Written by Bailey Mallon
I am writing this article as the older sister of a girl who has Down syndrome. It seems that most parents who find out about this diagnosis feel blindsided, alone, confused, sad, and scared. While of course all of those feelings are valid, I want to tell you how my life was significantly enhanced by having my younger sister in my life to hopefully quell these feelings and bring hope back into what is a beautiful experience.
Some time when I was 8 years old, my mom sat me down in our kitchen in New Providence, NJ to tell me that my soon-to-be sister would have Down syndrome. At the time, I had no clue what this meant and Down syndrome wasn’t widely talked about (it was 2001). I knew a girl from church that I played with who had Down syndrome, so I didn’t have any fear when this news came up. In fact, my friend was fun! I was going to have a fun little sister (and oh boy did I)!
Casey was born in April of 2002, tiny as can be with her “almond eyes” and tiny nose. Her Down syndrome still wasn’t what defined her to me or our middle sister, Charley. Her differences were only noticeable to us when we realized the cruelty of other people and children. This is the hardest part of having a child/sibling with Down syndrome. To this day, people stare and act rude, which Casey recognizes, and it breaks my heart in half. However, Casey is the strongest person I know and has taught me to be strong throughout her 21 years with us.
There are no words to describe every amazing thing about Casey. To those new to being an “extra lucky mom”, don’t listen when ignorant people say they will be vegetables or never live a normal life (yes – these are things people have said). Casey was integrated into a typical public school, currently works 3 jobs through her transition program, has a large group of friends, and knows exactly how to make a sucker out of me! She, along with our other sister, are my two best friends.
Casey goes shopping with me, goes to concerts and jams to Taylor Swift in the car, talks to me about her weekend plans, and makes me smile when times are tough. Her famous line is “don’t be a cry baby” if I’m tearing up about
Casey is the reason my husband and I met (he volunteered with her at Special Olympics). Now, 10 years later, we have a home in Short Hills, NJ where Casey has claimed her space and makes herself at home – just the way we love it. She adds immense light and love into anyone’s life who she meets. There is never a dull moment with Casey because she is always excited about something or singing or wanting to go on an adventure. My life would be actively worse without my two sisters because they bring me so much happiness every day.
Extra Lucky Moms – prepare yourself for the spunky attitude, for a life full of adventure, and for the beautiful times ahead. Your baby is NOT a vegetable. They are a child first, who happens to have Down syndrome, with incredible potential. I watched Casey blossom into a beautiful young lady who I strive to be more like. Watch your child do the same.
You can follow Bailey on Instagram ! PS: Fun fact...Jess and Bailey met at a local restaurant in Madison, NJ. Bailey saw Adeline eating dinner from across the room and came over to tell Jess all about her amazing sister. The rest is history :). Thank you Bailey for your beautiful words. You bring hope to so many!!