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I can still remember the day I heard the news: I was five months pregnant, hopeful, and ready to learn my baby’s sex. Our big 20-week appointment had finally arrived, and all I wanted to know was which color to paint the nursery walls. I didn’t want to know anything else, really. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t know there was something else to be learned at that appointment.

But because life is unexpected in ways we’re never quite ready for, my baby’s sex was unveiled alongside another big surprise: My boy had Down syndrome.

It was then that I saw the world breaking apart into small pieces right in front of my eyes. I felt an immense feeling of disappointment, as well as a desperate need to blame someone or something.

First, I blamed myself. And then I challenged God, by asking him for proof of his greatness. I wanted my child to be cured — needed him to be cured — because at that point of my life, I was so supremely ignorant that I thought Down syndrome was an illness; something that could be remedied.

The months following were tough, to say the least. I remember riding a roller coaster of emotions — rushing from the steep mountain of denial to ultimately, a feeling of relief once I surrendered to it all, and embraced the incredible love growing inside my womb. When the day of my son’s birth finally came, I hardly felt any true physical pain, because all I wanted to see was his face. I wanted to see how he looked.

And then, he was here.

He didn’t cry at first, and I had only a few minutes to hold him in my arms before he was taken to the NICU. In the handful of seconds we did have, though, I looked into his eyes and that was enough to fall in love. Down syndrome and all, I realized that my son was already the most amazing and perfect child I could have hoped for because he was mine; born from me.

It has been 12 years since Emir was born. Three years after I welcomed him into my life, my second child came. This time, she was a girl, who was born with Down syndrome as well.

To the mother who has just experienced this moment for the first time; the mother who has just heard those very same words from the doctor that I did — your child may have a genetic disorder — just know that I have been in your shoes. I know the feelings that are swirling around in your mind right now.

And I offer you this:

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