February 1st is here, which means it’s time to introduce our newest addition to the “Wish It Dream It Do It” campaign. After a referral from a friend, I began looking into this company and after seeing the smiles of her son along with knowing the hearts she has blessed, I knew that Baskets of Love Down Syndrome was the perfect fit for this campaign.
Danielle and her beautiful son Connor are beyond inspiring and every email she wrote brought tears to my eyes, with the kindness and love so clear, she is the kind of person we should all aspire to be! Baskets of Love Down Syndrome are carefully curated boxes of love that Danielle puts together for new parents either at prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome or at birth diagnosis!
Armed with many local companies offering their product, support and admiration, Danielle and Connor are two individuals that you can truly fall in love with and get behind. Baskets of Love Down Syndrome is at every turn making dreams come true. Danielle is that mom that had a wish, she dreamt it and then she did it and keeps doing it and deserves not only our devotion and support but they also deserve the world. Won’t you help spread the good word?
I had the honour of putting together some questions to help get to know Danielle, Connor, and Baskets of Love Down Syndrome, which yet again brought tears to my eyes! So get your kleenex together and get ready to be inspired!
- Baskets of Love is an incredible idea and truly generous gift. What gave you the idea to start Baskets of Love?
Our prenatal diagnosis was a little different than most. I was in-between OBGYNs and our screening test results were sent to my old doctor. The first sit down was very clinical with lots of statistics and information about all the things our child will never do and then we were handed a few brochures. On the flip side, our new doctor was a ray of sunshine during a very dark time. She held me while I cried and lifted my heart by telling me all the things our child will do. To go through two very different diagnosis experiences in the same week showed me how much of an impact that positivity can have when you think it is the end of your world. After Conor was born, I came across a Facebook page of a mom in Alberta delivering baskets to new parents and I knew it was something we needed here in the Lower Mainland. I had heard so many stories of parents feeling so alone and over-whelmed with sadness and fear of the unknown during what should be one of the best times of their life. They are having or have just had a baby! Congratulations! Let’s celebrate that first and foremost and then we can surround you with the love and support you may need.
- How does a family receive such a basket? Is it just simply by sending you an email through the website?
Yes! It’s as simple as an e-mail and anyone can contact me. Most of the calls or e-mails have been through word of mouth. Someone knows someone who has just had a baby and came across our Facebook page or website. I have also circulated my name and number to hospitals, pediatricians, public health nurses and midwives as they are often the first contact a new family has. To respect the privacy of the new family, I don’t require any personal information. I like to know the gender so I can build the basket to suit but other than that, it’s up to the new family if they want or need more contact or support. Most do and we have made some great friends, but some families need more time to figure out what’s best for them and that’s perfectly okay. As long as they know there is a community ready and willing to support them if or when they may need it.
- How many families have received one of your beautiful gift baskets so far?
Since July of 2014 we have delivered 19 baskets to families with either a pre-natal or at birth diagnosis. I know I’m missing babies which breaks my heart. I’m working on getting my name out there so that won’t happen!
- I can only imagine as a mom how hard the diagnosis was and how much the journey has changed for you. What do you think the biggest misconception people have about children with Down syndrome?
The journey most certainly has changed. I’m a very different person that I was three years ago. I think the biggest misconception is that children with Down syndrome are limited. That their potential or happiness is limited because they have special needs. There’s also a misconception that my happiness as a parent is somehow limited or that my life is burdened because I have a child with Down syndrome. I think that’s why parents of a baby with Down syndrome often get an “I’m sorry” after they tell people the diagnosis. There’s nothing to be sorry for! Conor has been the greatest gift I never knew I wanted. Absolutely there have been challenges and we have and will go through some rough patches but there’s also a lot of love, joy and pure bliss. There are no limitations when it comes to Conor or any other child with Down syndrome. He is loved, happy, curious, determined and works incredibly hard to break through obstacles every day. If you change your perspective, you’ll see a very fulfilling life worth living.
- Conor looks to be the sweetest, gentlest little soul. What is one thing he has taught you?
I am a perfectionist and he is most definitely teaching me to embrace the imperfections. Different is beautiful. Conor marches to the beat of his own drum and I love it. Yes, he’s a little different but I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if you think it’s a little odd my kid is hugging a random mannequin in the store or waving goodbye to the piece of garbage I’ve just thrown away. He will stop and dance if he hears music and shout at the top of his lungs if he sees a dog or a bird or a cat. He is teaching me to lose my judgment towards others and because of that my world is full of a lot more compassion and love.
- Is there one thing that is not readily offered to families with a child who is Down syndrome that you think should be?
After parents receive a diagnosis that their child has Down syndrome, there is a period of grief every family I have spoken with goes through. You are grieving a life you thought you were going to have and you need a moment to catch your breath. On top of it all, you now have to try and figure out what’s next and where do you go from there. It’s an incredibly over-whelming time. There are already many resources and a great amount of potential support currently offered to families with a child with Down syndrome. Where I think there is need for improvement is for medical professionals in first contact with new parents to know of and be able to offer those resources and that support with a positive approach. I know I have missed many babies since I started Baskets of Love and unfortunately there are some new parents that are still receiving a binder of outdated photocopies and pamphlets.
- What were your hopes for Baskets of Love when it began and how if at all has that changed?
Shortly after we received our diagnosis, I received incredible support from other moms of children with Down syndrome. There’s an entire community full of love ready to welcome a new parent and offer any support they may need. When I first started Baskets of Love I wanted to make a difference and pay it forward. I still do but now I want it to be bigger and better. Baskets of Love recently expanded to Vancouver Island through another mom of a child with Down syndrome. I hope that one day every new family of a baby with Down syndrome will receive a basket and the first word they hear is “Congratulations!”. I’d love to grow the Baskets of Love army and have other parents start something in their region of British Columbia.
- What is your dream? How do you envision coming true?
I may be a special needs mom but I’m still a mother. Like any mother, my dream is for my child to be loved and accepted for exactly who he is by everyone he meets. I am incredibly proud of Conor and only want the very best for him. I want there to be a day when people don’t stare at or treat him differently. I don’t want him to hurt or be hurt because others won’t open their heart to see how special he is. I hope one day I won’t have to fight so darn hard for him to have the same rights as any other child. I see that coming true by continuing to advocate for anyone with special needs and spreading awareness. I love introducing Conor to people and giving them a chance to get to know him and see his smile. People who get to know someone with Down syndrome often develop a strong capacity for love and acceptance of someone who is different. I believe the world needs more of that.
How sweet and amazing is this mother? Being a mother is the single most hardest job I’ve ever had in my entire life and having other mama’s in my corner has helped keep my head above water. Very clearly, this mama know how essential having a support system in place is. I’m honoured to do what I can to help bring more support and awareness to Baskets of Love Down Syndrome, with good people like Danielle and Connor in this world, I have all the confidence that compassion, patience, love and understanding are achievable.
Please go follow Baskets Of Love Down Syndrome on Instagram and Facebook and do what you can to help! Donations are accepted and encouraged so please if you can help. DO IT! The smiles and support CAN make a difference!