"Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare," actor Ed Asner once said, and it's likely a sentiment many parents vigorously share. While parenting has its own sets of challenges and rewards, it is perhaps doubly so on both parts when it comes to raising children with special needs. In a deeply personal essay for Harper's Bazaar, model Amanda Booth wrote about raising her toddler, Micah, who at 3 months was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and her determination to shatter stereotypes about the condition.
In the first few months of knowing Micah had Down syndrome, Booth knew she would take to Instagram to seek out other families with babies with the condition. "I figured what better way to learn about anything than from a person directly?" she wrote. "I instantly fell in love with the babies I was seeing, the encouraging parents, and the love they were sharing. I needed to be a part of that."
Seeing that made Booth want to share her story with Micah, too, even though she did so bracing for the negativity those on the Internet are sometime known to resort to. She wrote:
"I wasn't scared of the reactions people would have, sharing our story wasn't for them, but for the people who needed it, and I knew they'd find us. That didn't mean my stomach didn't flip with the first trolls I encountered. I wept for my son, but I am fully aware of the battles he may face, and it just brought that reality to my doorstep a little sooner than I had anticipated. So, good! I needed some practice before he was old enough to hear the negativity, so I can know how to raise him to be greater than that. To walk this earth with a full heart, having compassion for people who don't understand him, and the courage to show them anyway."
In fact, Booth found out that Micah loved being in front of the camera, and last year signed him onto the same modeling agency as herself.
Her larger goal is to dispel the perception about raising a child with the condition, and her words are especially appropriate this month as October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
"There's a lot of antiquated information about Down syndrome out there, and people need to know the truth. The termination rate with prenatal testing is so staggering, and I know that if people could see a glimpse of the life they could have, it might decrease," she wrote. "I know that we are all different, and the majority of people will [do genetic screening] and that's fair — all I'm trying to do is make people aware, give them a hand to walk with, a shoulder to borrow, and clear eyes to see the possibilities of this life."
"The hardest parts came with me knowing I had a responsibility to Micah, to push him really hard, and to give him all the tools I had for him to grow and learn," Booth added. "I wasn't going to let him have the easy way out just because he 'couldn't' do things. No way. He just needed me to show him how. That has been the blessing throughout all of this, really. I have never been able to just let Micah exist, allowing either of us to float through this life missing all of the magical moments. Everything comes and goes so fast for everyone else. That's not the case for us."