Special needs and a lot of love

The following is an email I received from Michael Walker, the father of Tashina, a girl with Down’s Syndrome. Deseret News will be publishing an article I wrote about Tashina, a wonderful young woman who has touched many hearts in our area. I will update the website with the link when the article goes live. In the meantime, Michael has given me permission to post this letter here.

Feel free to leave any comments about your experiences that relate to this topic.

“I have some very strong feelings about dealing with children with special needs and feel to share some of them . . .  in hopes that we can all learn from each other and grow from each others experiences. My stories are not unique, but maybe we can all grow more through a little extra communication. Here is a copy of the birth announcement that I typed in January 2001, when our fourth child was born.

Birth Announcement

 Tashina Darlene Walker

Born 10 January 2001 / Time 12:59 PM / Weight 7.74 pounds / Height 20 inches

We want to add a personal note because we would like you to know that Tashina was born with Down’s syndrome. During the past week, we have learned a great deal about all the positive ways Down’s syndrome can affect our daughter and family. She is a beautiful, responsive baby, and we hope that you will accept her into your hearts without pity or reservations. Please don’t feel that you have to pretend that she is “normal”, and please feel free to ask us any questions you may have about her.

With Heavenly Father’s help, we hope Tashina will grow up strong and healthy. We want you to share in the joy of her progress along the road to maturity. She may travel that road more slowly than the others, but we will consider each new milestone in her life a blessing. We feel that Heavenly Father has placed Tashina in our home and in our hearts for a very special purpose. We also know that our lives will be enriched by all the special gifts that Tashina was meant to bring to her family and friends. Her presence has already filled our home with much happiness and we are so very grateful to our Heavenly Father for her.

Over the course of the last few months, we have thought very seriously she would be born before the end of the year to give us the tax break I was hoping for. When we got pregnant, we thought nothing of the tax break, but timing created the thought for us, since she was due 5 January and both Tina and Christopher were born early, 3 weeks and 1 ½ weeks.

On 31 December, I whispered to Tracey’s stomach asking Tashina to ask Heavenly Father to allow her to be born in 2000. Many prayers, and lots of preparing of our hearts and on 10 January, she was born. No tax break and not a New Year’s Eve baby, like we had hoped for. Our Dr. had told us that she could start labor and deliver Tashina on 30 December, to give us the tax break, but I felt very strongly that we were not supposed to do that. We felt that we were supposed to leave the birth in Heavenly Father’s hands. When the baby wasn’t born before the end of the year, we were both very disappointed; as we thought Heavenly Father was going to give us the tax break. I was a little upset and had some repenting to do, for my feelings. After two days of praying asking why (no tax break), and an additional two days of repenting for asking why, I felt a peace come into my mind, along with a feeling that $1000 is a lot of money, but it costs about $5000 to bury a child. I was immediately humbled, and grateful to a loving Father in Heaven for hearing and answering prayers, even if the answer was not as expected. Our Dr. had been telling us for 5 months that there were going to be complications during the birth. She prepared us for the complications during each visit. Each time she reminded us of the impending complications, we felt a peace from the Holy Ghost helping us to not worry. Without listening to the Holy Ghost, we could have had her in 2000, giving us a tax break, yet lost Tashina during childbirth.

We kept feeling that they that are wise, take the Holy Spirit as their guide, guiding us in all things and not questioning His plans of action. Before the birth, Tracey was given a Priesthood blessing stating the Dr. would know what to do and all would go according to plan. The water broke when Tracey reached 4 centimeters and the baby’s stats dropped like a brick, as it lost all oxygen. The cervix opened from a 4 to a 10 immediately, allowing the birth with less than 2 minutes to spare from the lack of oxygen, an absolute miracle.

During the delivery, a portion of Tashina’s lung collapsed, causing her to struggle to get started in this life. She was born with an infection, a collapsed lung, and lots of congestion in her lungs, a hole in her heart and the dominant side of her heart acting as the weak side. She was put on oxygen to blow up her lung and fix the leaks, to help her fight the congestion and to give her heart the oxygen it needed so the weak side of her heart could strengthen and become the dominant side like it was supposed to be. Her Dr. said that if the heart can strengthen itself, it may close the hole. She is a sweetheart and so beautiful and precious.

There has been an outpouring of prayers and love from our family and friends that we have gratefully appreciated.

Not in this letter that was mailed is the fact that Tashina spent 2 weeks in the NICU, then came home from the hospital with an oxygen tank hooked up to her nose 100% of the time. As she came off of the oxygen a few weeks later, she had three different types of pneumonia, in three different portions of her small lungs. She was born deaf, and had many problems of various seriousness that had to be dealt with. Tracey and I have spent many days in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Also not stated in our birth announcement is what really happened in the hospital when Tashina was born. It was truly a miracle. Although I skirt most of the specifics and give only a few of the particulars, her being alive is truly a miracle. Equally miraculous is the fact that within a few weeks of her birth, her hearing began to improve and today she hears without the aid of hearing aids, though not very well at times.

Earlier in the pregnancy, Tracey’s Alpha Feta-Protein test came back citing that something was wrong with our baby. We had test after test, but everything else came back normal. We decided to not have the amniocentesis because of the dangers of that particular test, along with our fear of the worry that the result of that test might create in our family when we were already feeling completely at peace. Tashina was our 4th child, so we were not new parents. We were both healthy and did not smoke, nor drink alcohol. When all of the tests came in looking good, we thought our child was going to be born to be normal.

In all of Tashina’s life, I have never thought of her as having Down’s syndrome. She is a normal, loving little girl, who happens to have an extra chromosome. She loves to smile, laugh, joke and play. She loves pizza, chips, soda and hamburgers. She has friends and loves to go to grandmas and grandpa’s house, and additionally loves to go bowling, swimming, to the movies and to the park. She was mainstreamed into a kindergarterten class this past year (in the 8th grade now), and I think that this is the real reason that I have shared Tashina’s birth experience with the class. I wanted to paint the picture from the beginning, so that when I talk about my experiences, it might offer credence to my story.

My wife and I look at her pretty often and joke about our little bean (human being). She truly is a human being and deserves all of the rights and privileges that the so called “normal” children deserve. She is no different than they are, except her having the extra chromosome and thinking a little slower, with a little bit of stubborn behavior added in for good measure.”

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