My name is Amanda Savage, and I am a mom and a pastor’s wife. Nine years ago, we were facing an unwanted pregnancy diagnosis.

Still reeling from a somewhat difficult miscarriage, my husband, Andy and I were told our unborn baby had a number of factors indicating he likely had Trisomy 21 also known as Down syndrome. I knew NOTHING about Down syndrome nor did I know anyone who had Down syndrome. I had a friend from college whose little brother had Down syndrome, but I had never met him. In the week that followed, I spent a lot of time crying as I watched my older son and mentally ran down the list of things I thought this child would never be able to do – I was so naïve about Down syndrome. Andy and I spent the rest of my pregnancy praying that God would allow us to have a healthy baby and more specifically, a “normal” baby.

Cooper was born January 24, 2007, seven weeks before his due date. Almost immediately, the doctors confirmed what had been suspected by ultrasound, Cooper had Down syndrome. I was scared. Scared because my prayers had not been answered and because I had a baby who needed me in ways that I was unable to comprehend. I was scared I would not love him as much as I loved my other son. I was scared about what this meant for me, for my time, and for my future. I wondered why God had done this to us and I was not happy about being a “special parent” chosen to raise this “special child.”

But God . . . Even while we remained in the hospital, old friends and new friends came out of the woodwork; relationships God had groomed over the course of our lives. These friends visited us in the hospital bringing monogrammed gifts, food, and a wealth of knowledge and information about Down syndrome. My college friend’s mom visited me in my hospital room on day 2 of Cooper’s life. I will always remember the first words out of her mouth. In an incredibly sincere but also serious tone, she told me, “This is not bad! He will be more like other children than not.” She spent two hours that day telling me about life with Down syndrome and how much her son enriched the lives of their family. Another mom told me how to get involved in early intervention programs and answered all my silly questions, even questions about potty training (Cooper was all of two weeks old and here I was concerned about potty training). These women comforted, loved, and encouraged me in those early days and weeks. When I did not know what to do, what to ask, or where to go, they lovingly directed us. Now Andy and I have the opportunity to do the same for other families.

Every October, we celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and we do our best to educate about Down syndrome. Yet, there is still a lot of work to be done. According to the National Down Syndrome Congress, approximately 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome each year in the U.S. This is a small percentage compared to the total number of children born each year. As a result, many people have not spent much time around anyone who has Down syndrome. We use whatever opportunities are available to us to help people learn about the talents and abilities of people who have Down syndrome.

Cooper will turn 9 in a few short months, and without hesitation, I can say, this is not bad. I did not ask for Down syndrome and there are moments when I truly dislike that extra, little chromosome. However, Cooper is a much loved and wanted part of our family. My four other boys cannot imagine a life that does not include Cooper. Our crisis pregnancy turned into one of the greatest blessings in our lives and I am so proud of all that he has accomplished and I look forward to all he will accomplish. There is no opportunity that is not available to him, and I thank God daily that I get to be his mom!