SMILE on Down Syndrome Welcomes Todd and Sarah Palin to our SMILE Family!
Exactly one year ago on April 18th, I received word that the governor of Alaska, a woman named Sarah Palin, had given birth to her fifth child and that the baby boy, Trig, was born with Down syndrome. At that time, I thought, “This lady has her hands full!” I can relate to being a working mom, serving others in the community and having a large family, as well. After all, serving the community is just the next level up from serving one’s family. As governor, Mrs. Palin certainly went beyond one community to serve an entire state of the union with all its diverse needs and political challenges, as well. I could relate to Mrs. Palin’s challenges on a few levels. I had several older children and then had a child with Down syndrome. I knew at least a little bit of what the Palin family was experiencing as they ventured through a gamut of emotions. First, shock at the pre-natal diagnosis, next doubts and questions about the future, not sure how or when to let others know of your complicated pregnancy, and even how to tell your other children that their own innocent worlds would be catapulted beyond their years. Like Todd and Sarah, Andy and I clung to each other and to a faith in a God who had confidence to entrust these children to us. We knew He is the One who knits us together in the womb and He makes each of us just as He designs, like beautiful jewelry crafted by a Master Jeweler.
As I reflected on what the Palin family was going through after baby Trig was born, I hoped to somehow connect with the mom, Sarah Palin, heart to heart, not a busy governor. I wanted to send her a copy of my book, “Special Strength for Special Parents,” and was able to do so some time last fall. Several people told me that I reminded them of Sarah Palin (I was honored, knowing that I am a few years older than she is!) and they encouraged me to make contact with her. As I do about everything, I prayed, wondering if I should try to contact this new mom, knowing she had people clamoring for her attention – both at home, at work and around the country. At that time we had no idea what the Palin family was going through personally or even what was on the horizon politically.
During last year’s frustrating presidential campaign, we were astounded to learn that this same woman, wife, mother of many and mom to a baby with Down syndrome, was the vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket, along with Senator John McCain. We were eager to hear Gov. Palin’s acceptance speech and attentively viewed the RNC that particular evening. I was in awe as I listened to this confident, humorous, beautiful (would anyone say that if she were a man….) articulate, not to mention petite, woman possess control of the airwaves, the country’s attention and demand respect (and might I add, fear) of many on both sides of our political spectrum. I was riveted as I listened to my new hero express her passion with a boldness unprecedented by anyone I knew. I couldn’t help myself as I let tears of joy and compassion trickle down my cheeks as I saw Mrs. Palin’s four month old son being mothered by his little big sister, Piper.
Seeing Trig Palin on national television, with his chubby baby cheeks and epicanthal folds in his beautiful, inquisitive eyes, caused my heart to swell with renewed love for all babies. Every life is valuable, no matter how many chromosomes, no matter who the parents are, no matter what circumstances they might be born into. Whether the baby is birthed at forty-something or seventeen, as in the Palin women’s cases, all moms should be heroes for choosing life. It’s not always the easiest choice but deciding in favor of life is always the right choice.
We now know how the political campaign of 2008 resolved. We won’t go there today but I do want to go to another exciting chapter in our SMILE on Down Syndrome community. It was my privilege to host a breakfast to welcome Todd and Sarah Palin to our SMILE on Down syndrome parent network – in person! We were thrilled to learn of their visit to Evansville and to be given the opportunity that I had prayed about one year ago. My desire was to be able to somehow reach out to this family whose loved one has Down syndrome and be a source of inspiration and encouragement and welcome them to this new adventure in the world of special needs.
As those of us with loved ones with Down syndrome know, our world was turned upside down with each diagnosis, but just for a little while. What was tilted became right and what was feared as been embraced. Those things that we once thought would be impossible to deal with have become some of the biggest monuments to love in our families.
We each have a story of how we got to be where we are today. I want to encourage all of us to look for the FOG in our lives: Family – Others – God – With this combination, we will be able to see clearly on the path the good Lord has placed us with confidence. It has been my joy today to be able to share our precious SMILE families with Todd and Sarah Palin. This day will go down in our personal histories as one of the brightest and most memorable days of our lives.
We do hope the Palin family will return to Evansville to attend any of our many events we have for our SMILE families. They are family and we welcome them!
SMILING for you,
Nina Fuller, Executive Director/Founder]
S.M.I.L.E. On Down Syndrome
Photography by James Yates www.yatesphoto.com