In episodes 9 and 10, Jeannie Harris’s calm demeanor shines through. After 33 years raising a successful son with Down syndrome who is globally known, and three other wonderful sons, she has a wealth of knowledge. One of the many tidbits she brought to our conversation was this Ted Talk by Roberto D’Angelo and Francesca Fedeli about their son Mario. She talks about it in episode 10, and I am so glad! Here is the link, https://www.ted.com/talks/roberto_d_angelo_francesca_fedeli_in_our_baby_s_illness_a_life_lesson?language=en, and it is also featured on Tim’s page on www.bornfabulouspodcast.com
In this TedTalk Francesca and Roberto describe their baby’s stroke, his brain injury, and a Mirror Neuron Pilot. Basically, our children are mirroring our emotions, feelings, and attitudes – even as tiny babies. I have watched this video many times. Every time new examples /thoughts enter my mind. First, Jeannie is so right when she says we need to keep this in mind at all times. How many of us are beyond scared, angry, or overly frustrated much of the time because of the roadblocks / hurdles in our child’s journeys? I know people who have been that way for years—and at that point they are toxic to be around. Nothing gets accomplished that way. And just think of their children!
I thought of Jeannie raising Tim, with three other boys, and how they raised such a solid family full of love and support. The featured photo here is Tim in 1986. He was a beautiful baby and an early hugger! I am sure the attitude of Jeannie and Keith was a large part of that success. The way they handled what could have been a bad transition from high school is a great example of creating an opportunity where they saw a roadblock. I thought of Sandra and her husband raising Sean as an only child, and all the hurdles they literally ran into or jumped. But they succeeded regardless. The attitudes of Sandra and Rick were paramount. Sandra clearly said she had no ‘grieving period’ after Sean was born—he was hers and they loved him. She also gives a horrific story of negative parenting she saw early on. And I thought of Steve and Laura Riggio. They not only raised three beautiful young women, full of confidence, but they had to navigate that horrible reality of losing a child. And they came out of that helping others to this day. They are the epitome of grace and dignity.
I also had this memory. My family found out Yassy has Down syndrome via amniocentisis. The news was devastating because the specialists told us our baby girl had numerous medical issues. Fluid on her brain. Stomach and heart issues. Four fingers. Four toes. The list went on. We were told she was probably not going to ‘heal’ or ‘outgrow’ any of her medical issues. Shunts being placed in utero were discussed. The stress of those specialists’ visits is something I will never forget.
One Sunday at church I went to our very special altar. My church is 409 years old and I thought of all the generations of people before me who had come to the altar with their prayers. Without much planning, I just went up there during communion and silently gave all the worries to God. I told Him that Yassy needed love, support and great nutrition at that time—not my stress. I knew that could not be good for her. How could it be?
Guess what happened? Each specialist visit after that improved. Things that we were told before could not ‘go away’ did. To the point of Yassy being born, on her due date, with no medical issues. I remember demanding to see the neo natal specialist after my husband said she was fine. He came and said, “Mrs. Harrison, your baby is perfect. She does not even have a birth mark. All she has is Down syndrome. I need to go back to the sick babies now.” Yassy knows this story and often shows off her hands, or toes, as a nod to the fact that we are grateful for her health.
Whether you are religious or not, it is obvious letting go of those significant stresses was helpful to Yassy – even before she was born.
Roberto D’Angelo, and every parent interviewed in season one has said or thought, “We were not ready. No one teaches us how to deal with disabilities.” That’s true. We need to learn from each other, role models ahead of us, and support around us. Those of us who believe in a higher power often rely on that faith. Let’s remember the key points. Our children are not problems. Let’s see roadblocks as opportunities. And attitude is everything.
Thank you for caring.
From my heart,
Thank you to Jeannie Harris for her time, wisdom, honesty and stories. She is a pioneer and a wonderful mother. Thank you also to Tim Harris for being so fabulous, approving each episode, and for allowing us to have this discussion.
If you have not heard episodes 1-10, you can go to the link at the bottom of this page and it will lead you to the episodes. Episodes 1-4 are with Steve and Laura Riggio, the parents of writer / self-advocate Melissa Riggio. Episodes 5-8 are with Sandra McElwee, the mother of actor / business owner Sean McElwee. Episodes 9-10 are the first and second of a five – part series with Jeannie Harris.
You can access all podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, and self-advocate pages at www.bornfabulouspodcast.com. The podcast is also on iTunes, Alexa, or any podcast directory. I invite you to subscribe on those podcast directories. Born Fabulous also has Facebook, Instagram, Twitter , and Pinterest pages as well as a YouTube Channel. Next week Jeannie Harris continues with part 3.
If you are interested in learning more about the Mirror Neurons topic here is a great link: