In June of 2009, my husband and I were told that our unborn child would have Trisomy 21, otherwise known as Down Syndrome. It was not an easy diagnosis to receive. We had no idea what that meant for our family or for our unborn baby. We were scared.
As I look back on that day I remember the heart-wrenching pain I had for my baby and for my children. I know now that the pain and sadness that we felt came from the fear of the unknown.
Fast forward 2.5 years and we are in a much better place. I am aware of the change that our family needed, and that is why we were given the beautiful blessing of Grace.
Grace is our 6th child and our only girl. She was born December 30, 2009, and on that day our hearts changed forever. Our family fell madly in love with our new baby girl.
We became more compassionate people: people who accept everyone for who they are. We see beauty in places we never saw before and it is a better life. I feel more alive now than I ever felt in my first 35 years.
My daughter lit a fire in my heart and gave me a passion to live life to its fullest. As I watch my children grow, I am proud of the individuals they are becoming.
My sons adore their sister and have been exposed to the special needs world at a very young age. They accept all people for who they are and in fact they do not even question the differences.
I am proud of their compassion and love for our world. They are on the road to having a very full life, a life that is not bothered by the differences of others. A life of accepting people for who they are.
What kind of place would our world be if we all looked the same, acted the same and felt the same? Sounds boring to me!
Through their strength, I felt it was my duty to help pave the way to an even more accepting world for my daughter. A world where she could walk down the street and people would wave hello instead of look away or stare. A world where my daughter can have her own job and live as independently as she is capable. Most importantly, a world where there are no limitations on her future.
I am blessed because of the millions of mothers before me who walked this road and paved the way for my daughter and the thousands of other individuals living with a disability. The mothers who took their babies home when they were told they should be institutionalized. The mothers who made their own rules and shared those rules with others. Those mothers are an inspiration to me, and I too hope to be an inspiration to the mothers after me.
My daughter’s life opened doors that never would have been open and I have met the most amazing people by walking through each open door.
Shortly after Grace was born I met Steve English. Steve and his partner Ryan own and operate a flower shop in our neighborhood. They feel strongly about supporting individuals with disabilities for many reasons.
Although Steve adopted and raised a son who was born with special needs, his passion for individuals with disabilities started long before.
In January of this year I decided to contact individual sellers on Etsy and sell my photography services to them. I also offered to help them integrate individuals with special needs into their marketing material. The sellers welcomed my offer with open arms. My daughter started modeling for Etsy sellers and continues to do so.
Steve took notice of the marketing initiatives of these small businesses on Etsy and decided that he, too, wanted to integrate these individuals into his own marketing program. The program evolved into a campaign and a partnership that we now call “Changing the Face of Beauty”.
We continue to market our campaign to small businesses in hopes that more will integrate individuals with disabilities into their marketing materials. Our hope is to start a movement and inspire other photographers and business owners to participate in our campaign so that we can make a difference nationwide.
I feel this integration is important to our society. Acceptance comes from exposure to all types of people.
Advertising has such a large impact on our feelings, our decisions and even how we choose to live our lives. We live in a visual world and I believe people in our society will be more accepting of all types of individuals if marketing initiatives are more open to including everyone.
To hear more about our campaign or to participate, please visit my blog 5boysand1girlmake6.com.