My name is Shawn Pittman, I am 33 years old, married for four years to Jay Pittman and a new mother to six month old triplets, Coldon, Ella and Greyson. I live in Folsom, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. One of my triplets, Coldon, has Down syndrome.
I am currently a stay at home mom. Before I became pregnant with the triplets, I was working in Marketing for a Fortune 500 swimming pool distribution company. My life has gone from the fast paced world of marketing, advertising and public relations, to caring for three perfect blessings.
The first question I usually get from people when they find out I have triplets is, “are they natural or did you have to do fertility?” First, I want to ask them what their definition of “natural” is, but second we did have to do fertility. We struggled for over three years to get pregnant, but God knew what he was doing and after a second IUI, we were having triplets. I’m very open about my experience with fertility, because it was a blessing.
The second question I usually get is “did you know Coldon had Down syndrome?” We did not, didn’t know until he was born. We are so thankful we didn’t know, because I had a very difficult pregnancy and if we would have known, we probably would have worried ourselves sick. I believe the medical reason we didn’t know is because he’s perfect. His heart is healthy and he was developing as well as his brother and sister, so there were no indicators in any ultrasound.
I remember so clearly laying on the operating table, when the neonatologist came to Jay and I and asked if we knew Coldon had trisomy 21. We didn’t even know what that was, then he proceeded to tell us they believed baby A had trisomy 21. He said the most prominent indicator was his feet. It didn’t really sink in that he had a medical disability for the first week. I certainly didn’t view him any differently than the other two.
I think about a week after he was born, I remember feeling so blessed that God chose Jay and I to be his parents! I have always believed God places these special children with special people. I know many parts of the world and many people view our situation as a burden, but it is truly a blessing! Don’t get me wrong, there are many times when I want to cry, because it is a struggle raising three babies at the same time, especially when one has a medical disability, but I wouldn’t change any part of it.
My childhood was pretty typical. I grew up in the Midwest just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. My family moved to the Alabama gulf coast when I was in high school, then I moved to Louisiana six years ago when I met my husband.
One thing that sticks out in my mind is that I didn’t grow up around anyone with a special need. I knew some kids who were “different,” but I didn’t understand it. It hasn’t been until I was older when I really started to understand some of the special needs communities. I have a good friend whose daughter is severely autistic and she is amazing and so precious. However, I didn’t understand the hardships my friend has had to go through. The communication barrier, the hospital stays, the constant worry. I have watched her struggle with depression from it and I didn’t really understand until now.
The reality of Coldon’s diagnosis didn’t set in until he came home after 49 days in the NICU. I was so scared. Not only about how I was going to care for three tiny babies, but how was I going to care for Coldon? I don’t think I ever had a negative thought about it until one day he was struggling so bad with feeding (he now has a g-tube) and I completely lost my patience with him. I didn’t view him as any different than his brother and sister. I certainly did not view his diagnosis as a burden. I felt and still feel at peace with it. My husband and I know God chose us to be his and Greyson and Ella’s parents. It is so special to me. I have always believed God gives these precious blessings to special people.
My outlook on the special needs community has changed in many ways since my triplets were born. I cannot wait to become more active with our local downs organizations (pre-mature triplets and down syndrome will scare you away from kids and their germs for a while). I have also learned what it really means to advocate for someone.
Every state is different, but most qualify children born with a disability for Medicaid and Social Security. Well, not in Louisiana. Unfortunately, qualification depends on income and Coldon was only qualified for three months because he was in the NICU for more than 30 days, not because he has a life long disability and will require medical attention and therapy for the rest of his life, but because he was in the NICU for so long. It infuriates me just talking about it. We have had to contact state representatives and committees in our state government and have spoken with several lawyers as we will have to appear in front of a judge at some point to prove our need for Coldon. Thankfully Coldon has a healthy heart and the majority of what we are faced with is feeding issues, but my heart goes out to the families who have severely disabled children and are told they don’t qualify for assistance. This is where “CHANGE” needs to be made.
My life has changed drastically, but Coldon, Ella and Greyson have given us so much; patience, love, humor, worry, insight to name a few. Something I have felt very passionate about since being blessed with him is the possibility of adopting a downs baby. I have heard many adoption stories of adopting DS babies from other countries, and my heart is compelled to show another wonderful blessing the love and family they deserve.
I think this is how my life has changed. I knew very little about trisomy 21 and now I’m helping other parents who have been blessed with their little ones. Having triplets is incredibly hard and having a trisomy 21 diagnosis makes it even more difficult, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. God chose us and we want to do everything in our power to make sure all three of them have what they need to be followers of Christ and succeed in this world.