Happy Birthday Agent 809

Today my son, Omar, agent 809 (a memory device I use to remember his birthday- it's tough when there are 6 kids and a husband to remember.  Haha!) turns 8!  Happy Birthday to him!  I try not to define myself as a mom to a kid with down syndrome, yet it is a big part of my life.

Eight years ago today, I was in a hospital giving birth as a 43 year old, and had no idea that there would be anything different about this birth or this child.  My other kids were 18 and 20.  It had been a long time since I'd been in a delivery room.  My other 2 kids had been born in Air Force hospitals, so the big change was that this was a public hospital and I'd have to pay the bill.  Also a lot had changed in 18 years, and now epidurals were safer and more commonplace.  It was an easier delivery on that account. My husband had briefed me about being the mom to a kid with dark skin and an afro, and how I'd have to get used to people asking if he was adopted.  Boy, was he surprised!  Omar had pink skin and not a curl to his hair.  When we left the hospital, my husband noticed he was listed as a caucasian boy, so the birth record had to be corrected to reflect he was African.  He didn't look like a young Somali.

Omar ready to leave the hospital
When he was born, no one said anything was wrong.  I held him and looked at him and just felt that he had down syndrome.  I had been very close to my oldest niece, Erica, when she was a baby.  She was born with down syndrome too.  Somehow there were similarities.  When I asked the doctor and nurses, they said they'd send in a pediatrician to do some tests.  At first glance, no one else but me thought he had down syndrome.  The pediatrician looked him over and said there were a few signs, but a genetic test should be done to be certain.  It was 3 days later that we knew for sure, and my life changed forever.

Kids with down syndrome (or trisomy 21) often have many other problems.  Often the heart, stomach, or other digestive issues are present.  They did a number of additional tests and gave him a clean bill of health, but we didn't know what the future would hold.  He was enrolled in the county birth to 3 program, which afforded us with nearly 3 years of home visit from therapists that taught me how to play with him so he'd develop as much as possible.  He just seemed like a happy child who was delayed.  I decided not to return to work so I could be with him for all the extra therapies, breastfed until he was 3, made sure he had all the advantages that people recommended.

Fast forward to today and he's full of life.  He is much more spontaneous than my other kids were.  It makes for a lot more work.  He often runs off.  He used to climb fences.  He eats stuff that most people wouldn't eat (like bird seed, cat food, and raw flour or sugar), yet he won't try "normal American food" like hot dogs. He lives on goldfish crackers and french fries.  He won't sleep alone, and wakes up many times every night.  He has meltdowns when things don't go his way.  It leaves me exhausted.  I try to plan busy days, so I wear him out.  It usually just results in me becoming worn out!  On the other hand, because of him, my life is richer.  I took up photography so we could communicate better, because his language skills were so delayed.  Now I enjoy the hobby immensely, and he does too.  I have met some of the most extraordinary people because of him- other kids with down syndrome, awesome therapists, inspirational parents.  Overall it's been an amazing experience.  He's a real blessing to me.  He rides a bike.  He is learning to read.  He has a curiosity for life that keeps me going.  I'm so lucky to be celebrating his 8th birthday with him today!

Happy Birthday Omar!


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