Melissa and Caleb Swanberg live in North Ogden, Utah with their two daughters, 3-year-old Rosie and newborn Maddie. Rosie was diagnosed with Down syndrome at Melissa’s 18-week ultrasound. While she doesn’t sugarcoat their initial reaction, Melissa says dealing with the news and then becoming parents to Rosie has changed her and her husband’s perspective on what’s really important.
“Before Rosie, Caleb and I were both perfectionists in many ways. We were often driven by success, either in school or professionally. Having Rosie has made us realize that perfection is so much more than an A on a test or a promotion at work. Rosie is perfect in how she works so hard to achieve skills that come so easily to others, in how she can live in the moment, and in how she is so perceptive of others’ emotions. Having Rosie in our lives has forced us slow down and enjoy the journey instead of focusing so much on the next destination.”
Caleb is a family medicine resident (he actually delivered Maddie) while Melissa stays at home with the kids—for now.
“I didn’t always plan on being a stay-at-home mom. I have a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and was working full time when we found out I was pregnant with Rosie. Knowing that Rosalie would have more doctors appointments and therapies (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy) than a typical kid, we decided that it made the most sense for me to stay home. I see myself going back to work, but I’m not sure what that will look like yet.”
Melissa says that Rosalie “has taught her a level of patience that she didn’t know existed” but that patience is coming in handy now that she has Baby #2. Although Rosalie was affected when they brought her little sister home, Melissa doesn’t think it was all that different from how a typical older sibling would react to a new baby.
“She had to adjust to no longer being the only child and learn that there were times when I couldn’t pick her up because I was feeding the baby. But after a month or so, she got the hang of it and started ‘nursing’ her dolls while I was nursing her sis! Since then, she has grown into her role of big sister beautifully. She loves to help change diapers, encourages Maddie to crawl, and likes to break into her room during nap time to climb into her crib. It’s obvious that this is the start of a mischievous duo.”
Music is also something that brings the family together. In fact, the piano music you will hear in the video was composed and played by Caleb.
“We have a sign in our kitchen that says, ‘This kitchen is for dancing’ and we mean it! We have a drawer reserved for maracas, rhythm scarves, and ribbon wands. We built a ‘music wall’ with pots and pans in our yard after seeing the idea on Pinterest. There is usually a dance party every evening while I’m cooking dinner. Caleb loves to play piano and the girls love sitting with him and pounding on the keys.”
Although, “much to Caleb’s chagrin,” Melissa reports that Rosalie is starting to show a preference for Bruno Mars over her dad.
Melissa was an avid follower of Monday Mornings and Wednesday Evenings, because “it was really interesting to see how different all the families were, yet how similar as well!” The main reason Melissa wanted to participate in this series is to show how her family is “more alike than different.”
“We are happy to answer any questions that people may have about Down syndrome. It doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room, but it also shouldn’t be what defines Rosalie or our family. I want people to know that even though we may look different, we have the same joys and the same struggles as them. Just treat us like any other family. I hope that people watching this video will say, ‘Wow, that looks just like our day!'”
After watching the video, Melissa said she was “amazed with how accurately you captured a typical day in our life,” but she saw something even more important too.
“Watching this video, I saw a loving and supportive family. That’s what we strive to be, but it doesn’t always feel that way in the rush of life. It was nice to see us from the outside looking in. It made me realize that even on the busy days, there are still plenty of special moments.”
I asked her if she had any advice for parents who might have recently received a similar diagnosis to Rosie’s.
“I know it’s hard to hear that the child you were expecting is not exactly what you had envisioned. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to mourn the loss of the child you thought you were going to have. But rest assured, there is so much beauty, happiness, and joy in store for you, it’s just in a different package than you planned on. Different is not bad. Different can be lovely.”
Please leave a comment in support of Melissa and her extraordinary family below.
This post is part of the “Extraordinary Families” series sponsored by Allstate. “Extraordinary Families” aims to show what life is like, sun up to sun down, for families facing (and overcoming!) unique and challenging circumstances. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated to protecting what matters most.