much you make your parents, and all of us, laugh. You are such a gift.

(The first time I met and held Hudson!)

Happy World Down Syndrome Day! What a neat day to recognize – a year ago we would have never known that we would be celebrating. Here’s to many more ahead, and to always remember what is important in life…

I love you guys,
Erin

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3 Comments on “World Down Syndrome Day

  1. I just wanted to say that as the mother of a child with Down Syndrome I greatly appreciate how you support your friend and her family. When I passed on the news about my own son to friends and family the reaction was mixed. One of my best friends stopped communication and I understand now that she just didn’t know what to do. I really salute you for standing by your friend. They are very lucky to have you!!

    Jennie

  2. This post choked me up and made me laugh aloud all at once! Lovely words, Erin. Hudson, I celebrate you tonight as well! You precious, joyous little man. Big love the Heinz fam this day.

  3. I love that he’s throwing a little peace sign in this photo…so perfect. I can tell this kid is going to have some of Aunt Erin’s sense of humor already. Thanks for sharing & lots of love. sj

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