Thursday, October 6, 2011

10 People in 10 Days: Day Two - The DeAngelo Family

Thursday, October 6, 2011
10 People in 10 Days
The DeAngelo Family

The DeAngelo Family

 Marty, Megan, Emily and Susie DeAngelo

Once Brian and I started the adoption process and registered to begin our Home Study we began research on adoption in general. As the pieces began to fall into place and we decided to pursue a Down Syndrome adoption, we registered with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network (NDSAN) and were placed on the waiting list for a newborn boy with Down Syndrome.  It was at this point that the DeAngelo Family became not only a great resource, but also treasured friends.

You see, Marty and Susie were blessed with a child born with Down Syndrome in 1999. Emily (now 12) was a student in Nichole’s class and Susie was both Nichole’s and my homeroom mom. As the mother of two girls at our school, Susie is also VERY active in our PTA and with her children’s teachers. I always admire how “together” she is. I really don’t know how she balances everything she does!

Once we had committed with NDSAN I jotted Susie a note and let her know the route we were taking and asked her for more information and advice. She was more than ecstatic for us (and my note even made her cry – apparently I’ve gotten really good at bringing people to tears in the past 10 months!)  As the story shifted from us adopting through NDSAN to us adopting through Reece’s Rainbow her support and encouragement never wavered.

This is the DeAngelo family story.

When Susie and Marty found out they were pregnant they, like any couple, were thrilled. They had all of their prenatal visits and nothing was ever noted or brought up as concern.  Imagine their surprise when Emily graced the world with, not only her presence, but also her extra Chromosome in July of 1999.

 Tiny baby Emily!
July 1999

Prior to Emily’s birth Susie and Marty did not know that Emily was going to be born with Down Syndrome. But, while it came as a bit of a shock, they grabbed life by the horns and they haven’t stopped since! Emily was born with a heart defect (very common in babies with Down Syndrome) and at (or around) 8 months of age had corrective open heart surgery to repair the defect. She was a trooper! She did fantastic during surgery and afterwards her growth and development blossomed.

Emily at 2
Post heart surgery and growing!

Emily at 9
July 4, 2008

 Emily today! (She's now 12!)
July 2011

Several years after Emily’s birth, Marty and Susie were blessed with another daughter, Megan. Megan is a fierce advocate for her sister and is probably one of the most empathetic, accepting and understanding 9 year olds I know. She is very world aware and she is very protective of Emily. There is big love in this girl’s heart!

 The sister happy dance after Emily won her Gold Medal!

Both girls are very active in extracurricular activities. Down Syndrome has not ever (and will not ever) slow Emily down. Aside from school and her series of therapies outside of school, Emily also participates in cheerleading and Special Olympics. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Emily practice her cheerleading routines. All of the sudden you will hear, “5, 6, 7, 8…” and you look over and there she is cheering wherever she happens to be! She is not just active – she is also good at what she does! In fact, just this past weekend Emily won the Gold Medal at the Florida State Special Olympics swim meet! She is one busy little girl!

Emily cheers with Challenger league locally and she LOVES it!

This is when Emily realized she had won the Gold Medal this past weekend!

 Emily on the Gold Medal podium!
YAY Emily!

Megan is just as active and is a killer softball player! Megan actually reminds me a lot of myself as kid. She is more of a tomboy than Emily (who is ALL girl) and she is really feisty. She has great things ahead of her.

So serious...

 Look at that team better look out!

Susie is not only a busy mom with two very active "tween" daughters, she is also a fierce advocate for people with Down Syndrome; she also advocates disability awareness in general.  This is precisely why, when the decision was made, I went to her for advice and information.

Susie shared Emily’s story with us and offered us a timeline of Emily’s growth and development. She gave us tons of information on Emily’s speech (which is by far the one thing Emily struggles with more than anything else) and her therapies. She would jot us handwritten notes throughout the process (I still have every single one of them for Sterling’s book!) letting us know how happy she was for us and that if we needed anything she was there.

One evening during the summer, Nichole and I went over to the DeAngelo house to watch the documentary “Monica and David.” If you haven’t seen it – you must. It is the story of two young adults with Down Syndrome, their blossoming relationship and their eventual marriage. It is an amazing film! Imagine three grown women sitting in the loft of the DeAngelo house crying happy tears! I’m sure we were a sight to see!

One weekend Nichole, the Comeaux kids, Brian and I met Susie, Emily and Megan at Disney for the day. While I have had experiences with children who have Down Syndrome, Brian never had. This outing was Brian’s first glimpse at life with a child who happens to have Down Syndrome. We had a great day! We spent the entire day at Hollywood Studios and stayed through the fireworks show. Everyone had a good time – even Brian! When we got in the car that night, Brian looked at me and said, “I don’t see anything different. She’s just like every other 11 year old I know.” LOL. I think he got the big picture that day. So without even knowing it, the DeAngelo family opened the door for our adoption by allowing us (especially Brian) to get little glimpses of their life for the past 10 months.

Susie has been in contact with me over here and has already told me how excited Megan and Emily are that Sterling is coming home! And we are more than excited to share a common bond with them!

We have a lot of LOVE and a lot of THANKS to give to the DeAngelo family for their support and encouragement over the past 10 months!

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