When 45-year-old Julie McConnel, already a mother of four, learned she was pregnant with twins who had Down syndrome last August, she was incredibly distraught. She worried that she and her husband would not be able to care for the boys properly, and even considered adoption.
However, mom from Nampa, Idaho quickly realized how fortunate and blessed she was to have her two beautiful sons, Charlie and Milo, and is now sharing her story with others to help crush the stigma surrounding the chromosome disorder. McConnel wants to show other mothers that they shouldn’t be afraid to raise a child with Down syndrome.
“I had no idea what we had in these two when I was pregnant, but I’m so grateful we chose to find out. They’re the bomb!” she told The Sun.
Aware that women’s chances of having a child with Down syndrome rise past the age of 40, McConnel learned that her boys had the disorder when she was 13 weeks. “It was a terrible day and the months afterwards were the most stressful and agonizing time in our lives,” she said.
Fearful of the future, McConnel and her husband, Dan, spent time researching the disorder and meeting with potential adoptive families. They also both attended an event hosted by their local Down syndrome association, in which they had the opportunity to meet other parents who have children with Down syndrome.
The pair decided they no longer were considering adoption and wanted to keep the twins when Julie was six months into her pregnancy.
“You love your kids no matter what. When we finally decided that we weren’t going to let our fear stand in our way, it was easy to make our decision,” Julie said on her decision to keep the boys instead of putting them up for adoption.
Julie describes meeting her boys for the first time as nothing short of magical. “My heart came out of my chest when I saw them,” she said. “I was so smitten. They reached out and grabbed my heart and they just looked like perfect little babies.”
Since the birth of the twins, the McConnels and nearly everyone who interacts with Charlie and Milo have fallen in love with them.
“There’s no end to how entertaining they are. They both love being goofy…which is why we call them the Goofball Brothers — like from the film The Wedding Singer,” Julie shared. The four older children, who range in age from 3 to 22, are extremely protective over their little brothers.
While Julie loves every second of raising her children, she worries about their future and wants nothing more than for them to be treated with respect by others, as any mother would.
“My biggest fear is that they may be mistreated, ridiculed, or rejected,” she said.”People can be mean out of ignorance, but if you slow down and put away the image in your mind of what normal or perfect is, you can experience so much more.”
“I want them to grow up and have friends and I want them to be appreciated and understood. I know not everyone will feel that way towards them, but I also feel grateful that we live in a world where people with Down syndrome have more opportunities than they’ve ever had and as a mum I hope they’ll find something to do that they love,” she continued.
Having twin boys with Down syndrome impacted her life in a such a profound way — a way that she couldn’t understand until having them — and it seems that she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You can have expectations of how life is going to be, but it might not pan out the way you imagined,” she said. “Now that I have Charlie and Milo, I understand that and I have more compassion than I ever had before.”