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Ashley Shupe

A SHUPE SNAPSHOT: A self-described “Fort Worth girl,” Shupe graduated from Texas Tech in 2001, and soon after, married longtime college beau Ryan. The family had their first child, daughter Ella in September 2005, and just 23 months later (August 2007), welcomed son Hudson, who has Down syndrome as well as a heart condition. Shupe is a stay-at-home mom and a committee member for the LEAP Frog Benefit, a fundraiser for KinderFrogs (an early childhood education center at TCU that specializes in programs for children with disabilities).

BACKPACK FULL OF HOPE: “My husband and I learned of Hudson’s heart condition and Down syndrome when he was born. So when we took him home, we were thrown into paperwork and doctors’ appointments. It was overwhelming to say the least. My best friend’s mom worked at TCU, and she picked up a backpack from KinderFrogs that was filled with books about Down syndrome and enrollment paperwork [for KinderFrogs]. This small act of help and understanding gave us a support team and the encouragement we’ve needed to adjust as parents.”

“He has changed me in ways I will never truly be able to explain. His health caused me to look at myself from the inside out, and I didn’t really like what I saw. I had a lot of insecurities within myself that I never would have known (and overcome) if God hadn’t given me Hudson. I look at him and I don’t see Down syndrome—he is just my amazing little blonde-headed baby boy.”

BIG SIS, BIG LOVE: “I take Ella into Hudson’s school every morning and let her observe and play with the other children with Down syndrome. I let her talk about her thoughts and questions when she wants to. She’s just now starting to understand what Down syndrome is. [She] helps out [with Hudson] just by being herself—she’s so encouraging and full of energy. She is excited about every little accomplishment. We do have to give her extra attention and love sometimes because we focus a lot of our energy on Hudson. We just want her to feel proud of her brother and to know that being different isn’t a bad thing. ”

BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS: “We knew we had to be proactive with this little boy. He started the program [KinderFrogs] at 18 months old and three months in he was walking … eating on his own. It was phenomenal. … [The school] helps each child reach their full functional potential, which is critical to integration into a regular public school kindergarten class.”

ONE THING YOU’RE THANKFUL FOR: “My minister told us of another couple who had just had a baby with DS … we got the Spike’s phone number, and after a week out, Karen and I talked on the phone.  We instantly became best friends. Both of our boys are at KinderFrogs … our husbands have a part-time personal training business together.” And, “It’s truly an awesome thing to find close friends through all of experience good and bad.”

“I honestly don’t think I would do anything differently. I still would not have done any testing for Down syndrome during my pregnancy and I’m glad I had to cope with my feelings as they came along. It was a process that got me to where I am today; I feel like I didn’t really know myself before Hudson. The whole experience made me a little more of an open book and more compassionate towards others.”

THE LAST WORD: “Down syndrome is just something Hudson has; it is not who he is. I would tell every mother to be proactive and to conquer your feelings by talking honestly and openly with your spouse, your best friends, doctors/professionals and most importantly God. Then, once you have dealt with your feelings, love that baby and be a strong and encouraging mother. Put your game face on and make it ‘go’ time. I know that sounds funny but I have to pump myself up sometimes and those are the exact words I would use. ‘Get pumped up, its go time!’ Time doesn’t stop, so you shouldn’t either.”