One New Parent’s Journey by Karen Szilagyi

On an afternoon in August 2007, I had my first contraction. Everything happened pretty quickly after that. One hour and 45 minutes after that first contraction, our son arrived! And our life changed. I had all the fancy testing done during my pregnancy, and the odds of having a child with Down syndrome was 1 in 4000. But, for some reason, the thought of Down syndrome never quite left my mind.

I had a few complications with delivery and had to be separated from my son for 45 minutes or so, but I did get to see him before they took him off to the nursery. I remember thinking, “Great! I can rest easy now. He is healthy and beautiful and he DOES NOT have Down syndrome”.

My husband brought him back to me all wrapped up. And then he let me know that the doctors were pretty sure he had Down syndrome (I guess they can’t say 100% until blood work comes back, but they knew). Between hormones drastically changing at that moment, pain medication, and the shock of this news… my life was turned upside down.

I had a new parent package of information given to me at the hospital. I also had a nurse… who had a friend…. who knew someone – hard to remember the exact way I got connected since everything was pretty much a blur – but I did get connected with the Down Syndrome Network of Arizona (DSNetwork)! The only people I wanted to talk with were people who had been in my shoes. I needed to know and see that someone actually lived through this experience and didn’t hibernate with tears to their bedroom for the rest of their lives. When I first left the hospital, I wasn’t ready to look at the calendar or the brochures they gave me, but slowly I started to meet other parents and talk with them on the phone and through e-mails. The brochures came out, the books were read, and the beautiful calendar soon was hanging on our wall. Progress!

During the first few months, I had immense love for our son, but I didn’t know what life would look like. I didn’t know about Early Intervention, Department of Developmental Disabilities, therapy, or other helpful ways to make sure our son was reaching his developmental milestones. The more I got connected, the more I learned.
By the time our son was 18 months old, I joined the Board for DSNetwork. I knew this little guy was one of the best things that ever happened to me and I was anxious to see how I could help other parents and families in the community.

4 ½ years later and my life is awesome! I am blessed by every day I have with both my children. They love each other and my husband and I are very proud parents. Our son now attends preschool (with typical children), swims, has play dates, loves music and is very social. Everyone knows his name and sometimes I worry about all the attention he gets over my daughter (who does not have Down syndrome).

For some parents it takes weeks and months and for others it takes longer, but we seem to all get to a place where we realize how lucky we are – to have our children, to get to meet each other and to have such an instant support, friendships and connections. I have met lifelong friends, heard amazing stories and our son has taught us about patience, love and family. I can’t wait for our next event through DSNetwork! I absolutely love seeing all of the beautiful individuals with Down syndrome. And I would not change one single chromosome in our son’s body! He is perfect!

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