Many parents look forward to the moment their child reaches an important milestone — whether it’s taking their first steps or uttering their first word. For longtime Turlock resident Yadira Contreras, these milestones might take a little longer to come across for her daughter Estrella, who was born with Down syndrome. However, Contreras still beams with unmistakable pride as she looks at her one-year-old daughter, and she wants the community to know that Estrella — and every other child with Down syndrome — is worth waiting for.
“We’re just blessed to have her,” said Contreras. “She’s just shown us what true, pure love is. She shows us every day that there’s nothing to be sad about. Down syndrome is not a sickness — it’s just a diagnosis and there’s nothing that can stop her from doing anything.”
Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This chromosomal condition alters the course of development and causes certain physical traits, such as low muscle tone, small stature and an upward slant to the eyes, as well as intellectual disability — although this is usually mild to moderate. There are more than 400,000 people in the United States who have Down syndrome, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.
When Contreras was pregnant with Estrella, she said that it wasn’t until 27 weeks into the pregnancy that Estrella finally showed her face in an ultrasound. At the time, the scan showed that Estrella did not have a nasal bone, which is an indicator of Down syndrome. Contreras, who had three previous miscarriages, said that she cried when her doctor told her that Estrella might have Down syndrome — but not for that particular reason.
“When the doctor told me that there was a possibility, he said that there was a 50 percent chance that she won’t make it,” said Contreras. “I did cry, but not at the fact that she had Down syndrome. I cried just knowing that I might lose her because for me she’s just a blessing.”
Contreras said that after that ultrasound appointment, she underwent a Harmony Prenatal Test, which is a DNA-based blood test that screens for the possibility of Down syndrome. Her results came in at 99.9 percent.
Contreras was eventually admitted to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, where she spent the next month on hospital bed rest. On Dec. 28 — months before her due date of Feb. 14 — Yadira and her husband Luis Contreras decided it was time for doctors to perform an emergency cesarean section.
“They decided it was time to get her out because her oxygen was dropping and if we waited a few hours, there was a possibility she wouldn’t make it,” said Contreras. “Estrella was born at 33 weeks weighing two pounds.”
After Estrella was born, doctors performed a karyotype, which is a test to identify and evaluate the size, shape, and number of chromosomes in a sample of body cells, to confirm whether or not she had down syndrome. Once the test came back positive, she was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit for one month.
“They were trying to get her to gain weight and she did perfectly,” said Contreras. “They said the reason she wasn’t growing was because my placenta wasn’t giving her the nutrients she needed.”
While Contreras said that she has encountered challenges related to Estrella’s diagnosis, particularly with her delayed development, they will give Estrella all the time she needs to reach each milestone at her own pace.
“She’s going to get them done. It just takes her a little bit longer,” said Contreras. “We’re just giving her the time that she needs.”
Contreras said that she and her family will definitely be rocking mismatched socks this Tuesday, which marks World Down Syndrome Day. The global event is held every year to raise awareness about Down syndrome. Throughout the day, people wear bright, funny or colorful socks to encourage a conversation about Down syndrome.
“The reason they do World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 is because of the three pairs of the 21st chromosome,” said Contreras. “So we’ll wear crazy, mismatched socks to show the world that different is okay and that different is the new normal. You don’t have to wear the same pair of socks to fit in. You’re going to work the same with mismatched socks as if you wore matching socks.”
Contreras said that she also hopes that her mismatched socks on Tuesday will spark a discussion about Down syndrome and encourage others in the community to learn more about the diagnosis.
“For me, it is important so they won’t be treated differently. As a religious person, I know God sent her to us to spread awareness for her future and the future of others,” said Contreras. “We just want to get the word out to them and let them know that Down syndrome happens more than they think it does and to know that they are regular children. It might take them longer to learn stuff, but they’re going to get it done.”
For more information on World Down Syndrome Day, visit worlddownsyndromeday.org.