Lynda was shocked when she learnt that her first child had Down’s syndrome. She opens up on how she went against all odds to raise him like any other.
WORDS RACHEL KWEK
The excitement of welcoming a baby into their lives turned into fear for this young couple living in Sydney, Australia, when they learnt he had Down’s syndrome. Lynda tells us how it is possible to stay positive when doctors implied there was no hope for her child.
“Congratulations!” Lynda Walker’s family and friends squealed in delight when they got wind of her pregnancy. It was only natural for her to reciprocate with glee. After all, she was a happily married eighteen-year-old who was expecting her first child. What could go wrong right? Furthermore, she had a very smooth pregnancy with no problems at all. As any couple expecting a baby would do, the newlyweds went for regular check-ups and couldn’t wait to welcome their child into the family.
Moment of Truth
Alas, Lynda delivered her first child, Robert Wayne Walker, in 1967. She was prepared for news but not the kind that her doctor shared.
“You have a baby boy!” he said. Lynda was so happy and her heart swelled with the pride of a new mother. Then, he sat down beside her bed and told her her baby had Down’s syndrome. She was absolutely stumped and her world turned upside down. “I didn’t even know what it meant,” she says. Lynda and her husband’s anticipation to raise their first child quickly vanished upon receiving news that the child they had been waiting for was mentally incapacitated. “Doctors said nothing good. They said Roby was very retarded and deformed, that I should just put him in an institution and that he would never learn anything. It was very hard for us,” Lynda recalls. One could only imagine how depressing the situation was for the young mother. Her doctor not only did not allow her to see her child but even advised her not to get too attached to him.
Keeping the Faith
No way was Lynda going to abandon her own flesh and blood because he was not perfect. The couple’s parents were equally upset with the revelation but having little clue about the condition their grandson was facing, they let the couple do what they felt was best for their child. Subsequently, Lynda got Roby tested at six months of age and results revealed that he was diagnosed with mild mental retardation. As reality sunk in slowly but surely, Lynda accepted her lot. “We were chosen to be his parents. I just loved Roby and treated him like a normal child. We taught him everything we could to make him proud of himself. We never spoiled him or sheltered him,” she says.
When asked about how she went about raising Roby, Lynda said she read up a lot and gave him every opportunity to do all he could do. “He felt good about himself knowing that he could do more things than the doctors said. Although Roby took a little longer than others, he learned so much. He was always so happy when he did something new. He went to do jobs after getting out of school at 21. He did very well. He was so happy to get a pay cheque,” the mother of three recounts fondly. To see him do so much when doctors gave no hope was a huge encouragement for Lynda, who adds, “I was surprised at what he learned at times.”
Her faith and family support gave her the strength to overcome the challenges that arose too. “I always wanted to look up those doctors to show them how wrong they were,” Lynda says.
Roby fell sick a lot in 2013 and was in and out of hospital seven times. While he did get better, his doctor informed his family that he was in bad shape on 16 April 2014. “It became too hard for him to breathe. He knew he was going. He said, ‘Friday I’m out of here.’.” Roby passed away before his family got to the hospital on 30 May 2014 at the age of 46.
Lynda says raising Roby is an honour and a blessing and that he had taught her to treasure each day.
She has written a book Raising Roby which chronicles her journey with Roby and the lessons he has taught her. On top of sharing the joys and fears that have given new meaning to her life, Lynda hopes the book will provide insights on bringing up a child with special needs. She has this to say to parents who are struggling to come to terms with caring for or cope with caring for their child with special needs: Just do the best you can. Never look at the disability but the ability. Never give up. Let the child learn all that he can. It is never easy but it does get easier.