In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness month, we are sharing stories of people with Down syndrome who are leading happy, productive and fulfilling lives. Meet teenager Nathan and his mother, Belinda. Nathan shares his own story, followed by a letter that Belinda wrote to Nathan when she was pregnant. We hope that you are inspired by their story like we are!
by Nathan Gaddis
Just like my peers, I attend high school and am in 11th grade. I might still struggle with my ABCs but I can tell you when Bruno Mars is singing a song on the radio. I still have some problems when counting to 20, but I can clean off the table and put the dirty dishes away. Sometimes my attention span isn’t too long, but I love to bowl (highest score 186) and have competed in a regular league with my daddy. I may not always speak in complete sentences, but everyone seems to know what I want – especially when I turn up the charm. Oh, yeah, I am a great help at Kroger’s when my mom and I go to the grocery store. This year, I’m helping my mom write the list of groceries and I check them off at the store. And one more thing, I am working part-time at Top Golf! Yep, I get a paycheck and pay taxes just like you. Just recently, I opened my own checking account and have an ATM card that I carry in my wallet with my Texas issued ID card. I’ve been known to cause some havoc whenever I turn on the car – all by myself – but heck, don’t all teenagers do that?
My mom and dad have talked to me about Down syndrome – but I don’t really care at this point. I’m happy. I’m loved.
There are many opportunities out there, and my parents are always taking me somewhere. I have sailed the seas with Captain Dave, soared in the air with Air Challenger, attended a Bike Camp, performed at several Talent Shows, met former Governor Perry, rode a horse at the Rodeo, and attended Camp Blessing – an overnight camp – six times. You know what? I’m just like any other teenager.
by Belinda Garza Gaddis
I knew I was pregnant with you almost the minute you were conceived, but I waited to tell your daddy to make sure all was well. I finally told your dad in early October. On Monday, October 5, 1998, I visited my doctor’s office, and he confirmed what I already knew — I was carrying a baby! I was well into my second trimester – I was at 14 weeks.
A test was scheduled for October 28, 1998. Your dad went with me. We got our first view of you on that day using a machine called an ultrasound and we were given a picture showing your face. We also learned that you were a boy. Your daddy was so happy! He already had thoughts of a runner in the family — just like him.
On Wednesday, November 5, 1998, my doctor called me at any office and gave me the news that you were going to be special. The test that had been taken showed you had Down syndrome. I immediately called your dad. He said that you were ours and whatever difficulties you had we would cope with them together.
Later that evening, I told your Grandma Garza. She was upset that your life was going to be different and somewhat more difficult but she knew that all of us together could face whatever difficulties were to come. In the background I heard your Grandpa Garza say…”Baby, bring him on. We will love him just as we love Austin.” What wonderful words of encouragement and total acceptance!
Another ultrasound was scheduled on November 9, 1998 and more pictures were taken. We learned that your heart looked fine but that your limbs were a little small – but that is a normal characteristic of a child with Down syndrome. Later that evening your daddy went running. When he came home, he told me…”You know, I love to run. I love to feel the wind in my hair, and the sun on my face. This baby will feel and see just like we do. Who are we not to grant him the opportunity?” We cried and held each other. I knew in my heart that we would learn God’s plan for us in his own terms.
We began to tell other family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. We received so much encouragement and love from all of them. I even had a friend suggest that she could take a class on Down syndrome so she could help us. I kept all the written correspondence because I wanted you to know that you were loved by many before you were even seen.
You were born on March 29, 1999 and we named you, Nathan, because Nathan means “gift from God.”