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Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome : Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Posted on: by Kate
Thank you to my virtual friend Ashley (I can’t believe we have never met in person!) for sharing the story of her two precious sisters; both who were born with Down’s Syndrome.  Their story is unique in that Laura was born to their family biologically and sister Kamdyn was added through adoption.  We know a couple people who have chosen to adopt a child with Down Syndrome who have said it has been the biggest blessing to their family.  If you have ever considered adopting a child with Down Syndrome, or know someone who is – this is a beautiful story to read and I am so thankful she is sharing!  World Down Syndrome Day is March 21st and I all but begged this family to share their inspiring story!  Here is Ashley in her own words……
Six years ago, my life forever changed as I sat in an ultrasound room at the doctor’s office. I held back tears as I listened to what the nurse told my mom: “I think your baby may have a chromosomal abnormality.” From just a few moments after the ultrasound began, I knew something was wrong. The nurse held the ultrasound wand over parts of the baby longer than I knew she should have…. I noticed it the most as she spent way too long looking at my new baby sister or brother’s heart. After she announced to my mom that there was something wrong with my new sibling, she told us what I had been longing to hear since I was 8 years old. “It’s a girl”. For so long, I had wanted a baby sister. So badly. In that moment, though, it hardly mattered that she was a girl. Yes, I would finally have a sister, but the fear of knowing something was wrong with her over-powered the excitement of knowing I would have a baby sister.

The scariest part of all, though, was when the specialist came in and told us that there was also something not right with her heart, and that my mom would need to go to a pediatric cardiologist to see what was really wrong.
A few weeks later, that appointment came, and we left the hospital with news we had hoped wouldn’t come…. Laura’s heart was broken, and she would need open heart surgery after birth.Time went by slowly as we awaited her birth. When the time came for her to be born, I was so scared. Everything on the internet told us all of the bad to expect. It told us that my baby sister might not make it to birth, and even if she did, there was a good chance she wouldn’t make it to her first birthday. The unknown was frightening. I didn’t know what to expect.Moments before Laura was born, a doctor took us aside to tell us that she would most likely be purple when she was born and that there was a good chance that she wouldn’t be crying. When she came out pink and crying, I knew from that moment that she was going to be okay. It wouldn’t be an easy journey, but she was going to make it.

Three months after she was born, Laura went through open heart surgery. How her little, 8 lb. body handled open heart surgery the way that it did still amazes me to this day. She had her surgery on Friday and was out of the hospital that following Sunday.

After her surgery, Laura started gaining weight and thriving.

When she was 18 months old, she went through intestinal surgery. Just like her heart surgery, she got through it like a champ and was in and out of the hospital in 6 days. I’m telling you, guys, this girl is AMAZING! She is beautiful and smart and just all things wonderful.
When Laura was about 2 years old, I found out about a website called Reece’s Rainbow. What is Reece’s Rainbow? It is a website dedicated to finding families for orphans in other countries with Down syndrome and other special needs. Having a heart for kids with special needs because of Laura, I began advocating for these precious children. One day while I was on Facebook, a friend posted a link to a little girl on Reece’s Rainbow who had Down syndrome, and I fell in love with her instantly. I showed my mom and dad her picture, and they fell in love with her as well. A couple of days later, they committed to adopting her.
After that came 18 months of mountains of paperwork, tears of desperation for this sweet girl, and heartbreak of knowing she was so far away from us. The time finally came, though, for my parents to go meet this sweet girl, who my parents had named Autumn, all the way in Russia.

4 days before my parents left to go meet Autumn for the first time, we got a phone call that we never expected….. Autumn’s biological parents got word that we were coming to adopt her, and they took her back home. Our hearts were completely shattered. What was going on? Why was this happening? Autumn was OURS! I remember just sitting on my bed, sobbing, because I didn’t have strength to do anything else. I felt like we had just lost everything that my whole family had been working so hard towards.The people from Autumn’s orphanage asked my parents not to give up, and they asked them to please choose another child to rescue. There had never been a child with Down syndrome adopted from that orphanage before so they wanted a child to be saved. My parents agreed and were emailed a small list of children who had Down syndrome that were available in that orphanage. And there she was…..A blue eyed, blonde haired beauty that we knew was meant to be ours.

My parents left on a plane headed for Russia where they finally got to meet the little girl they had been working so hard for…. Even though it wasn’t the little girl they thought it would be, they loved her instantly anyway.

My parents returned home, returned to Russia again to go to court (AND PASSED!), and then they returned home again and waited to leave for the final trip….. the Gotcha Day trip! Shortly after my parents returned home, we started hearing rumors of an adoption ban that Russia was trying to pass so that Americans could no longer adopt Russian orphans. We didn’t believe it. This could not be true.

