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My child has Down Syndrome and his diagnosis changed who I am

I once thought life was about checking as many boxes as possible and grabbing as much happiness along the way. I have since come to learn a good life is one full of love and purpose and my child with Down syndrome has given me both.

My child has Down Syndrome and his diagnosis changed who I am

I walked out of my doctor's office and the New Mexican sun was blinding. Its rays shined too brightly on my reality, or at least what I thought was my new reality.

The doctor had just told me my unborn son had Down syndrome. "At worst he'll never feed himself and at best he'll mop the floors of a fast-food restaurant one day," the doctor unkindly said to me while I clutched my bulging midsection with one hand and wiped a tear away with the other.

At night I was exhausted from pregnancy and could normally fall asleep with ease. But then morning would come and I was faced with my reality all over again—that's when the tears would start. Getting out of bed was the hardest task I did each day. One morning my mom had to pull the covers off of me, she turned on the shower and then brushed my hair because I couldn't do it.

The first 27 years of my life went just as I planned. I worked in the field I had dreamed of as a TV News Anchor, I married the love of my life, I had a daughter, I was having a son. But the doctor made me believe this new child would have a life not worth living, so I grieved like a death had taken place. I grieved for him but I mostly grieved for myself. I thought my life had shattered; I was left walking barefoot in the shards of the unexpected.

The grief had passed, I was starting to see how the doctor boxed in my son's life based on his own outdated notions and biases, but I believed him because I unknowingly had my own. I was consumed by all I thought my child wouldn't be able to do instead of thinking about all he could do. Even after the grief fog had lifted, I realized I still had a lot of work to do in how I viewed disability and my son's life. I needed a better telescope.

Through research and new relationships, I realized disability isn't always something someone has, but instead is a large part of who someone is. I didn't want my son to be defined by Down syndrome, and slowly I realized that was my own bias, my unknown ableism, working against him. I learned about school inclusion, how special education is not a location where children are sent, but a service meant to come to the child. I started getting involved in the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network—an organization aimed at changing diagnosis experiences like the one I had. As the love for my son grew deeper, so did I.

However, it would take me a bit longer to realize I not only needed to broaden my horizons in how I viewed disability and how I viewed my son but myself. My life. It would take me a while to realize I had boxed myself in.

The view I once had of my life was not the only life that was possible. I thought the way to happiness meant: a TV career, a husband and 3.5 typically developing children. I had such a narrow view of success and the potential life had for me. It took being hit by the unexpected to open up my worldview.

I once thought life was about checking as many boxes as possible and grabbing as much happiness along the way. I have since come to learn a good life is one full of love and purpose and my child with Down syndrome has given me both. I see how he has had a trickle-down effect on our family. His sister is more empathetic than others her age, his pre-teen cousins are concerned with social justice in ways most haven't yet awoken to. I thought Down syndrome was darkness, instead, it is light. Through it, I and those who know my son can see the world more clearly.

What I initially thought was the worst thing ever ended up being an unexpected life lesson. What I once thought was a tragedy, ended up being a blessing. Without Down syndrome, he wouldn't be who he is. Without my child with Down syndrome, I wouldn't be who I am— changed.

My unexpected motherhood opened me up to possibilities I never thought possible.

It took the unexpected to ignite a new passion, a new fire, inside of me. I thought the pain, the unexpected element introduced in my life, meant my life was ending. I thought my life had shattered, but instead, the baby inside of me was slowly pulling everything into place. He gave me a new and better beginning.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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