“I wasn’t ready for children when my husband was VERY ready. Pregnancy seems to come easy for us. Once we decided to have a baby, I conceived right away. My pregnancy was going well and I only had headaches and heartburn. When I was 5 months pregnant, I was heading out to a wedding and I just happened to check my answering machine. The message was from a Children’s Hospital in central California. I was told I needed to call them back the following Monday to discuss test results. I didn’t think much of it.
I tested positive on the blood test for Down syndrome. I was a little shocked at first and after talking to a few moms, I was told sometimes it can be a false positive. Once at the hospital, they explained to us we have a 1 in 30 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. Again, I was shocked because you really don’t know what to expect as a first time mom and now, I was going to be raising a baby with Down syndrome. Not even a week later, it took a turn for the worse.
When I chose my doctor, I just chose a random guy my sister told me to go to. She already had children and said he was pretty good. During an ultrasound, he saw many white spots in Dante’s heart. He also saw a thick neck and other characteristics of Down syndrome. He knew about my positive blood test. After that ultrasound, he sat my husband and I down to discuss what our future held. He said, ‘If you go past 20 weeks during pregnancy, there is a chance your son could pass away, along with you.’ I was sitting there in complete shock, sobbing like I never had before. He also said, ‘You could have an abortion, to at least save yourself.’ That is something I told myself I would never do. I can’t believe it was even an option, but I get it. I couldn’t take any more heartache, so my parents, my in-laws, my husband, and I went to our church to pray and plan for a funeral for Dante.
I couldn’t believe it. I was 26, pregnant with my first baby, and planning his funeral. I was a mess. A week later, I got a phone call from the abortion clinic to schedule an appointment. I was so upset I said some not very nice words and hung up. It turns out my doctor and his wife aborted their child with Down syndrome because he/she would be a burden. He thought I should do the same. I was a mess again and could not stop crying. After that day, I never went back to him again.
I found another set of doctors and they were absolutely amazing. They welcomed me with open arms, gave me a video and books to read about Down syndrome, and found nothing out of the ordinary during his ultrasound. My husband and I are very stubborn and we also went ahead and had an amniocentesis done. I regret it to this day because there was 1 in a 25 chance of miscarriage. That experience was absolutely horrific. It felt like a knife stabbed me right in the belly. A few weeks later, I got a phone call at work with the results. I was told he was a boy and he tested positive for Down syndrome. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Of course, I was in shock, but what I felt most sad about was I knew he was going to have a bumpy road ahead of him. I wiped my tears, put on my mom cape, and went to work finding as many resources as possible.
Through it all, my husband and I had tons of support from our family. Both sides were very happy for us and only wanted what was best. I called our Central Valley Regional Center and got him ready for all the therapies he was going to need as well as Early Intervention.
The day he was born wasn’t supposed to be the day he was born. I went in for a check-up because I wasn’t feeling well. All of a sudden, nurses rushed in and start shifting my belly around because his heart rate was dropping. I was absolutely horrified. It turns out the cord was around his neck! It didn’t force an emergency c-section but they did induce my labor. Ten hours later, I pushed and I pushed and out came the most beautiful baby on February 12, 2007. I couldn’t hold him right away because his temperature was low.
I thought it would be like the movies where the baby gets put on the mom’s chest right away but it wasn’t. After being under the heat lamp for a while, I was able to hold him. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I was holding an angel on Earth. He had the cutest face.
We chose his name because of all we went through. I wanted to name him after his dad, but Dad said to name him Dante David Rossette. Dante means steadfast and enduring. We knew what we’ve been through and we knew it was going to be an adventure after his birth.
Dante was a very easy baby. He started getting therapy at one day old. We had so much support. We joined a Down syndrome group for parents. I was teaching kindergarten at the time and my husband was an administrator. There was a job opening in my district for special education and I jumped on it right away. I wanted to learn as much as possible for Dante.
