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To you, he's a Down syndrome baby - to me, he's just perfect

Katrina Abianac's eight-month-old son Parker.
To some people, Katrina Abianac's eight-month-old son Parker is just another Down syndrome baby but to her, he's a beautiful little boy who just happens to have Down syndrome. It's a small but significant distinction Katrina wishes more people understood.
My world spun and clicked when I was told my baby son had Down Syndrome. I knew not a second of my life would ever be the same again.
I was totally ignorant of what Down syndrome actually was, and my first thought was that my beautiful baby would die young.
I was 28 when I had my son Parker, which turns out is average age for a woman to have a baby with Down syndrome. While my pregnancy was hard work (I suffered from extreme pelvic girdle pain), it was certainly not outside the range of "normal".
I was just ecstatic to be pregnant again. I had a seven-year-old daughter, but a recent miscarriage had left me terrified I wouldn't have another baby.
My labour was fantastic — a doula helped me through the early stages at home and we arrived at hospital just in time — I delivered Parker just 25 minutes later. I understood at that moment the addiction of having children — I felt blissfully happy.
Parker was placed on my chest, and while I thought he looked a bit squishy, I didn't think anything of it, as most newborns look a little different after the trauma of labour.
The nurses told me they'd need to retake his APGAR test, the process that looks at a newborn's heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, cough reflex, and colour.
I still wasn't worried. My sister-in-law and Doula were in the room with me, and I just felt flooded with oxytocins and love for my baby.
As they tested Parker again, my support team were asked to leave the room, so a Doctor could come and talk to me.
One nurse began patting my knee; the other held my hand as the Doctor told me that he'd noticed Parker had some characteristics of Down syndrome.
The three faces looking at me were devastated for me, and I didn't understand why.
He repeated himself: "I think your son shows some characteristics of Down syndrome."
"Yes," I replied, "is there anything wrong with him, though?"
I really couldn't relate to their fear. All I wanted to do was hold Parker, and start breastfeeding him as soon as possible.
I didn't get my wish, at least not straight away. Babies with Down syndrome often have other health effects, and Parker was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension and whisked off to intensive care.
He stayed there for three weeks before I could take him home, but only lasted a few days before he needed specialist care again.
I battled the system to be allowed to breastfeed Parker (and happily won!) and was thankful no one told me that babies with Down syndrome are often difficult to nurse, and eight months old I am still happily feeding him.
The same night of his birth, I started educating myself about Down syndrome online. It occurred to me that my son would never have babies of his own, and I felt so sad.
I grieved for the son I didn't have — the son I "should have" given birth to.
Up until that point most things had gone to plan for me, and I knew I had to reach out and get the support I needed.
I went online and joined every relevant network and group I could find, and stumbled across the most amazing international community of friends.
I began a playgroup with some other Mums who had kids with Down syndrome, and once a week we meet up, just like mother's groups across the country.
It helps normalise my world.
I've also started Parker's Place, a Facebook group for his friends the whole world over.
Like any new mum, I can't imagine life without my beautiful son. He's not a "Down syndrome baby", but a baby who happens to have Down syndrome. It's a small, but significant difference.
My son isn't his condition, he's just Parker. And I love him to bits.
As told to Zoe Arnold.

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