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revealed markers for possible birth defects. My doctor recommended amnio-

centesis to test for genetic disorders.

But the procedure carried a risk of miscarriage, and besides, I was determined to have my baby regardless. Now I wished I had answers. What if Isaac had a condition that would keep him from living a normal life? Wouldhe be an outsider like I'd been growing up? What if he was so severely disabled that he didn't recognize me as his mother? What if he didn't know I loved him? God wouldn't give me that kind of responsibility, wouid he? Not after I'd failed my parents. He wouldn't entrust someone like me with a child who had special needs. The nurse came back in. Finally. "When can I see..." l started to ask. Then I saw the look on her face. "Isaac has Down syndrome," she said. "We'11 know more when the tests come back. The doctor will fill you in." The week I spent at the hospital was a blur. More tests, consultations, information packets, phone call after phone

call from well-meaning friends. "With God's help, we're taking things one day at a time," I e-mailed everyone. But reality set in when we brought Isaac home.'fhere was no nursing staff on call. No book that could really tell me how to parent a special-needs baby. At night I lay awake, fears mushrooming. Ray and I were older parents. What would happen to Isaac after we were gone? Would he be able to get a job? Live on his own? Was it fair to saddle Pierce with being his brother's caregiver? Isaac met with a developmental spe-


culDEposrs | ;uly


cialist right away, and I employed my own kind of therapy. Morning, noon and nighi I rocked him and sang him songs that I made up. I swaddled him in a blanket I'd made out of soft fleece. Anything I could think ofto strengthen our bond, to show him I loved him, to quiet my worries. He fit so naturally in my arms, just as his brother had. But he didn't respond to me the way Pierce

had at the same age. At two months, Isaac didn't smile or coo at the sound

of my voice. When

I nursed him,


looked past me. Never at me. I moved my face to catch his gaze. Nothing. Not even a flicker in his beautiful hazel eyes. It was like I didn't exist. "My own baby doesn't know me!" I sobbed to Ray.

"Don't stress," Ray said. "Isaac develop on his own schedule."


What if he never did? What if he never knew me?

Running on the treadmill in our bedroom became my stress relief. As I ran, I told God my fears and frustrations. I reached out to other specialneeds moms. They all seemed to have their lives together. It was like they

understood their child's every need on a deep, almost spiritual level. Me? I couldn't even get my baby to look at me. Isaac started physical therapy at flve months. Magbe things will change now, I told myself. His therapist, Mary Jane, specialized in early intervention treatment. At Isaac's first few appointments, she worked on helping him roll over, reach for ioys and sit up on his own.

"Hypotonia, or low muscle tone, is

very common in children with Down syndrome," she said. "Our goal is to increase Isaac's strength litfle by litile." Hypotonia could affect Isaac,s mobility, even his ability to interact with other kids. If he couldn't hold a ball or a toy, he might get left out at playtime.

I worked on the exercises with Isaac the next day. Pierce watched from his corner of the play mat, planting kisses on his baby brother now and then. No matter how I stretched and moved his limbs and torso, Isaac's body stayed floppy.He could barely lift his head. I woke up early one morning to pray, then jumped on the treadmill. Whyhad God given me Isaac? He needed a more capable mother, someone who could really reach him and help him.I strapped

on my wrist weights and picked up my pace. Too bad Isaac doesn't haue

ItlVEl{TOn UOil While Isaac plays, his MightyTykes wrist weights help strengthen his muscles.

weights like these to build muscle tone. If onlg- I stopped the treadmill and studied the weights. The design was simple-a weighted band, adjust-

able strap and Velcro closure. Could

I make Isaac his own mini version?

Hadn't Mary Jane talked about building strength little by titfle? I hopped off the treadmill and grabbed my sewing basket. Scraps of blue fleece dotted with cars and trucks, left over from the blanket I,d made Isaac. That would work for the band. What about the weight? I needed something light, something he would hardly notice. Sand? I scooped a cup from Pierce's sandbox in lhe backyard and










got to work. My creation was complete in an hour.I weighed it on the kitchen scale*less than an eighth of a pound. Could this really work? When Isaac woke, we went through the exercises again. This time,I slipped. the bands around his wrists. I stretched his arms and legs. We reached for toys and turned the pages ofa book. "He looks like a baby bodybuilder!" Ray said with a laugh.

for Isaac, surely other kids could benefit. What if I started my own company? "Go for it!" Mary Jane said. I tested fabric options, contacted manufacturers and researched safety standards. Isaac's progress was slow but steady. By nine months, he was strong enough to wear the weights beyond exercise time, even when he nursed. With Mary Jane's help, he learned to grasp toys






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roll over on his stomach.

