Guest column: Mom shares why hard does not equal bad

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

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Guest column by Kristin Overland

An accomplishment is something that is successful, or that is achieved after a lot of work or effort. The most rewarding accomplishments are oftentimes the things that are the hardest: finishing a master’s degree or running a marathon. Both of these things are considered very hard and would receive great praise once they are accomplished.

Kristin Overland

In these examples, hard does not equal bad. The hard is accepted with great confidence and even excitement. But the heartbreaking reality for most parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, or any other genetic condition or defect in their unborn baby, is that the hard is not worth it, the hard will be too bad, and the baby is not even given the chance to live.

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As a mother of a child with Down syndrome, I cannot deny that our journey has had its ups and downs. It’s been filled with great joy as we have seen our sweet Clara, who will be 5 in July, reach milestones and make great progress, but has also been laced with sadness as we’ve had to go through surgeries and unexpected medical diagnoses.

But I can tell you that the joy, happiness, peace and beauty far outweighs any of the hard things that we have had to go through. Clara is so strong, and so quick to forgive, as she blows kisses to the phlebotomist who just drew her blood, or blocks the door so the doctor can’t leave the exam room, because he’s making her laugh in between listening to her precious heart beat and taking blood pressures.

My husband and I talk often of how we would not change a thing, and how she has made us better people. We are not on the path that we expected we would be in life, but we are on a better one. One where we can walk alongside other people who are going through difficulties with understanding and sympathy, because we have been there.

We get to enjoy the little things others would take for granted — like Clara truly enjoying playing outside in the snow because she is finally big and strong enough to walk around in her bulky snowsuit and boots, when she asks to have more food at meals or water in her favorite cup, because she has been primarily tube fed since she was 6 weeks old, when she’s climbing up on stools and chairs to get to what she wants, when at this time last year, she had so much inflammation in her body it hurt to even move. In a typical child, there are so many things you wouldn’t think twice of, but because she is different, we see it and we get to celebrate it.

As we approach World Down Syndrome Day, which is March 21, I encourage you to get to know someone with Down syndrome, someone who is differently abled, just like you and me. We are all made to be unique individuals with different likes, dislikes, talents and abilities. My daughter is someone who is worthy of life, and someone whose bright light should be shared with the world. Raising Clara and sharing about her worth, and the worth of others with disabilities, is going to be the greatest accomplishment of my life, and I am so thankful that I was given the most amazing gift, all wrapped up in an adorable little person, who I get to watch grow into what God created her to be.

I would also encourage you to participate in the fourth annual Rock Your Socks 3.21 Mile Walk/Run to celebrate individuals with Down syndrome in our own community. This will be held on Saturday, April 22, at the Brookside Boat Landing (or Northbridge Mall pending weather). All funds raised will go towards the All Together Albert Lea Inclusive Park.

Kristin Overland and her family live in Albert Lea.