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Texas mom Amber Rojas chose a water birth to welcome her fifth child. "As soon as I looked down, I saw it. I saw it in my baby's face. I thought to myself...my baby has Down syndrome," she told Health about newborn Amadeus.
These moving and love-filled images from little Ami's birth were captured by Amanda Gipson of Birth Unscripted.
According to Health, the sonogram Rojas had during her pregnancy did not reveal any markers for Down syndrome. But a visit to the hospital confirmed what Ami's mom already sensed. And what's more, the newborn's low resting heart rate signaled she had a heart defect typical to babies with Down syndrome.
Ami underwent open heart surgery when she was just 5 months old. Rojas told our site in an email, "The scariest moment for me was when the doctor explained what would actually happen during the surgery. [It would involve] stopping my daughter's heart for four to six hours. I remember for a brief moment after him saying that, he just continued to talk and I realized I had no idea what he was saying."
She adds, "On the day of the surgery when the anesthesiologists started to go into detail, they mentioned having to cool her body down to save the rest of her organs, which again was [a] complete shock to me." Rojas relatably admits, "Before Ami was born, I remember being nervous just to take my kids to a dentist appointment, so hearing [this] seemed unreal."
Thankfully, little Ami came through the surgery okay, and is now home with her family.
In addition to the terrifying moments that have come along with Ami's diagnosis, there have been extremely rewarding ones.
"It’s incredible that my family and daughter have been able to reach all parts of the world," Rojas tells us. She adds that her family has experienced immense kindness since Ami was born. "One day [my kids] asked me, 'Why are all these people doing these nice things for us?' And I explained that although we live in a world where a lot of times in the news, all we hear is the bad things, [good does exist]. What more could a mom want than to have her kids know how to be genuinely nice to a complete stranger?"
Other moms have been reaching out to thank Rojas for sharing her story, which fuels her to keep going, despite her fears and the challenges the family has faced. "[They tell] me [I have shed] light on everything that is Down syndrome and showing the positives and how beautiful it really can be. Everything I am doing is not only going to greatly affect my family, but other families with a child who has Down syndrome."
Still, Rojas tells says not everyone has something nice to say. "As a mom you try to protect your kids from anything bad, and I just pray that I’m able to continue to not just protect Ami, but to also teach my other kids on how to best respond to the negativity." Rojas says about her newborn daughter, "She is just like any other kid, as well as all the other kids who have Down syndrome."
She worries Ami may be bullied in the future. But then again, Rojas knows, "All of us have been bullied at one time or another [about something]. We just have to lead by example and lean on each other at times we feel sad."
The mom shared a story about a time she used Ami's diagnosis as a teaching moment for her 10-year-old: "My oldest asked me, 'What do we call kids with Down syndrome?' and I explained to him that we call them by their name, because their name is who they are, not their diagnosis."
Rojas leaves us with this thought: "Society has labeled Ami special needs, but all of us have special needs. I strongly believe that her being special needs will depend on how we [raise her to be like] any other child. Being a part of a big family will definitely make her more independent, strong, and competitive."
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.