First Things After the Diagnosis

The other day my friend Melissa Kline Skavlem posted the “first thing I wrote about Down syndrome – 74 days after Violette (her daughter) was born.”  You can read it here “People with Down Syndrome Offer Potential.”  I started thinking about the first thing I wrote. While digging around in my journals, I found this email that I sent to my co-workers.  It’s not the first thing I wrote but I thought it might be meaningful to someone out there. I received my prenatal diagnosis on a Friday night and then took the next week off work to gather myself. I was the Volunteer Manager for Youth Villages (largest provider of mental health services in the Mid-South). I sent this on a Friday so that my co-workers would see it before my Monday morning return. This was seven days out from my diagnosis and a little over 14 years ago.

“As most of you know, I have been out this week with a family emergency. I want to thank you all for your prayers, concern and support. I appreciate the way you all have respected our privacy this week.  Jonathan’s cancer surgery was successful. The doctor has recommended radiation as a precaution, but he is doing quite well.

I thought it best to give you all some information as I return to the office on Monday. I would ask you all to use discretion in discussing this with others.

On Friday, February 5 we learned that we have a baby girl, Rachel Nicole. We also learned that she has Down syndrome. We have gone through and continue to go through the natural sequence of denial, anger, and acceptance that any parent would experience.  We are STILL thankful that God has chosen to bless us with a child. Rachel is not the child we envisioned, but she is still our gift from God – packaged a little differently than we were expecting.  We believe God creates and loves ALL children equally. We also believe that God’s plan is for all children to be loved and nurtured by loving parents. He has blessed us with this child, and we will do our very best to love and care for our daughter. 

In my selfish quest for your continued support, I would offer the following information that I think will help you and me. Please do not feel sorry for us, but please do share in our joy that only a child can bring. Please continue to inquire about my pregnancy. My health, pregnancy, labor or delivery are not affected by the Down’s syndrome. Please DO come and see Rachel when she is born. Please do not be afraid to talk to me. If I’m not in the mood to discuss it, I will tell you. We have found two internet sites that might be helpful to you in  your understanding.  (Sites no longer exist and now I would have so many more to offer!) If you have the opportunity, please look these up. 

Again, I appreciate your support, respect, care and concern. I look forward to seeing all of you on Monday. ~ Jawanda”

And it did help.  During that week that I took to gather myself, I went and visited my parents and spent time with my sister and niece. I also went and bought this frilly pink outfit to bring Rachel home from the hospital.

Pink roses from Daddy and blanket a gift personalized monogrammed by one of mom's college friends.
Pink roses from Daddy and blanket a gift personalized monogrammed by one of mom’s college friends.

For some reason it was important to me so I did it. When I returned to work, I was embraced by my co-workers.  I am so thankful for Sister Barbara, Carrie, Jeff, Shannon and so many others.

My doctor thought we had too many visitors!  Everyone wanted to meet this beautiful girl!
My doctor thought we had too many visitors! Everyone wanted to meet this beautiful girl!

They took good care of me and celebrated and continue to celebrate Rachel’s life.  They are forever part of the “Friends of Rachel” club. This simply leads me to say, God is faithful.

Bright eyes!
Bright eyes!
She scratched her sweet little face. Had to put socks on her hands.
She scratched her sweet little face. Had to put socks on her hands.


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  1. So beautifully put Jawanda. I will never forget the day Jonathan told me about Rachel. We had a long chat and I was so blessed to be someone who had known others with Down Syndrome. It is true that there are many hurdles to be met, but there are also blessings to be found in a child with special needs. Rachel is a wonderful blessing.

  2. Grace – I’m not sure why I’m just seeing this. Thanks for reading and loving and supporting us. We can’t you among the original friends of Rachel and one of our many blessings!

  3. hello. i have a beautiful and sweet daughter with down syndrome. she is almost 4 years old. we are from roumania.please help us with some advices and informations. here, are not so many things about down syndrome. thank you very much. can wait an answer from you

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