Though we hadn't planned on having a child of our own, my wife Vanda and I embraced the news that we were expecting. The thoughts of once again being able to care and raise another little one raced through my head as my wife patiently but nervously explained to me that the test was positive and that she was about a month along.
Question after question, we asked each other only to be reassured that the child – he or she - was a gift and that we were meant for this.
Never once did we fully comprehend what it would be like.
After the first few visits, my wife's doctor sat us down and explained the odds of the baby being born with Down syndrome.
We were older, and so we were at a slightly elevated risk. But we also found out that even young parents can have babies with Down syndrome.
During one of our visits, Vanda's doctor explained the amniocentesis procedure. In it, a needle enters the mother's uterus and draws a sample of fluid to test for Down syndrome. The test results are 99 percent conclusive, but it also puts the baby at risk for injury or even premature birth.
We decided to do the test so we could be prepared. It ultimately changed the way we looked at life.
At 2 1/2, Matthew is a typical boy, through and through. From his love of trucks to playing with his pets, Matthew sets new standards of how we look at life and helps us realize how much we take for granted.
Today after work, I was greeted by Matthew playing a game of hide and seek. He often runs around the house making hissing sounds as he tries to mimic the cats. He pushes his toys just to show off a little. Today was a special day because I was bringing his brothers home after a weekend with their dad and Matthew knew that meant playtime.
A few times a week, after a bath and after we read a book or two, Matthew takes the time to show me a new sign that he has learned. Today's new word was "awesome."
Sign language has become an important regimen in our home. As Matthew progresses, sign language will help him communicate when he can't pronounce some words. All of Matthew's brothers and sisters are active in learning sign and they teach Matthew on a regular basis.
American Sign Language or ASL traces its origins back to 1817 in Connecticut. It was originally conceived as a derivative of French signing and Native American sign ingand was used to teach students at what is now called The American School for the Deaf.
If you are interested in learning sign language, there are good books and videos. I would recommend flash cards for teaching young children and I have even seen a few children's television shows with sign language as the method of conversing.