Tell us a little bit about yourself… What’s your story?
My husband, Matt, and I have been married for nearly 20 years an live in Central Florida with our three daughters, Rhyan, 15, Evynn, 12, and Emersyn, 2. I’ve authored two books, Gravel Road and Torrent’s Echo, and have a third in the works with three other moms who have children with Down syndrome. Rhyan and Evynn are homeschooled, and we plan to homeschool Emmy after preschool. For several years Matt and I fostered children, but when we said good-bye to our last foster daughter, I went into a deep depression. Six weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with Emmy. She is my rainbow.
At about 12 weeks in the womb, Emmy was diagnosed with Down syndrome. It was then that our fight began when our doctor repeatedly suggested we abort her. Looking back, I can see that every time we stood up for her when we felt bullied, and every time we held our ground when we felt attacked, we were really just learning how to advocate and be mighty warriors for our child.
Once she was born, I realized that I can continue advocating for Emmy by sharing who she is with the world. The more people see others with Down syndrome, the more we create inclusion. Inclusion leads to familiarity, which breeds acceptance, and acceptance will always be our end goal. It's acceptance that will ultimately nurture respect and save Down syndrome. And my mission in life is to do whatever I can to save Down syndrome.
What conventional lifestyle product or brand do you for your daughter each day that makes that person's day-to-day easier?
The product that has helped us the most in the last few weeks has been Stride Rite shoes. Emmy’s foot was turning in and we were at a point where our physical therapist was worried we’d have to buy orthopedic shoes. After only a few days with her Stride Rites, I noticed a difference in her gait. She is now much steadier when standing and her walk has evened out. Another product that we couldn’t live without is our Baby Trend jogging stroller. Emmy and I both love being outside, and taking our walks is the perfect time to work on vocabulary and communication while enjoying a beautiful day.
What’s your best advice for someone learning to care for another person with special needs or disabilities?
My best advice when caring for a person with special needs is to treat them like anyone else without a disability. I’m raising Emmy exactly the same as I did Rhyan and Evynn. It isn’t always easy because I tend to be over-protective, so there are times when my actions have to be very intentional. I also do my best to focus on Emmy and her abilities. Comparing yourself to others is dangerous. When I slow down and look at her accomplishments and gifts, I can see her purpose and appreciate her completely. Last, celebrate the little things because the little things are really pretty big. Emmy is our greatest joy. She is a brilliant light and we rejoice in every smile, every laugh, and every milestone she reaches. Choosing to celebrate and not to give into a negative world has the power to lift her up.
Why do you think the mission of Springible is so important?
The mission of Springible is so important because it not only gives caregivers a place to feel connected, but it gives us a voice. Springible is near to my heart because it shares many of the same desires as mine. They exist to be “a listening ear, an empowering voice, and a guiding light.” A forum that can help caregivers feel like they have a place to learn and grow and feel like they’re part of a community can only change lives for the better.
- Courtney Baker, Springible Contributor