Monday, March 24, 2014

Delivering Jack's baskets to the hospital...1 year later

I didn't realize how excited I would be going back to the hospital one year after Jack's birth.  While we were driving today I realized that it was the exact same time and day of the week.  A Monday afternoon around 3 o'clock.  We even took the same route to get there...but instead of my uterus contracting...I felt like my heart was. :)

Creating Jack's baskets has been such a delight.  Thinking of what to put in the basket, hearing from friends and family that would like to contribute, getting packages at the front door filled with blankets made by friends with love, picking out an adorable outfit that will bring a smile to the family's faces when their precious baby is in it, and simply watching how God put the words to the letter on paper.  How do you put in to words what your child has taught you in this year?  Remembering the early feelings that were experienced, the grief, the fears...and then the joy.  The moments I did not expect, the fears that haven't come to fruition, the amazing ways people show their love, the silent moments when God gives you peace.  How do you fit that into half of an 8.5 X 11 piece of cardstock?

And then it came...

Dear parents, 

Hello, my name is Carissa and I would love to be one of the first people to congratulate you on your newest addition to your family.  Congratulations!  I also want you to know I have also experienced receiving unexpected news.  My husband and I welcomed our son, Jack, and were told at birth that he was born with an extra chromosome and has Down syndrome.  There were moments of confusion, grief of what we thought our lives would be like, and fear.  Please know that you are not alone in your feelings.  

Although this basket and words of encouragement might be hard to read at this moment, I hope that you find comfort in hearing from our family and friend that is also raising a child with Down syndrome.  I encourage you not to read (at this point) the outdated material that will give you generalized statistics and  concerns that are associated with Down syndrome.  I found comfort in hearing from actual families that are loving and living their lives with children with Down syndrome.  

So with that, I want to tell you a little about what Jack's life has already taught us...

He looks like his older brother, Luke.  He has his nose, his ears, and his amazing hair.  He is more similar to him than different.  He is rolling, sitting, playing, babbling, laughing, learning and exploring.  He has my husband's strong willed determination to accomplish tasks that many of us take for granted.  He can cuddle like no other and his eyes speak right to your soul.  His smile will make anyone's day turn around and his extra special chromosome has made relationships stronger and mended others.  His life has been a blessing to us and inspired others.  The unexpected news of him having Down syndrome was not a surprise to God, and it has been a year of trusting that He has a perfect plan for our family.  

Although there were many tears at the beginning, I would not change one thing about Jack.  He has been such a gift to our family.  He was fearfully and wonderfully made by God, just like your precious baby.  

My prayer for you is that you take the time to grieve the baby you thought, and love the baby you were given.  Your precious baby will steal your heart, will stitch it up with a much stronger, more beautiful thread that will be a much better masterpiece than you could have ever imagined yourself.  

Most of my hard days are when I allow myself to look too far down this journey and I am quickly reminded when I gaze upon his beautiful eyes that he just needs my love today.  God will sustain you and give you the strength and guidance you need to be the best parents for your child.  Trust Him and you will experience the unexpected...JOY!  

Blessings to you and your family.  Enjoy this basket, filled with love and support for you from our sweet Jack and those that love him.  

Jack's family

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I  praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I  know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.“ Psalm 139:13-15

Letter to parents from us and Drew's family

Can you tell I am squeezing this nurse?  It's because of her we were able to make this happen.  I shared with her that because she was gracious to answer my questions, listen to me, have conversations and make arrangements, we are able to have Jack's baskets be a part of this hospital and make an impact on another family's experience.  She is also the person that got the ball rolling to have me come to speak to the staff.  I shared with her that because of her work and dedication, many families' lives will be changed!  

The angel in the nail salon.  Read about it here.  God, you are so good and you orchestrated this meeting.  Thank you Diane for loving my kids like your own.  Thank you for who you are in our story.  For congratulating us on our beautiful baby and for showing us God is ALWAYS with us.  Nail salon or hospital.  

Last night, Chris and I got a chance to pray over the baskets.  It was a chance for us to ask God to bless the families that will receive these.  He knows their circumstances, He knows their baby, and He knows their upcoming journey.  

It is my prayer and big dream that all children beautifully created with an extra special chromosome in the Twin Cities (and maybe even beyond ;)) could receive a loving welcome from one of Jack's baskets.  Every child should be celebrated and welcomed into the world and it's sad to me that many families are never congratulated and some are even treated differently or avoided because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.  With that, I am excited to share that I will be speaking to the hospital staff on September 8th, giving a family perspective on receiving unexpected news.  There is possibly two other hospitals that are interested in having me come to speak to their staff.  Please pray with me that this could happen.

If you are interested in giving a tax-deductible donation to Jack's baskets and getting them in the hospitals, please click the yellow DONATE button at the bottom of the page. We can not thank you enough for your support!

