Congratulations on the birth of your new baby
The birth of a baby, whether your first child or fifth, is an exciting and happy time
for the whole family. And you can rest assured that this occasion is no different.
As you’ll discover, the fact that your baby has Down syndrome is very much
secondary to the fact that he/she is an individual. Your baby has the exact same
needs as every other (which he/she, like all kids, will be sure to let you know
about!) and will bring you all the same joy and happiness in the world.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about why a child may be born with Down
syndrome. It is important you realise that the presence of the syndrome is not a result
of anything that you did or didn’t do. Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition -
it cannot be controlled and it’s not your fault.
Whether a baby is born with a disability or not, it’s a fact of life that some parents
cope better than others in caring for their newborn. So try not to criticise yourself or
be nervous – you’re certainly not alone. In fact, there’s an entire organisation of
people just like yourself who are willing to share your experiences.
What exactly is Down syndrome?
A syndrome is a name used for a collection of several features that usually occur
together. The name Down syndrome comes from Dr. John Langdon Down, an English
doctor who in 1866 first described the characteristic features of this syndrome.
Almost 100 years later, Professor Lejeune (Paris 1959) discovered why our children
share characteristics in appearance and have a degree of physical and learning
disability. The reason is actually based in the make-up of chromosomes.
What is a chromosome?
Chromosomes are minute particles within the cells of our bodies. Very simply, they are
the building blocks which determine our individual characteristics such as eye and
hair colour. Chromosomes are normally grouped together in 23 pairs (46 in all), half
of which come from the mother and half from the father. Most babies with Down
syndrome have an extra number 21 chromosome, making 47 chromosomes in all. So
our babies aren’t so different – instead they’re ‘children with something extra who
need something extra’.