Down with Love
Mother knows best the gifts of a child with special needs.

Leticia Velasquez and her daughter Christina


Leticia Velasquez is the editor of a new book, A Special Mother Is Born, which gathers the inspiring testimonies of parents who were given bad prenatal diagnoses, or found themselves unexpectedly the parents of a child with special needs. Many of them found themselves fighting for their child’s life, often against the advice of doctors. Velasquez talks about the book with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: The book is called “A Special Mother Is Born,” but isn’t the testimony of fathers as, if not even more, important?

LETICIA VELASQUEZ: I found it easier to gather testimonies from mothers, perhaps because it’s natural for mothers to share birth stories. In fact, I did not intend to include fathers’ stories until I came across former senator Rick Santorum’s article “Two Years Worth Every Tear” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. His testimony about his daughter Isabella Maria, born with Trisomy 18 against all the odds, was so captivating that I felt inspired to ask for permission to include it in my book. Soon afterward, I found stories from two other prominent fathers, Dr. Gerard Nadal, contributor to LifeNews, and Patrick Coffin, radio-show host at Catholic Answers. Their stories offer positive portrayals of fatherhood too seldom seen in the media.

LOPEZ: Do you see your book as important for marriages?

VELASQUEZ: Not all married couples will face a prenatal diagnosis of a special-needs baby, but it is certain that all marriages will face major challenges. Life sends us unexpected crises: infidelity, death of a parent, loss of a home or a job, addiction. Learning from the couples who dealt with potentially marriage-wrecking obstacles and emerged from the crisis stronger, more forgiving, and more loving is invaluable. It’s the basis for self-help groups from AA to Retrouvaille. I want married readers to note that the couples who contributed to this book grew closer to God in response to the challenges they faced raising their special-needs child, and, as a result, grew closer to one another. The child who precipitated a marital crisis became a source of healing for the entire family.

LOPEZ: What is KIDS?

VELASQUEZ: The acronym stands for “Keep Infants with Down Syndrome.” My friend Eileen Haupt and I both have daughters with Down Syndrome, and we noticed that there was no group in the March for Life representing one of the most highly targeted groups for abortion; the unborn baby with Down Syndrome. They are aborted at a rate of 92 percent when their mothers receive a prenatal diagnosis. We began KIDS to be their voice. The group began in fall of 2008, and was so well received by the pro-life media that our media outreach now lasts throughout the year and has included EWTN, Canadian TV, and various radio stations, including NPR. Our message is that a doctor can tell you about your child’s diagnosis, but only a parent can tell you about the joy your child will bring you.