This year my sweet baby girl would be turning five! We had a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and severe congenital heart defects when I was about 22 weeks pregnant. Our little Gabby was our 3rd child and was born in July of 2009...amazing, beautiful, and perfect. She touched so many lives while she was here on Earth. She was adored by her big sisters who helped care for her every day. I was so thrilled to be her mother and her advocate! I knew I could never deserve such a gift, but I was determined to do all I could to try. Gabby was very loved by friends, family, and church family. She taught us all so much about unconditional love and acceptance.
Sadly, severe and rare complications developed after her open-heart surgery. She died in my arms, two days later. She was almost 4.5 mos old. My life was forever changed by her life and by her death. Since her passing, I have spent many hours advocating for babies and children with Down syndrome and heart defects. I have counseled many expectant mothers facing a possible or confirmed DS diagnosis. I have provided them with info about resources available to them.
Having struggled with many years of infertility and the loss of a child, I have an extreme appreciation for the gift of life. Many expectant mothers with a confirmed Down syndrome diagnosis choose to terminate. Many also choose adoption. Many families are waiting to adopt children with Down syndrome. This is something so near and dear to my heart. There were never any fundraisers for my daughter even though I had wanted to take her to a better hospital for her surgery and could not afford the medical care out of state. My family has been through a lot. I have gone on to have two more children and I continue to be a strong advocate for babies and children with DS. Adoption is also something I have considered so many times over the years....more specifically Down syndrome adoption. In memory of my little Gabby and in celebration of her 5th birthday, I am starting the Gabrielle Rae Merrick Memorial Down Syndrome Adoption Grant Fund to help aid families that want to adopt a child with DS but have some financial challenges. Please give in memory of my baby girl. This would be an amazing way to keep her memory alive and help some wonderful families and babies at the same time.