In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I asked Pamela McCormick to share her thoughts, perspectives, and story of her beautiful daughter, Bernadette.
Our entry into the world of Down Syndrome was probably a common one. We were a big busy family, caught up in the craziness of Christmas and awaiting the arrival of baby #8. “My plan” was to have the baby, get home the next day and continue with cooking, wrapping, carpooling and so on. But it’s funny how ‘my plan’ did not work out. When the doctor told me that our sweet Bernadette showed symptoms of Down Syndrome, ‘my plan’ and that of my family’s changed forever. Yes, those first few weeks were filled with tears and fear of the unknown, but it was also filled with a sense of hope and excitement that I can’t quite justifiably define – as if a vast new door was just opening. A door into a life, a mindset, a community that I had never known existed.
Our new life as a family with Bernadette is very hard to describe. If asked, one word comes to mind: love. Why ‘love’? Because everything now somehow has a greater sense of joy and patience surrounding it. And that’s because everything now has, in some way, something to do with Bernadette. Not just because she is the youngest, but because she IS Bernadette. She exudes this contagious expression of excitement and warmth that urges us to recognize the beauty in the smallest joys in life – even as small as a simple high-five. And just when you think 7 older kids would get frustrated with their baby sister, the opposite has proven true. In fact, they are more inspired – inspired to laugh more, to smile often, and to see the optimistic side of things as Bernadette somehow always does. They still come home from school and immediately look to play with her. They still pray specifically for her at dinner prayers. They love her with a love I could never have imagined. And that special love spreads throughout our entire family.
The community Bernadette has brought to us has been refreshing. All of us as a family realize how many individuals there are with disabilities. Our eyes have been opened to the many special people all around us. I am amazed at the number of people I know with Down Syndrome relatives. I used to ask myself, “How did I not know this before?” I didn’t need to, that is why. I never knew the amount of people that volunteer for Special Olympics, have Down Syndrome support blogs and Facebook pages, and actually work at the BNI. These are individuals who inspire me. These are the type of people who instinctively put others first and take absolute joy in doing so. I consider it a tremendous gift from Bernadette that I get to meet more and more of these people.
I could not imagine my world without Bernadette. And I could not imagine Bernadette not having Down Syndrome. I actually had someone ask me once, “Do you ever wish she, you know, was normal? Wouldn’t it be easier?” I almost let my frustration and shock get the best of me. My frustration that some people simply do not understand how great of a blessing Bernadette is in our lives. In these past few years I have learned to be more patient and accepting of people and their comments (and looks). I know Down Syndrome makes many people uncomfortable, and I just smile and try to ease their discomfort. I know Bernadette will lead a life totally different than that of her siblings, and I absolutely cannot wait to live it with her!
Pamela McCormick was born and raised in Erie, PA. She and her husband, Matt, have eight children ranging in ages from 3 to 21. When she is not in the car driving kids to various practices, Pamela enjoys reading and spending time outside.