Sarah was another beautiful mama that I connected with at a local support group. We clicked instantly.
She is one of those bubbly, warm people that you can’t help but want to be around. She is driven, full of light and exudes positivity.
She is a passionate advocate for her son Ollie as is her husband Gary and her precious daughter Calla. This family oozes energy and their loyalty, passion and love for one another is so evident and so incredibly heart warming.
Enjoy reading the Rogers’ journey – it is full to the brim of strength, full of love and full of a whole heap of faith.
Our story started before Ollie was born, at our 6 month anatomy scan, our specialist detected something out of the ordinary. Ollie had not developed a nasal bone; because of this we were placed into the high risk category for having a child with Down Syndrome. We left there, unfortunately without any clear medical advice or support. Further along the pregnancy we made the decision to change to medical practitioners that we trusted. We changed OBGYN’s so that we could have a specialist paediatrician in the room to diagnose Ollie at delivery.
One Sunday night; a couple days before my due date, I went into labour. Ollie was born a few hours later in a frenzy of medical activity due to lack of oxygen and a pneumothorax (a hole in his lung). It wasn’t until the early hours of the following morning once they have stabilised him; and got his oxygen levels up that we received our diagnosis.
We cried, mourned for him; not who he was, but we mourned out of fear and the unknown. We cried a lot those first few weeks. We were so uncertain of what this would mean for us and for our daughter (who was 2 at the time). We really did not know what to expect. We knew so little and the fear of the unknown was unfortunately what we focused on.
But as we travelled this new path; our eyes opened to a new way of living. We reevaluated and recalculated what life should look like. Ironically; one of my favourite poems is called The Road Less Travelled by Robert Frost – And it finishes like this – I took the road less travelled and that has made all the difference. This has definitely been a theme for us and our family.
Ollie has taught us more than inclusion; he has taught us new ways to communicate (Oliver was non-verbal for the first 3 years of his life) and so we had to be inventive in the ways to get him to communicate with us. He has taught us a new level of love and tenacity. Watching him overcome challenges and continue despite of it refueled a fire in me! Having a child with extra needs forces you to take a hard look at life and to re-evaluate what success really is. Living with this life lesson I have changed my career from market research for a large multi-national company to becoming a personal and professional life coach.
Having a child with extra needs teaches you so much; I have learned through both my children what unconditional love really is. There is a fierce bond that we as a family of 4 carry.
Some days are still hard, and can be a real challenge. I am constantly aware of where Ollie is and what he is doing. Some days he struggles with being overwhelmed or overloaded by noise and people and we have to help him navigate that. Some days he is just a ‘normal’ little boy who plays soccer outside, watches his favourite shows on TV.
I wouldn’t change him or our life at all. Our life is so much richer for having a child with Down Syndrome in it. Our world has been opened up to people and experiences we would never have dreamed of because of him. Ollie has the ability to impact people in a deep and meaningful way not because of his Down syndrome but because of who he is and what he carries. He is a blessing to us and to our community of friends and family.
If you had asked me five ago what was the benefit of having a child that has Down Syndrome I would have laughed at you. At that point I was stuck in a place of self doubt and couldn’t really see out of it. Benefit? What benefit could there possibly be? I was overwhelmed and I hated hearing the saying that was thrown in my face all the time: God only gives special needs children to special parents. It didn’t make sense to me, I wasn’t special. I was overwhelmed by the task ahead of me not to mention raising my beautiful two year old feisty girl. I was angry, I was mourning what my life was supposed to be; what I had planned for it; for my children; for my marriage. As far as I could see there was no benefit!
We journeyed on day by day, learning and wondering what this all meant for us. We battled and it honestly felt like a long haul climb. I mean obviously we enjoyed him and loved him fiercely, but underlying that was a collective family questioning of where to now, what now.
I look back now and I honestly laugh at myself! I am reading a book called the values factor and I wish I had read it earlier, one of the questions John Demartini poses to a man who has just lost his child is – can you see any benefit to this tragedy? Well, that got me thinking and as I have already said this year is a year of transformation for me I see now why I am happy that Ollie has Down syndrome. And here is why.
1. I have him, this little soul, this handsome strong and open little soul. This little boy who works so hard for everything, who faces unknown challenges but has shown people an unknown depth of love.
2. I have rediscovered my purpose: I love people, I love engaging people, I love helping people. But as life happens to us, we become task driven; we lose sight of our God purpose and for some we live to make a ‘living’. This happened to me. But Ollie, well, he reignited this passion inside of me. I think God used that to open my eyes to what makes me tick again, and suddenly over the past 6 months my life has taken a drastic turn for the better.
3. Strength: I realized the untapped strength I had, we had. This reserve I think is not usually opened unless you go through some time of trial. And in this period you have the option of giving up and saying I can’t do this (and there were and are times when I feel like this), or there is this reserve tank that suddenly opens and you dig deep and there it is. And lastly…
4. People: I have discovered the true nature of people. I have connected with the most amazing women some who I met before he was born and some who I met a few weeks after. These women are my tribe. These connections run deep. I am not a person who easily connects with and trusts people but Ollie has untapped an honesty and vulnerability in me which has taken my relationships to a deeper level.
There are many other benefits which I could spend hours talking to you about, but these are my top few. There are some disadvantages too but these always center around other people’s perceptions and prejudices which usually stem from ignorance and lack of education but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.