Saturday, October 12, 2013

Rachel: Part 3 - Eric, Jacoby, then Kendall

Rachel and her firefighter husband Eric met in a VIP section of a concert in December 2005 and had their first date one week later.  Their first date holds memories of getting lost, arriving late to meet friends, a restaurant full of teenagers in gowns because of winter formal, and karaoke.  After a few months, Rachel knew that she loved this man. 
"He was sweet, smart, ambitious, thoughtful, fun, hilarious, had a killer smile, honest, trustworthy...I thought something was too good to be true, or that I'd fall hard and get my heart broken.  Once we were able to really share and show our love to each other, things went fast and furious and we were engaged only 18 months later in July 2007." 
A few months into their engagement, Rachel found out she was pregnant!  They moved their wedding date up three months, and their little blessing Jacoby was born just three months after they said "I do".  Five years later, Jacoby is 5-years-old and their daughter Kendall is 18 months. 
Rachel has already shared the emotional and touching story of the birth of their son Jacoby, who has Down Syndrome.  Jacoby is "all boy" and "such a character"! 
 "He loves any sport with a ball, music and dancing, reading books, sign language, swimming, playing with his sister, and being outside.  Overall, he is a typical 5-year-old...Kids with DS are really no different than other kids.  I know 'typically developing' kids that did not walk until 18-months and have severe allergies and speech delays.  He will do everything other kids do, it just may take him a little longer to get there.  Everything is a learning experience and work.  We work hard on speech at therapy once a week (as well as constant attention to pronunciation at home and school).  He needs extra attention on fine motor skills (cutting paper, holding a pencil) as well as following simple instructions (come in when the bell rings, time to put your coat on)."
Jacoby is blessed to have great teachers and therapists in his life, he works hard, and is improving daily.  Rachel explains that a huge misconception of people with DS is that they are incapable.
"These are people with jobs, college educations, marriages.  The last 50 years have changed dramatically.  Early intervention is key and programs are in full force in almost every school district in America.  We have learned that it is not about his disability but really, his ability.  Just like life, you can choose to focus on the negative or the positive.  Jacoby will have all the same opportunities as other kids and it's our job as his parents to make sure that happens.  So far, all of our experiences have been great.  Society seems to be more and more acceptable of special needs.  I know this will not always be the case, and I often wonder how I will handle 'that' situation when it presents itself."
Although Rachel keeps a positive outlook, being a parent of a child with DS has its difficulties.  Rachel says that the most difficult aspect is watching him struggle or see his frustration when he can't communicate with them...and of course, the "dreaded comparison game".
"When he and his friends were babies, it was not so noticeable, but now, 5-year-olds are quite inquisitive.  They want to know why he's still wearing diapers and doesn't talk well.  We try to use it as a teaching moment, to teach compassion and understanding, and that he is still their friend and wants to play with them."
With difficulties in life, also come blessings and Rachel and her family are grateful for the DS community they have become close with and have grown to love.
"We cheer on their kids, we compare notes, suggest strategies and therapists.  We connect.  We have something pretty big in common.  We are tight-knit, and are pretty much instant friends.  I also believe that Jacoby has taught me compassion.  Not that I didn't have compassion before, I just really understand it.  Everyone has something they struggle with and we need to love them anyway.  He taught me to really care."
We've learned a lot about Jacoby, now Rachel tells us about her daughter Kendall.  Rachel says that she was very planned because they really wanted Jacoby to have a sibling, and "she was meant to be his sister."
"She loves her 'brudder' so much.  They kiss and hug each other every morning, like they haven't seen each other in ages.  They kiss each other good night every night.  He cries if she cries, it's adorable.  She is stubborn and feisty and hitting her terrible two's early, but boy, does she melt her mommy and daddy's heart.  I find the thought of raising a daughter frightening but I hope we can be the best of friends (after I'm her 'evil' mother who locks her away from boys :)  She is also teaching me patience and consistency and to lighten up.  Her way out of trouble is to flash us her tiny smile.  She's a doll."
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I love Rachel's family; I can feel the love and happiness oozing out of her words!  CLICK HERE for Part 4 as we get to learn about Rachel and the many ways in which she stays busy and fulfilled apart from her beautiful family.

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