The story is about Lisa White, a woman with Down syndrome who raised her son Nic. Lisa got pregnant with Nic when she was 30 years old and had a stable job and long-term boyfriend. However, some of her friends pulled away from her when they found out she was pregnant because they thought she might be a bad influence. Lisa’s own mother, Patti, supported her decision to have the baby.
Patti was 48 when Lisa gave birth.
“A lot of people, even close friends, said, ‘Patti, you shouldn’t take this on, you can do an open adoption and remain in the baby’s life,” Patti says. “People definitely expressed concern.”
Nic was also born with Down syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year about 6,000 babies are born in the United States with Down syndrome.
Few people with Down syndrome become parents. In the first half of the 20th century, forced sterilization was the law of the land in 33 states for people with Down syndrome and similar conditions. While those laws have changed, sometimes as late as the 1980s, there’s still a stigma around people with Down syndrome having children.
Many aspects of motherhood came naturally to Lisa. But not all.
“The hardest thing for Lisa, is that she’s very sensitive, and when Nic would cry, she assumed he was in pain, and she felt responsible,” Patti says. “She couldn’t grasp that babies just cry, often for no reason at all.”
Lisa raised Nic with the help of her family and friends. She taught him how to read and write and helped him learn life skills such as cooking and cleaning.
Lisa was responsible for Nic’s diaper bag, and Patti would tape a note to the bag listing the items that needed to be packed. Patti says Lisa is a very “strong reader.” Lisa did bath time — always supervised — and changed Nic’s diapers. She breastfed Nic for two weeks, and then after switching to formula, Lisa prepared his bottles.
Of course, there were challenges.
“When he was little and did something that annoyed her, she thought he was doing it on purpose and she’d get upset,” Patti says. “Stuff like that was difficult.”
Nic is now 27, and loves to talk about his two moms: Lisa and Patti. He grew up with Patti and still lives with her in Stockton, California, while Lisa has an apartment nearby. Nic was 5 when his father Tim passed away from a heart condition. Norm, who Nic called Dad, died in 2021.
When asked about Lisa, Nic describes her as “loving and caring.”
“We play games and go for walks,” Nic tells TODAY.com.
Nic says Patti is a “great cook.” Patti says she’s grateful that Nic is around to help her reach things and open jars now that Norm is gone.
“I’m lucky because I have two moms,” Nic says.
Nic hopes to become a bus boy, a rapper, a DJ and a director. Nic is an actor and has appeared in movies and television shows.
Like every mom, Lisa loves to brag about her son.
“He’s the first thing she tells people about,” Patti adds.
Lisa sometimes struggles with her child growing up and asserting his independence, her mom says.
“Lisa has trouble letting him make his own decisions. She wants to assist him and he doesn’t need any assistance,” Patti explains. “She treats him younger than he is.”
“No, I don’t,” Lisa interjects.
Lisa’s story is inspiring because it shows that people with Down syndrome can be great parents and raise happy, healthy children. It also highlights the importance of support from family and friends when raising a child with special needs.