My husband, Dave, and I chose to be Alicia’s parents. We met Alicia, fell in love with her and became her parents through international adoption. Although, Alicia having Down syndrome was something we had to consider, to us, it did not define her and ultimately didn’t matter when it came to our decision to adopt her. Yes, it is a part of her and is one of the many pieces that makes her the person she is. But we saw a smart, charismatic and amazingly strong and resilient little girl, who happened to have Down syndrome. Her strength is one of her traits that first stood out to me. And it continues to inspire me every day.
Alicia spent her first year living on the streets, she spent the next 6 months in an orphanage that neglected the children before she arrived at the orphanage where we met her. Despite a rough beginning, Alicia remained happy and strong. While in the last orphanage, through her strength, she taught herself how to walk. She taught herself how to eat. She taught herself how to run and climb. When her caretakers at the orphanage told her that we were her family and taking her to her new home, she forced a smile on her face and didn’t shed a tear. She continues to conquer any challenge in front of her, from leaving her country, to the first time on an airplane, to doctor’s appointments and surgery and of course her first day of school.
Every day, Dave and I are still learning. Still learning how to parent and still learning about Down syndrome. There are frustrating moments, like having a 5-year-old that was still in process of toilet training, but the rewards are well worth it. To see her smile with pride as she swam for the first time on her own (and only after 5 lessons!) was priceless. I’ve watched her sweet, kind demeanor and intelligence break down barriers of people's perception of Down syndrome. I often get a response of “Wow, she’s smart” (as if I didn’t know). We are still learning how Down syndrome will affect Alicia. It is a part of her. But one thing we do know: Alicia is amazing.