But it was…. We spent Christmas not knowing if Kamydn would come home. We did not know if all hope of her coming to live in America with us was lost. We were in a fog. We rode a roller coaster of emotions as we kept getting mixed information. The ban would pass. No it wouldn’t. Maybe it would. If it passed, we still might be able to get Kami. If it passed, we wouldn’t be able to get Kami. Maybe if it does pass, kids with special needs would be an exception to the ban. We didn’t know what to believe. My mom, my brother, and myself packed our suitcases, prepared to leave, having faith that God would get us to Russia, and that He would get Kamdyn out that orphanage no matter what.

A few days before we were to leave, we got the green light to go. We didn’t know if we would come home with Kami, but we knew we had to try. By the Glory of God, we were able to take Kami out of the orphanage.

We arrived home safely in the US with Kamdyn, and her and Laura became best friends instantly.

Kami has been home for 26 months now, and she is blossoming. We all love her so much, and she fits into our family so well. Everyone thinks that her and Laura are twins, and they are always so amazed when we tell them that they aren’t biological sisters. I am so thankful for the gift of these two girls. They are smart and beautiful. They are strong and loving. They are precious creations of God. I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They have both made me a better person.

Thank you so much to Kate for allowing me to share our story. March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, and I love to spread awareness for my sisters so it is definitely one of my favorite days for sure (and it might help a little that March 21st is also my birthday) People with Down syndrome aren’t scary or weird….. They are just like us except a little cooler because they have one more chromosome than the rest of us. That’s all. So, next time you see someone with Down syndrome, don’t treat them as different…. Just treat them as a person because that is all that they are. Down syndrome does not define them. Oh, and if you ever get a chance to hug someone with Down syndrome, do it. It’ll be the best hug that you will ever receive 🙂

– Ashley, Laura and Kami’s big sister (Feel free to follow our journey on Instagram @becomingmrsdavila)

*For those who have asked – here is a little information on why Adoption is no longer allowed in Russia.  Our family prays that Russians will chose adoption for their own families and also that Russian and US relations will improve so US families like this one can adopt in the future.

Until Next Time ~ Kate
Comments: 10 Responses
  1. Crystal says:

    That is such an amazing story! I thank God for people who have the courage to take on such a challenge!

  2. Laurie says:

    What an absolutely beautiful post! And the strength of this precious child to endure not only open heart surgery but intestinal surgery as well. All I can say is Wow!

  3. Claire says:

    Wow what an amazing story. I’m so glad you shared this with all of us!

  4. Katie says:

    You fail to mention WHY Russia imposed the adoption ban — it’s in part because a godly Christian Reece’s Rainbow family, the Emelyentsevs adopted two beautiful Russian baby boys with DS — one of whom they MURDERED (Nicolai) and the other of which they dumped in Foster care following their conviction!

    • Kate Hamernik says:

      it is far far more complicated than that – if you did research you would know that. Nicolai’s murder was preventable for sure – and the US convicted his parents – which is more justice than many who wait behind orphange walls get. “Katie” I pray you will do more with your convictions than troll websites that celebrate families who are CLEARLY giving loving homes to children that lived in institutions that are known for drugging, underfeeding, and physically abusing children. Perhaps you will not adopt through Reece’s Rainbow (nobody here is suggesting it is for everyone, nobody here is suggesting they are perfect) – but this family did and their little girl is thriving. They have done a good thing. What have you done? If you haven’t done something incredible for someone else yet – might I suggest you stop trolling and get out there and do SOMETHING – trolls are cowards who hide behind computer screens. Heroes get things done – like this family. Find a way to be a hero, not a coward. May God richly bless you from here on out! I mean that with no animosity, I feel truly sorry for you that this (your comment above) is the way you spend your time – that must be terrible.

  5. ellen beck says:

    A lovely story! I worked in special education for many years and I would have to say without a shadow of a doubt Downs children and adults are by far the best ever! I love the smiles, the hugs just everything. I like how you found another child who needed a home. I hope that things do improve as many countries dont embrace children who have sepcial needs. She and your children are beautiful.

  6. Natalie says:

    I have a grandson that is Down Syndrome that turned 21 in March. The most precious gift God could of given to our family. He is the joy of my life and I have 20 grand children, and they all have a piece of my heart but this fellow has a little bigger piece. His name is Donte and he just graduated from High School on June 4th 2021, and his mother and I were lit with excitement. His father was murdered when he was 4 years old but he has had a fulfilled life with his family. I could go on and on about my Donte as I call him and he just smiles. Just wanted to share a little of my happiness with the world because there are so many cruel things happening and yet we have God’s blessings to be thankful for.

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