Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Unsung Hero, Part I

This post written by Janette Hajjar, Robert Pio Hajjar's mother. Excerpt from "The IDEAL WAY to Cook: Food for Thought".

My story could be your story. Robert could be your son or daughter. Our life for the past 31 years could be your life, whether your child is 15 or 40.
A very normal, healthy and easy pregnancy. My little angel fluttered about in my tummy with barely a ripple, while my friends complained about their babies' vigorous kicking movements and how uncomfortable they were. Only once did I feel that something could be wrong. One day, out of the blue, I asked my doctor what my chances were of having a baby with Down syndrome. His reply, "Janette, you're too young, so don't worry."

December 3rd finally arrived and we barely made it to the hospital in a blazing snow storm. Back then, husbands were not allowed to sit in on the birth, so while Elias completed the paperword, I lay there, alone, in that cold, sterile environment. Little did I know that shortly our world would be turned upside down.

Looking up about an hour later, I thought to myself, "This sure isn't like in the movies. Isn't the doctor supposed to slap my newborn baby's bottom? Isn't he supposed to tell me I had a healthy boy or girl and why did I have to ask? Isn't the nurse supposed to tell me what a beautiful baby he was as she laid him on my chest? Isn't my baby supposed to cry? And, when he did, why did he sound like a little kitten? Why was there dead silence in the room? Why was everyone looking at each other? Why were their eyes so sad?" So many whys.
The words from the doctor's mouth could have been lifted from Page 1 of the universal book, titled "Special Needs Births and How to Deliver the Worst Case Scenario"..."Your child will be profoundly retarded; we suggest you put him away, forget about him, and have another baby."

There it was...the "Down syndrome death sentence"! Those very words ripped the joy and happiness from our hearts, leaving us with such sadness, grief and overwhelming guilt. What did we do to this innocent baby? How was he to survive in the world? How would others treat him? How could that doctor know, at two days, that our baby would be profoundly retarded? Does this mean he won't walk or talk or do much? How did he know our baby's potential? IF only we knew then what we know now.

"God gave you Robert because He knew you could take care of him." Those words, uttered by my brother, Jim, literally shocked us to our senses. This young boy's wise words forced us into the realization that no matter what, we still had this little baby who was so dependant on us. Yes, it was time to end the pity party and get to work on being parents to this helpless infant whose future lay in our hands.

[For more information on "Down Syndrome Diagnosis - The First Few Days After the Diagnosis", go to Down syndrome.]

Photo: Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David Onley presents Robert Pio Hajjar with an Unsung Hero Award during a ceremony at Variety Village, Scarborough, Ontario on December 3, 2009. It was the International Day of People with Disabilities, as well as Robert's 32nd birthday!


Jan Hajjar, Etobicoke said...

Maureen, thank you so much for printing my letter as written for the Ideal Way to Cook Book. Yes, my story could be the story of any mother or father who has ever received this devastating verdict following the birth of a 'special' child. If only we knew then, what we know now, we would rejoiced more during those early days. We certainly have reason to shout loud and clear these days, don't we! Robert Pio is lending his voice to those who have none, giving hope to parents of newborns and younger children who felt the road ahead led nowhere, and opening the doors for dialogue towards acceptance and tolerance of those with special needs. In fact, Robert's motivational speaking engagement calendar for 2010 is quickly filling up! Who knows how many other young people out there will be inspired by Robert's story and decide to step out from the shadows to befriend and advocate for those with Down syndrome, Autism, and other intellectual and physical disabilities. Lt. Gov. Onley is a wonderful example. Maureen, we thank you for your dedication and talents that make the Ideal Way Blog such an informative and important tool! You're the best!

Maureen Lee said...

Janette, thank you for writing such an honest, moving account of how you felt during those early days.

Yes, you and Elias certainly have "reason to shout loud and clear these days". You write eloquently about Rob's impact on his corner of the world, but you have omitted one very important fact. You and Elias got to "work on being parents to this helpless infant whose future lay in your hands", devoting yourselves completely to giving Robert everything he would need to be a success.

Just like any child, abled or not, Robert has his parents to thank, for providing him with a stable and loving environment to grow up in. And I'm sure that there are countless "young people out there who will be inspired by Robert's story"!

Thank you, also, for your kind words regarding the blog!

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