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Dr. Mom Knows Best

Teddy bear is sick and sleeping in bed
Photograph by ThinkStock

I learned quickly that having a child with Down syndrome would mean the doctor’s office would become my second home. At first, I was pretty scared, and I felt like I really needed to lean on my son’s doctors. Being a new mom to a child with special needs was intimidating and I quickly surrendered to the wisdom of the professionals out of fear I could do something to harm him. My son was just six months old when an endocrinologist recommended that his thyroid be tested, out of concern that he might not be producing sufficient hormones to support his brain development. The results showed that my son’s thyroid was functioning normally, but the doctor believed that it might be good to support his brain development with a small dose of thyroid medication each day. I did the research and learned that there were no long-term negative effects, so I agreed, and my son began a daily dose of thyroid medicine.

After four years on the medication, I received a letter from the pharmacist stating that the brand of medication my son was taking was in short supply, and that he would need to take another brand. The new brand, however, sometimes had adverse affects on children, and the doctors would need to monitor my son pretty closely to determine how he was reacting to it. Something in my gut said no. So I decided to find some other options.

I started by calling our doctor to let him know that I was considering trying some holistic alternatives. I expected him to attempt to change my mind, but instead he greeted my idea with full support, saying that he would help by continuing to monitor my son’s numbers and blood work. I was grateful. I then began researching foods that support brain development. I added blueberries and nut milks to my son’s diet to improve learning capacity, and cognitive development. I also began encouraging him to do puzzles to assist with his brain function and developing logic. My son’s development is a process so I stay open to information that might enhance our journey and assist my son’s ability to learn.

These past few years have taught me that I can’t break him, and that I can trust myself.

The toughest part of this transition, by far, was taking my son off the medication. For nearly two weeks he was agitated. His teacher said that it seemed like he couldn’t stand being in his own skin, which made me question my decision. I cried in her arms that day. I desperately wanted this to pass and for my son to be okay. It was difficult to watch my son struggle, but within a few weeks he turned a corner, and he’s more himself than he’s ever been.

It’s been 6 years and I’m no longer a new mom to an infant with Down syndrome. These past few years have taught me that I can’t break him, and that I can trust myself. Time will still be the deciding factor as to whether I made the right decision. I chose a non-allopathic course with the understanding that if it didn’t work best for my son, I would consider going back to traditional treatments. I accept that it’s my job to advocate for my son, and it’s my intention to support his development and health so that he may live his highest potential. Becoming a parent of a child with special needs has meant that I have to become a special mom and stretch beyond my perceived fears in order to serve my son’s greater yet-to-be. This is not for the faint-of-heart.

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