The Story of Hannah The doctor came into my hospital room and announced that my baby was fine except that her ears were a little higher than usual and that more tests had to be done. Having given birth to three other kids, the last one, being 12 years back, I thought this was nothing serious. Then came the verdict, a final blood test one month after she was born. That test revealed that my newborn daughter was a Down syndrome baby. My husband and I were devastated.
Did I eat or drink anything prohibited or unhealthy during my pregnancy? Was I a negligent pregnant mother? I also questioned God. Why give me such a baby? I was looking for an answer but could not find any.
The answers came by way of Carmencita D. Padilla, M.D., a geneticist at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and National Institute of Health. She examined our little Hannah, and confirmed that our baby was a Down syndrome child. Padilla explained that Down syndrome occurs as a result of an “accident of nature,” just like some people who were born with an extra finger, or with a mole or birthmark. And while she may have a weak heart or poor muscle control, she can certainly grow up to be a productive citizen living a normal, independent life.
We were encouraged. We had Hannah go through early intervention programs. We brought her to a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a speech therapist. We made sure she was growing up in a stimulating environment, which meant 24-hour symphonies and Christmas lights all year round.
The road to acceptance Sometimes, I have difficulties accepting Hannah’s condition. I sometimes have attacks of shame and guilt. I would, at several occasions, shy away from bringing my baby out for others to see. My older daughter, on the other hand, proudly parades her baby sister to school excitedly announcing her sister is a Down syndrome baby, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. That’s when it hit me. A child, any child, is a gift from God. Why shouldn’t I be proud of my Hannah?
Sunshine from heaven Hannah is now seven, and she grew up with very little health problems. Except for her poor eyesight, her heart is normal and her muscle tone within normal range. Hannah expresses herself quite well compared to the average Down syndrome child. And she now goes to a preschool for regular kids.
Hannah has a penchant for books. After Barney, she has moved on to Cinderella, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
Hannah doesn’t scream and kick and yell when things don’t go her way. What she’ll do is keep still, quietly pout, and cry. At times, she would just say, “I’m crying” or “I’m mad.”
At home, she is like sunshine from heaven. Her brothers and sister drown her with hugs and kisses. When somebody starts losing his temper, she would gently ask, “Are you mad?” Almost instantly, our foul mood melts away. Yes, Hannah is our family’s “checking angel,” a constant reminder that anger need not be harsh or violent.
Hannah is such a sweet, cheerful and gentle person. I once read an article that said people with Down syndrome are gentle creatures, and I believe it. Their pure innocence makes them very trusting, very forgiving. To them there is no such thing as prejudice, malice or suspicions. They harbor no bitterness. Vengeance is unknown to them.
Come to think of it, if everyone possessed such qualities, then there would be no place in this world for wars, crime, or violence —- and that would be like heaven!
Living with Hannah, with her simple joys and pure innocence, has certainly given our family a peek at heaven.