The birth of a child is beautiful and special and life changing, but sometimes things don’t go as expected. You’ve heard the phrase about counting to see if your baby has all ten fingers and toes, but what if they don’t? And what about the number of chromosomes?
The morning my first child was born—almost in the car on the way to the hospital—he came into the world with something extra. An extra twenty-first chromosome. I didn’t get the long-awaited experience of having my newborn placed on my chest because his skin was blue, and he was barely breathing. He was rushed to a corner of the room where it seemed like an eternity before I heard him cry. Something was wrong, but what?
I vividly remember a doctor I didn’t know standing at my bedside, folding her hands, and telling us our newborn son most likely had Down syndrome. With those words, our lives instantly moved in a new direction, influencing many of our decisions, and shifting our thinking forever. I only had a few minutes to hold my tiny baby and admire him through a sheen of tears before they rushed him to the neonatal ICU. He stayed there for ten days, and I cried buckets when I had to leave the hospital without him.
Has being a special needs mom been easy? The honest answer is no. Being Lee’s mother has come with extra challenges including heart surgery, multiple therapies, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and potty training that went on and on…and on. But has being a special needs mom been rewarding? Yes! My son Lee has taught me to see the world in a different way. I have more patience. I appreciate little things I took for granted. Sticking to a routine has become an important way of life. We likely won’t ever be empty nesters, and we plan for a future that includes activities and a living situation for three people.
It’s been over twenty-three years and my sweet Lee loves to sing loud and proudly off-key, build so many Legos that we had to install a wall of shelves in his room, and he’s my cozy mystery watching buddy. Aurora Teagarden movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries are his favorite. Our current nightly binge watch is Murder, She Wrote, or as Lee says, “Watch old woman, please.” I smile every time the catchy opening music plays because it instantly takes me back to watching it with my story-loving grandmother who would have been an amazing author.
How does all of this relate to my writing and the fictional towns and characters I create?
When I started writing it felt natural to add characters that reminded me of my son and the other special children I’ve met over the years. In my debut novel, Her Second Chance Cowboy, the hero starts an equine therapy program for special needs children. His first therapy client is a little boy with Down syndrome. Although this child only has a small role in the book, he lit a spark that developed into the idea for my second book.
In A Sheriff’s Star, the heroine is a single mother of a little girl with Down syndrome. I absolutely adore this sweet little character and hope she brings as much joy to my readers as she did to me while writing. I relived some of my favorite but also painful memories and used them to add a touch of real life to this story. Since I write romance, my heroine starts out dealing with everything on her own before finding a happily ever after for herself and her daughter. They find the acceptance and love they deserve. I’ve been lucky to have my husband by my side every day of our unexpected journey, but that’s not the case for everyone.
I believe we all want to see ourselves represented in books and other art forms. As an author, I can pull from personal experiences that most people don’t have. I can give the characters a voice. My voice. My son’s voice.
I hope my stories can teach, inspire, and possibly help someone understand that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings. This is pushing me to research and write more unique and special characters and storylines. I won’t give away all of my plans yet, but my hope is to continue telling stories that include characters who encompass the colorful world we live in.