We’re back in the United States for our second feature honoring World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.
Katelyn Herrygers is a Michigan mom and author of I Am Me, a children’s book inspired by her son, Jameson who has Down syndrome. I’m so happy that Katelyn agreed to share her story with the Beyond the Waiting Room audience.
“I am me and that is all I need to be.” This affirming statement is the mantra in Katelyn Herrygers’ children’s book, I Am Me. The mantra along with the inspiration to write the manuscript came to her in a flash when Jameson (aka Jay) was a few months old. She wrote it for the families and friends of anyone and everyone, but especially for those a little extra special. She wrote it for herself as a reminder that we are all meant to be. And, most importantly, she wrote it for Jay.
Katelyn, her husband Ben, and Jay’s journey up to this point had been at times emotional, stressful, terrifying, and exciting. Her pregnancy was uneventful until the 20-week ultrasound when Katelyn and Ben got the first inkling that something was different with her pregnancy than pregnancies of friends and family; pregnancies they were used too. A few days later, their doctor called to request another ultrasound. He wanted clearer images than what he’d seen in the first round.
They arrived at that appointment excited to see their baby again, but apprehensive. Katelyn remembers the nurse spending a long time taking different measurements from different angles. After that appointment, their doctor called again. He’d found a discrepancy in one of the measurements, the nuchal fold, and wanted to refer them to a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist.
Despite her nervousness, Katelyn googled the doctor’s findings and was shocked to discover Down syndrome was a possible diagnosis. But their doctor had assured them that their baby looked healthy and that’s what they held on to. Until the subsequent test at the MFM office confirmed what they didn’t think was possible. Their baby had a 99.98% chance of having Down syndrome.
Katelyn and Ben were surprised and shocked. They knew nothing about Down syndrome. Katelyn’s days were soon filled with Google searching followed by tears and fear of the unknown. She was trying to stay strong for everyone else, but behind closed doors she was terrified. And a feeling of guilt quickly followed. Looking back, “I wish I’d had more awareness of Down syndrome then,” she explained. “But there are so many emotions and one of the biggest was a feeling of loss of the life we thought we were going to have.” To read Katelyn’s full diagnosis story, visit her website.
Once Jay was born everything changed. He was a healthy, happy baby and that’s all that mattered. Now, at almost 3-years-old, Jay loves to blow kisses, can use about 200 signs in American Sign Language, he loves “nilla” ice cream and reading books. His ballet classes? He can take ‘em or leave ‘em, depending on the day. He can’t get enough of Mickey Mouse and Cookie Monster and he’s his mom’s partner-in-crime in their Mommy & Me gymnastic classes.
Katelyn wanted to share Jameson’s joy for life and inspire new parents and people who have Down syndrome to know that we are all meant to be. Once the idea of the book sparked, she couldn’t be stopped. She hired a freelance illustrator in her area, raised over $3,500 on GoFundMe, and roughly 18 months later I Am Me became a reality; a tangible book!
I Am Me is distributed by Down Syndrome Associations around the country, it’s included in newborn gift baskets provided by Jack’s Baskets, and it’s being included in informational packets for World Down Syndrome Day. Plus, for every full price book sold, $3.21 gets donated, and for every discounted order of 10 or more books, 5% gets donated to nonprofit organizations that provide programs and services for people in need.
Written by Tamara Devers