I was born on July 1, 1982 in Sioux City, Iowa at St. Luke’s Hospital and I was born with Down syndrome and the doctors tell my mom and my dad that your baby has Down syndrome and they tell my mom and my dad that I may never learn to walk and talk and read or write.
And my mom and my dad not let people to say to my mom and my dad that I not able to do that but show what I can do and do the things that other people can do.
I always do my best at it too.
The year was 1981. Five short months had come and gone since they said, “I do.” They found themselves side by side, in a doctor’s office, awaiting confirmation that in the 9 months ahead, two would become three. From that moment, excitement was abundant and each day brought new questions, anticipation, and preparation. Emotions filled their every moment as they began their journey as parents.
My mother spent countless hours at the piano throughout her pregnancy, playing Sonatinas and Preludes for the baby that was developing in her womb. She had been told that before birth, a passion for music could begin within a child; a passion that was embedded deep inside her for as long as she could remember.
On July 1, 1982, my parents had their first baby, a little girl, and they named her Leah.
The news. Moments after Leah was born, it came. The news hit them like a sack of bricks. The foundation of my mother’s existence felt as if it had been pulled out from under her. Fourteen short months had come and gone since my parents promised each other forever. They now sat side by side with trembling hands and shattered hearts, moments after they had just met their new baby girl, as they listened to what it meant to have a child with Down syndrome.
“This child may never speak or be understood. She may never learn to read or write. Do not dream for this child.” The words were piercing; the prediction, grim.
**It is important to note that this was 33 years ago. This conversation would sound quite different, in a positive way, present-day**
Overwhelmed and inexperienced, my courageous parents brought their baby home and began to pick up the pieces of their shattered hopes. Day by day, the pieces began to come together. The pieces never returned to their original state. But they fit. In their own unique way, they fit together more beautifully than my parents could have ever envisioned.
Each day, the journey ahead began to unveil itself before my parents’ eyes. A journey that would take them to unimaginable places and would allow them to experience life in a way that only a parent of a child with special needs is given the opportunity to experience.
“An absolutely beautiful existence was awaiting me,” my mother has said.
After July 1, 1982, the world was never quite the same for the Stodden family.
Here’s to turning our minds Upside Down.