Four months into her pregnancy, my mother discovered my brother would be born with Down syndrome. The remaining five months were spent solely (and now looking back, foolishly) worrying.
Of course, never having dealt with or met anyone with Down syndrome, the entire family began to worry. Would he be accepted by others? Would he have friends? Would he learn to walk and talk like the other kids, and play with them “normally?” All these thoughts now seem so far fetched, but at the time, we worried about every detail. Because after all, we loved (and still do!) him exactly the way he is, and all we wanted was to protect him from those who don’t.
Fast forward to March 15th, 2015. Luis Felipe was born healthy, with no cardiac or health issues in general associated with Down syndrome. He scored a 9, or “excellent condition,” on his Apgar test, which summarizes a newborn’s health. I only got a chance to see him a few hours later, but when I did, all I had worried about before immediately disappeared. Thankfully, he did not have to stay a second after what was predicted, despite having been born one month premature.
As soon as possible, Lipe (Luis Felipe’s nickname) began physiotherapy and speech therapy. Soon enough, we realized there never had been anything to worry about. Even if it does take him some extra time to develop or learn new things, in the end, all that matters is that he learns it, which he has been doing exceptionally well.
From the very first weeks, Lipe has always been the most cheerful person I have ever met. Anything is a reason for him to flash a smile that can light up the room, and it never fails to do so. He overcame obstacles in ways we never knew he could. However, we had to overcome obstacles within ourselves as well. Although we were relieved and extremely happy to have him by our side, we still worried about what others would say about him, and I kept his condition a secret. After two months of simply loving him for who he is, I realized if I truly loved him, I shouldn’t be ashamed of it, and shouldn’t be ashamed of him, either. The first time I told a friend, I tried to do so naturally, but my heart was barely pounding out of my chest. My friend accepted it well, and it encouraged me to only be prouder of Lipe. These all seem such foolish fears, but when you live in a world in which society ruthlessly criticizes every inch of you (with or without Down syndrome), all you want to do is protect those you love.
Now I understand that because of my brother, I have become way more accepting and less judging of others. Before him, if I saw someone who acts or looks different from what I am used to, I simply thought it to be weird, and shamelessly pointed or laughed. I must mention, though, I am now extremely ashamed of such actions, and glad that I have changed in these ways. I now consider their own point of view, what they could possibly be going through, and the many reasons why they could be behaving differently.