Fast forward to a year later, Dante was getting regular check-ups at the hospital and his heart doctor noticed an irregular heartbeat. During his EKG test, they saw many white spots in his heart. There were too many holes in his heart and they needed to be fixed right away. Again, I was in complete shock. He had already gone through a hernia surgery and now this. This is something no parent should go through but there we were, in the hospital. A million things were going through my head. The hardest part was watching the nurse wheel him away in a bed after we said our goodbyes before surgery. I cried so much that day, I almost fainted from dehydration.
The recovery was brutal because he was in so much pain.
It was a lot of work raising Dante. He also developed Alopecia at age 3. Many people thought he had cancer, but in reality, he just lost all his hair. We went through so much with him, the thought of another child didn’t even cross our minds. About two years later, we said Dante needed a brother. For some reason, I knew I would be a boy mom. We were a little nervous about trying again, but a few months later, out came Rocco Dominic Rossette on November 8, 2009. He hit all his milestones like typical children do. Boy, was he a character, but we knew he was the brother Dante needed. Having two boys already, we couldn’t possibly have another right? Well, Dante and Rocco need a little brother.
A few years later, there came Niko on May 7, 2012. Niko was hitting his usual milestones and he was such a big baby. The one thing we noticed about him was he wasn’t talking. We already taught Dante and Rocco sign language so we started teaching him sign language, too. When he hit a year old, he still wasn’t talking, didn’t show too much emotion, and lined up everything, like bottles, blocks, cars. Anything he could line up, he would. All he did was cry, hit his head on the ground, and try to hit and bite his brothers out of frustration. I had a feeling he was on the spectrum but I have to admit, I was in denial.
His pediatrician referred him to the Central Valley Regional Center, which we were familiar with because of Dante. Fast forward a few months, he had to take a test called the M-chat when he was about 15 months old. He failed the test miserably. The doctor there said it’s a sign for Autism. I honestly don’t really remember anything because my mind was all over the place. I said to myself, ‘I have Dante with Down syndrome, Rocco is a typical child, and Niko has Autism?’ I was in complete denial and I couldn’t believe it. Because he failed the M-Chat, it opened many doors for him to get intense behavioral therapy. Not only that, but he also had to attend the California Autism Center. Our little guy was working so hard for many hours throughout his life.
Over the years, we saw so much growth, so fast. Early intervention is so important in a child’s life. Last year, Niko started exiting out of programs because he was doing so well. Just last month, he was exited out of the special education program at his school. He still has his medical diagnosis of Autism and as far as school, he is in the general education classroom.
For many years, we busted our butts raising our children. We had pictures of everything posted all over our house, especially toilets for potty training. We did exactly what the professionals told us to do. Our babies aren’t perfect but we try our best with them.
In 2016, we started designing shirts to promote Autism and Down syndrome awareness. In 2018, we started the Live Like Dante Foundation. The money we make from donations and shirt sales goes directly back to schools, camps, and programs for kids and adults with special needs. We are big on ‘ending the R-word’ and raising disability awareness. We have a website and also an Instagram page, which are linked below. Not only did we help ourselves, but I need about ten hands to count all the parents we support.
There are many parents in our position. Sometimes, they don’t know what to do. I show them it’s okay to have a baby with special needs. I point them in the right direction to get started on Early Intervention. I’ve also talked to many pregnant moms who were going to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome and they met Dante. Again, we tell them everything will be okay.
I know everyone has their story but we just try to do what’s best for our boys and show our kids are just different, not less than. We’ve gone through a whole lot as a family and I wouldn’t change anything about my life. We tell people daily to live like Dante. Dante is so sweet, never gets mad, never judges you, always gives hugs and kisses, and most of all, he is just happy every day, no matter the situation. Wouldn’t the world be awesome if we could all live like Dante?
Over the years, we got talked about a lot, stared at, and our feelings were hurt many times. If I can say anything to the average family it’s this, please accept everyone for who they are. We can’t control what our lives will bring us. Many people called me selfish for not aborting Dante. Please live with a kind heart, accept differences, and teach your children to love someone for who they are. Love begins and ends in the home. Children, especially children with special needs, are innocent and need to be loved and cared for like anyone else.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Desiree Rossette from Fresno, CA. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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