*This post was originally written on 10/15/2012*
When Sophia was first born and handed over to me to hold briefly, I didn't notice any of the features that typically indicates Down syndrome. I had no clue that shortly after her birth, doctors would come back into that delivery room and tell me that they suspected a Down syndrome diagnosis. I know that I looked at her as I held her in my arms. I remember looking into those big, beautiful, blue eyes and being scared out of my mind that I had just had a baby, 6 weeks early, but I also remember feeling happy and excited, because as far as I knew, everything was okay.
There are some distinct physcial features that are more common in children who have Down syndrome and are what doctors look for when they suspect that a baby may have Down syndrome.
1. Almond Shaped Eyes: Where the outer corner of the eye will be turned up rather than down. It is similiar to that of someone of Asian descent and will most likely be the most predominant physical feature of Down syndrome as the child grows.
2. Brushfield Spots: Are the white flecks that can be seen close to the periphery of the iris (the colored spot) of the eye.
3. Flat Proflie: There isn't much curve from the nose, cheeks or mouth. The cheeks also tend to hang when looking at the child from the front, which is due to poor tone in the muscles of the face.
4. Protuberant Tongue: Due to either a small mouth and a large tongue or again just poor mucle tone in the tongue, some individuals with Down syndrome tend to let their tongue stick out of their mouth more until they build up that tone to keep it inside their mouth.
5. Single Palmer Crease or Simian Crease: This is a single crease across the palm of the hand. Less then half of babies born with Down syndrome have this.
6. Hypotonia: Is low muscle tone. Babies with Down syndrome tend to be more floppy or limp feeling. This affects every muscle from face to ankles. Which is why therapy is SO IMPORTANT from the very begining. Your muscle tone affects EVERYTHING! The way you move, talk, eat and so much more!
7. Sandal Gap Toes: A wide space between the big toe and the second toe. Which makes it perfect for wearing sandals :)
Not all babies with Down syndrome are born with all these markers and just because your baby has a few of these markers, that doesn't necessarily mean that your baby has Down syndrome. These markers are just more commonly found in babies who rock that extra chromosome.
Looking back at pictures of her right after birth, I see it. And sometimes I wonder, how did I not see it then? When you're walking down the street, or in the store, and you see someone with distinct features, you are usually drawn to that first. You just know that something is "different" about them, even if you can't actually pin point exactly what it is, you just know.
I sometimes find myself wondering when we are out in public places, do they know that Sophia has Down syndrome? Can these people really tell? Because most of the time I don't notice. That may seem kind of strange, but what I mean is, Sophia doesn't scream, "I have Down syndrome" to me. She just screams, "I'm your daughter, a little girl, a person, who has hopes and dreams and can do anything that I put my mind to. I have feelings and I want to be accepted because who I am is exactly who I was supposed to be."
Last year, on World Down Syndrome Day (3-21), I went to Jayden's preschool and read a book about Sophia and her extra chromosome to the class. It was simple and more than anything it said, it's ok to be different. Just because someone is different than you, they still have feelings like you do and it's ok to be friends with them. I'm not sure how much those 5 year olds got out of it, but I plan on following both of my kids through school, if the school will let me, and reading this book to both of their classes year after year. My thoughts are, you can't blame someone for doing something that they don't know is wrong. Children learn their behaviors from a lot of places, and if they are getting negative information from somewhere else, like that individuals like my daughter are weird and don't deserve their friendship, then I want to set the record straight and let them know that she is just like them and that they could only be so lucky to be her friend!