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Meet Enzo and His Amazing Mama

Vanessa Brock

As a writer and blogger I talk to a lot of people about deeply personal parts of their lives. Many become friends (often of the facebook variety) and even if I may never meet them in person, I feel lucky to know them. One of those friends is Vanessa Brock. She was part of a super fun story I worked on for Glamour a couple of years ago—we “met” while she was pregnant with her first child, a boy. After several rounds of failed IVF, she conceived naturally and felt like he was a miracle. We talked a lot and I remember her asking me what I thought of the name Enzo. I told her I loved it, which I do. We became facebook friends and I anxiously awaited news of the birth. Enzo was three weeks early (born May 2011) and there were complications. I watched my feed like a hawk, hoping and praying for him.

Ultimately, Vanessa posted that Enzo had been diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. She had no idea while she was pregnant (she didn’t have prenatal testing done—though it wouldn’t have changed anything for her, anyway). Since then, I’ve followed Enzo’s (amazing) progress and cheered on Vanessa from afar, liking everything she posts and learning a ton about the struggles and the joys of raising a baby with Down syndrome, the differences and similarities. She is an incredible mother and an incredible advocate and Enzo is so lucky to have her. Vanessa and her husband have relocated from Key West to Miami to be closer to Enzo’s doctors, they have researched and fought for the best care for their son and they have raised money and awareness for several Down Syndrome causes. I had originally wanted to post about Vanessa and Enzo in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month (October) but things got hectic with Sandy, so here we are.  I asked Vanessa to share with me—and you—what it’s been like for her for the past 18 months, what she’s learned and what she wants us to know about parenting a child with Down syndrome. Here she is!

On finding out Enzo had Down syndrome…

“Looking back, I know now that the doctors and nurses already knew. This was nothing new to them. We cried and cried so hard. I am actually embarrassed at how much I cried because now that I know what I know, it’s not as bad as I thought. Sure, it’s different. But Enzo is going to be just fine. Holy cow did we cry a river or what!”

On what to say to a new mom of a child with Down syndrome…

“My first advice would be to say what you would say to any new parent: CONGRATULATIONS! Any first time parent or a parent who just gave birth to their umpteenth child wants to hear those words. It is a joyous time and should be marked as so. Heck, if the baby looks like one of the parents, or is stinkin’ cute, comment on it. The baby is, well, a baby first and foremost and all your comments should reflect that. Avoiding the topic is just not possible. BUT, it is not something to pity. If you do not know much about Down syndrome, ask. If you are not sure how to approach the subject, ask them how they found out. Start there. If you want to know more, ask what book or website would you recommend to learn more. If you know someone who has a child with Down syndrome, or is an adult with Down syndrome and you have something positive to say (and if the moment feels right) share your story.”

On what not to say…

“Please do not apologize to the parents. Our child is nothing to apologize for. We celebrate, enjoy, love our child just like every other parent. He is not something to be sorry for. That is big. We love him so much and wouldn't change anything about him. It's not him that has a's just people who don't know much about DS. That’s what I want to change. I don't offend easily so most questions about DS are not an issue, but rather an opportunity to share, teach, etc. It's just the apology that stirs up feelings.”

On her biggest fears…

“I read a lot about other kids with Down syndrome. One post that really struck a nerve recently was a mom who had written how she noticed her son, of elementary school age, wasn’t getting invited to activities outside of school. This mom wondered if it was because he had Down syndrome. Fortunately she does have playgroups with other mommies with kids with Down syndrome, so that does help compensate for it. But I worry about that, too. Right now, Enzo is so young and the other babies do not know he is different, only the mommies do. It’s no big deal. But in the future, will he no longer be invited to participate in play dates? Will there be some underlying discrimination? Will his developmental delays keep him from playing with other kids?”

On what she needs most from friends…

“What is most important is simply being there. There are so many things going on, medical appointments, therapies, money issues, and much much more that you probably won’t be told simply because as a parent with a child with Down syndrome I know I pick and choose what to say and what not to say so as not to ‘burden’ anyone or come across as too overwhelming. The best thing to do is offer your unconditional love and support for the parent and their newborn child. Like all children, kids with Down syndrome are a challenge and a source of great joy. It is important to accept them for who they are—a child, a newborn, a human being—and that will make all the difference in the end.”

Here are few more photos of the adorable Enzo. Please follow Vanessa on twitter at @enzosentourage and like Enzo's Entourage on facebook to learn more about their amazing journey!