Tamara Taggart: My son has Down syndrome, and he is perfect

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We found out that our son Beckett has Down syndrome when he was five days old — and I’m not going to lie, it was devastating.

We were scared because we didn’t know anything about Down syndrome. After seven years, it turns out Beckett has taught us much more about Down syndrome than any “expert.” It’s been a long journey for all of us.

When we were in the hospital and it was mentioned that Beckett should be tested for Trisomy 21, we started Googling “Down syndrome.” I don’t recommend this. Dr. Google is a jerk, and when you’re scared in a hospital bed with hormones raging, you are incapable of filtering all the garbage out there. The outdated pictures and physical descriptions of people with Down syndrome are too much for a new mother holding her perfect baby.

Perfect? Yes. That’s what I said. Beckett is perfect. He was the day he was born and he still is. But it’s hard for some people outside of our family to understand this reality.

Others may look at us and feel sorry because our son has special needs, but we’re not sorry at all. He’s non-verbal, but he’s making huge improvements. Toilet training is slow, he doesn’t understand fear and he has a few health challenges — but it’s nothing we can’t handle.

From those frightening early days on Google, we’ve come so far and we’ve done it together.

We rarely think about Down syndrome now. Beckett is a typical boy and he is not defined by his challenges. He’s funny, bright and loving.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is the public perception of this syndrome. There were many times that I felt rage over ignorant words or careless stereotypes some people would use to describe my son.

As a new parent, I was asked numerous times if I had “testing” when pregnant, as if people couldn’t imagine I actually made the choice to keep a baby with Down syndrome.

Telling me that people with Down syndrome are always such happy people is ridiculous to me.

My son is happy because he is loved, not because he has an extra chromosome. It’s another stereotype that’s still out there.

And don’t get me started on the R-word. You know the word I’m talking about because I’m sure you still hear it from time to time.

I hope you can understand that people who use this word are thoughtless and unimaginative.

Even describing my child as a “Down’s kid” is insulting because he’s so much more than that. Beckett is my son who happens to have Down syndrome; he is not defined by his extra chromosome any more than you are defined by the colour of your hair.

The beautiful gift of time is that all these things don’t bother me so much anymore, although I’d love to see some of these perceptions change. But I’m solid. I know who Beckett is and what he has to offer the world.

When speaking with new parents, I always tell them the same thing: “Everything is going to be great, I promise.” It’s a promise they can count on.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I know it will all be OK.

Tamara Taggart is an award-winning news anchor on CTV News at 6 in Vancouver. She is married to music producer/guitarist Dave Genn of 54-40 and they have 3 children: Beckett, Zoë and Poppy

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