Welcome to guest blogger, Gretchen Thibault! Thank you so much for sharing with us and be sure to watch the video at the bottom! You will love it!
I’m not sure why I feel the need to weigh these two things, but, I wonder which life experience had a greater value: traveling to Eastern Europe, meeting our children with Down syndrome, showing them love, and bringing them to a new life where they are unconditionally cherished…..FOREVER? Or, traveling to Eastern Europe and having the opportunity to teach doctors the joy of Down syndrome so they will hopefully love and cherish them, unconditionally ….FOREVER?
Why not do both?
I’ve traveled three times to Eastern Europe in the last 3 years. The first was to adopt our 8th child who was a little boy Down syndrome. The second was a trip to Bosnia to teach Ukrainian Ob/Gyn doctors and medical students about the blessing of Down syndrome. The third was to adopt AND to teach.
A Pilgrimage of Life....Ukrainian doctors and medical students learning about the dignity of ALL human life.
If our children really are “teachers of our souls” as I claim them to be, than we need to share what we have learned everywhere we can. There aren’t many people who say, “I hope I get pregnant someday with a child with Down syndrome.” But, those who have a child with Down syndrome wouldn’t trade their joy for anyone or anything. We must let people know that. Yes, even people right here in our country need to know this. Our children clearly aren’t yet accepted fully when here in the US 90% of our children’s Down syndrome peers are snuffed out before birth following prenatal detection. In Eastern Europe, upper 90% of children are abandoned at the hospital following their birth. Their joy is undiscovered by their birth family. And if it is realized, the system isn’t one that supports their upbringing.
How will hearts change?
We MUST use every moment…EVERY opportunity.
While it wasn’t easy to do, we decided on our first adoption to Ukraine to bring our other son who has Down syndrome. Though a struggle, it was filled with blessings. The orphanage director, caregivers, the lawyer, the social worker, and the public got to meet Ricky. He’s a rock star. He makes a statement when you see him: his red hair, blue eyes, blue glasses and ALL that personality. Many questions were asked and we gave many answers. Ricky was a witness to what a child with Down syndrome CAN be when given a chance.
The Thibault Children
Ricky, Ksenya, Stas
When I traveled last summer to Eastern Europe to teach medical students about the blessings and dignity of a child with special needs, with an emphasis on Down syndrome, my portion of the seminar was saved for last. Until then, their hearts weren’t ready to hear all I had to say. They needed to be primed by the seven days of talks before mine in this Pilgrimage of Life. Forty-six medical students and doctors, many of whom left home with little understanding and appreciation of our special kids, went home with a deep affection for them. They even sent me home with extra kisses to deliver to my boys.
Our last adoption, just two months ago from Ukraine, resulted in a montage of opportunities. While the adoption of our new daughter was our primary purpose to travel, I was able to meet with different groups and individuals as well. It is strange to be treated like a mini celebrity and a phenomenon at the same time. Why? Because I have 9 kids and three kids adopted with Down syndrome. Okay… I guess it isn’t THAT common. But to them, to have even one child with Down syndrome is more than extraordinary. It’s an awkward feeling. But, again, I used each opportunity to benefit our kids. You HAVE to use every moment. While a language barrier frequently separated us, a smile and the look of a proud mama with many blessings translated very well.
One trip to save one child can be a trip that saves many children and many souls. Be a witness of joy. If you are traveling soon, each time you kiss and hug your child whom you’ve just met, remember you are witnessing to the fact that you can love a precious being even when you hardly know them….YOU are witnessing that they have value, dignity and are deserving of the very thing that every child is deserving of…LOVE
One closing thought…you don’t have to go overseas to use these opportunities. If you shop…don’t lose the opportunity at the Target checkout, in the doctor’s office, with the repairman or the mailman. Seize the moment….share your joy….we can’t afford to let any opportunities get lost. My husband wonders how I can manage to always make a conversation with a stranger near always turn to our youngest three….it’s easy because our kids can’t afford for us not to do so.
**I recently had the opportunity to make a video about Down syndrome that will be translated and narrated into Russian/Ukrainian. My hope is to help more people see the joy that our children are to us. I hope you enjoy our story and see how much we enjoy our blessings.