Ray, We did exercises with the weights Pierce and I cheered every time Isaac for half an hour each day. After two reached a new milestone. weeks Isaac seemed less floppy. Mary One morning while he was nursing, Jane was blown away by his progress. I sang Isaac one of my made-up songs. "Isabella, I'm so impressed!" she said. "I love Isaac, my dear little Isaac. How I love Isaac, my pride and my joy...." Isaac's gaze shifted. His eyes locked Isaac would learnto do everything

he needed to, in his own time and inhis own way, ss God designed. "I've never seen weights like these for little kids." I gave Mary Jane the ones I'd made to test out with her other clients and put together a new set for Isaac, filled with a quarter pound of sand. I upped our exercise time to an hour. It was the

highlight of my day.Isaac still wouldn't meet my gaze. Maybe he never would. Butnow I knew I was helping him. Mary Jane's other patients showed promising results with the weights. I searched online for similar products. I couldn't find a company that sold weights for infants or special-needs

children.If my little invention worked



on mine.

I didn't

Banks. There were few distractions. We lived on a street that dead-ended at the beach,just Richard and me with our dog, Bear,


own way, as God designed. Today Isaac is a five-year-old chatterbox who charms everyone he meets.

MightyTykes, our company, is thriving

too. Our weights have helped thousands of children of all ages and abilities. They're different by design, like all of us, and like the mighty tyke who inspired them.


For more stories on caregiving, go to


listened to the ocean breeze ratfling windows of our duplex while I sorted files in our home office. I was on task number seven of the day,s to-do list. Late spring was a busy time for the employment recruiting business my husband, Richard, and I ran, and I needed to keep up with the work.I still had to schedule interyiews, respind to a few e-mails and cook dinner by the time Richard got back from doing his

work. It was already Z:00 p.M. I liked this time of year on the Outer

move. He looked at me for what felt like an eternity. Not past me. At me. Like I was the only person in the world. I/e knows me!I wanted to shout. He knows I loue him! How could I have doubted it? Isaac would learn to do everything he needed to. Socialize, walk, talk. Not on some de-

velopmental chart's timetable, or my timetable, but in his own time. In his




Rottweiler-Labrador mix.

The only other person who lived on our block full-time was two doors down from us, a


retiree-an elderly

out in thebackgard.. Do i,t. Now.How silly. What a waste of time.I was birsy! But the urge was so forceful,I dropped everything. "Sorr1t, Bear," I Said. I ScOOted him offthe rug and carried it through

the screened porch to the backyard. Giving it a good shake, I heard something. A soft voice floating on the breeze: "Mari-Lynn...Mari-Lynn... " Was I imagining things? I walked around to the front ofthe house. A flgure was lying in the driveway two doors down. Rene! She had fallen on the concrete and

Afew weeks fram naw thestreet would beswcrmingwith summer renters.we were enjoying fhe last days of peace.

woman named Rene. A few weeks from now the street would be swarming with summer renters. We were enjoying the last days ofpeace before the

onslaught. I saw Bear lie down and curl up on the cream-colored throw rug in the hallway. That wasn't unusual-the rug was plush and warm, one of his favorite spots to rest. I turned back to my files... but suddenly I couldn't focus. That rug. Bear's black hairs had shed all over it, sticking in the weave. Shake the rug

gashed her face and forehead, badly. She couldn't get up, and I was afraid

to move her. I called 911 and ran to get towels to stanch the bleeding. Minutes later, paramedics arrived. Because she was on blood-thinners, Rene had lost a

lot ofblood, they said. I'd found her just in time. Thanks to shaking out that rug, the

tasklhadn'tplanned to do that day. IIARI.LYI{I{ FITTEY Nags Head, North Carolina


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Mightytykes Story July 2015 Guideposts  

Our story is featured in the July 2015 Guideposts

Mightytykes Story July 2015 Guideposts  

Our story is featured in the July 2015 Guideposts

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