MINOT AIR FORCE BASE On Oct. 30, 2013, Morgan Kennedy gave birth to her first child. Immediately after their son was born, doctors quickly noticed something they hadn't caught before.
Diagnosed with infertility in 2011, Morgan and her husband, Senior Airman Ian Kennedy, an intelligence analyst for Minot Air Force Base's 5th Operations Support Squadron, started fertility treatments in Washington, D.C. Once the treatments were successful, the Kennedy's were a step closer to their dream of starting a family.
"When we found out we were pregnant, we were just ecstatic," Morgan said.
The Kennedy's spent the nine months of their pregnancy thinking their unborn child was perfectly healthy, unaware of any kind of disorders. We even spent the money for extra ultrasounds, just so we could see him more often, said Ian.
"We were totally shocked," Morgan said, "It was so surprising because you would think someone would have caught it."
Once their son Sawyer was born, Ian and Morgan were told that their son had the characteristics of Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome. Sawyer then underwent dozens of exams to test for other kinds of health issues, leaving his parents to deal with the shock.
As parents, you always want your children to be as healthy as possible, explained Morgan.
"Once we moved past the worrying, things started to look up, and we started learning everything we could about T21."
T21 is a caused by a third copy of the 21st chromosome. A lot of children born with T21 have other underlying health issues, explained Kennedy. About 90 percent are born with heart defects, and nearly 100 percent have thyroid issues.
"Sawyer goes to physical therapy every week, we do exercises, and he takes lots of supplements," Ian said. He's gotten more blood work than any baby should."
On top of being new parents, the Kennedy's also have the added challenge of a child with T21. Because there are no Down syndrome support groups in Minot, and with no prior knowledge of T21, Ian and Morgan are learning as they go.
"First we had to adjust to new parenthood, on top of wanting to be a good mom, then learn all there is to know about T21," said Morgan. "Our life is a million doctor's appointments, a million specialists, and researching what we can."
Because neither Ian nor Morgan have family or friends with Down syndrome, turning to their families with questions about parenthood can be difficult, explained Ian.
"Sometimes we don't know what's normal for a newborn, and what is caused by the Down syndrome," he said. "That's why we're trying to network and meet other families who have been through this journey, because our parents never went through this."
Despite any expectations set before, Ian and Morgan are learning alongside their 5-month-old son Sawyer, taking things day by day. Morgan explained how even though some days are more challenging than others, they would never change their son.
"Even if we could, I don't think I would take away his Down syndrome because we love everything about him, from his personality, how strong he is, how brave he is," said Morgan. "He's our miracle child."