*****Since the writing of this initial blog post, Jack's Baskets are currently available to all birth centers int the Twin Cities and sent across the United States.  We follow HIPPA privacy laws and have ways to request baskets.  You can find more information on our Facebook page, Jack's Baskets.  Stay tuned for Jack's Basket official webpage!********

My doctor also loved the idea of Jack's basket and welcomed me bringing one to the clinic to give to a family that will receive a diagnosis during pregnancy.  Wow...what if we could impact those families?  The amount of babies that could make it to the reality is that aprox 90% of babies diagnosed in utero are terminated.  

We are excited to celebrate both Jack (25th) and Luke's (26th) birthdays this week!  We love them both so much and our hearts are filled with joy and love.  

That's right Jack, Mama said you would change the world.   

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Words. Helpful or Hurtful.

My mama always told me that if I didn't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all.  I will admit that at times in my life, my tongue has been like a sword.  Sharp and hurtful.  

Words.  They carry so much power.  They can encourage and discourage.  They can bring comfort and they can tear apart.  They can spread truth and also lies.  Words, are helpful or hurtful.  

This month has been one of reflection.  One that has brought many tears...of the highs and lows of the past year.  Remembering how the words of Jack's diagnosis were the amazing support we received when we introduced him to the world.  Your comments and encouragement sustained us.  

Being that one of my love languages is words of affirmation, I CAN NOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT MEANS TO US.  Do you know that there were nights that I stayed up late and reread all the comments that you shared with me...believing that we could do this...and do it well!? Sometimes those comments were what helped me get through the first few hours.  God used your comments to help me see that we were well equipped for doing the best we could for our family.  Some of the early emotions included doubt...and YOUR words and presence in our lives have made a huge, huge, huge difference.  Thank you.   

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.  
Proverb 12:18

Thank you for not saying, "I'm sorry."  We are thankful that only two people did...and an overwhelming amount of you said, "Congratulations."  Saying that you are sorry translates to me that you are sorry that Jack is the way that he is.  That you are sad about how my son was fearfully and wonderfully made by God.  God does NOT make mistakes.  Guess what?  I wouldn't change anything about Jack and there is nothing to be sorry about.  

Helpful or Hurtful

Lastly, I want to share something with you that hurt very deeply.  

A few weeks after Jack was born, I became aware that two middle schoolers that I know were making fun of a classmate and her brother, who has Down syndrome.  These two were not just saying hurtful words, but they were also adding damaging body gestures.  This sibling was in tears.  My heart was breaking hearing the details.  These two students were trying to win the attention of their classmates by their immaturity and complete lack of thought for anyone besides themselves.  They learned this behavior somewhere.  They learned that it's okay to call someone a retard and think that it doesn't matter.  That word has always infuriated me.  What also infuriated me was how the incident was initially punitive consequence for these students until someone spoke up and asked why people with disabilities are constantly being if it's okay.  Why are these hurtful words accepted as common language among kids.  Why is the r-word still being used as if it doesn't hurt.  Just like the n-word hurts so many, especially the African American population.  The word is used so casually and people do not understand the impact that it has.  

It's hurtful...not helpful in conversations.  It brings no value to you or the person you are talking to.  The times I have heard it used is to put someone down and make the person feel inferior to them.  

Please stop saying it.  

If someone says it in conversation, please ask them not to.  If you have children, please teach them why it is so hurtful to my son, to me, my family, my friends with children with Ds, and people with developmental disabilities.  

Tomorrow, March 5th, is the 6th annual campaign to spread awareness to stop the r-word.  Spread the word to end the word.  Please consider making a commitment to end the word.  

Don’t Use Foul Or Abusive Language. Let Everything You Say Be Good And Helpful, So That Your Words Will Be An Encouragement To Those 
Who Hear Them.
Ephesians 4:29 NLT

What if we used our words to encourage others, to instill belief in them, to help them reach their full potential?  

Your words are either helpful or hurtful.  You decide.  

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About Me

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The name of this blog was inspired by Kristin Armstrong's devotional book, Strength for the Climb. I am a midwest girl married to a handsome, hardworking, God-fearing man and the mother of two boys. My eldest son, a social butterfly that has enough energy and excitement to make anyone tired and a personality that will make you giggle with laughter. My youngest son, can cuddle like no other, and his eyes will speak right to your soul. Both of my sons have taught me more about God's grace and goodness. We are blessed to have an extra chromosome in our family as our sweet Jack was diagnosed at birth with Down syndrome. With that, I am reminded daily to trust and rely on God's perfect plan on this journey called life. I am a child of God and grateful to my Heavenly Father for His continued blessings, guidance, wisdom, and most importantly for saving my soul.