Byline: Sarah Palin
He's nearing his fourth birthday. He has Down Syndrome. And he greets every day with a round of applause.
Last week, Rick Santorum and his family offered us a reminder of what really matters. When his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, born with Trisomy 18, was hospitalized with pneumonia, Rick left the campaign trail to be by her bedside. In the middle of this very heated campaign season, many of us prayed through tears for Bella's health and added prayers of thankfulness for a public example of someone's sacrifice made with the right priorities.
It's a sacrifice every parent and caregiver of a child with special needs sympathizes with. Families of children with special needs are bonded by a shared experience of the joys, challenges, fears, and blessings of raising these beautiful children whom we see as perfect in this imperfect world.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, on rope lines at rallies across the country, my husband, Todd, and I met so many of these families and caretakers, and I'll never forget them. There was an instant connection--a kind of mutual acknowledgment that said, "Yes, these children are precious and loved. Yes, we face extra fears and challenges, but our children are a blessing, and the rest of the world is missing out in not knowing this."
Every parent struggles with juggling the commitments of work and family. Women, especially, know this well. Over the years, I've learned that women can "have it all," just not all at once. For me, it was a lesson learned through the school of hard knocks, but it was one my own mother made me aware of when she calmly told me that as a working mom in the rough-and-tumble political arena, I would have to make tough choices. We all do. In making decisions about my career, I've put my family first, and I've never regretted it, although it has meant periodically putting particular pursuits on the back burner.
When I discovered early in my pregnancy that my baby would be born with an extra chromosome, the diagnosis of Down syndrome frightened me so much that I dared not discuss my pregnancy for many months. All I could seem to muster was a calling out to God to prepare my heart for what was ahead. My prayers were answered beyond my shallow understanding of what true joy could be. Yes, raising a child with special needs is a unique challenge, and there's still fear about my son Trig's future because of health and social challenges; and certainly some days are much more difficult than if I had a "normal" child.
Many everyday activities like doctor's appointments …