Michele Dynia, 40, yearned to have a child but worried about the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. Women who are 35 or older are more likely to have a pregnancy affected by the condition. When Dynia, who lives in Strongsville, Ohio, decided to go ahead with artificial insemination, doctors discovered her fetus had Down syndrome — news that changed her outlook and life. Dynia shared her story with TODAY.com.
Everybody assumes that you get married in your mid-20s and have kids by 30. It didn’t happen for me that way. I spent more time single than I did in relationships. Then I noticed in the last five years or so that guys my age already had children, which was fine. But whenever I would mention that I still wanted to have a child of my own, you’d kind of get that deer-in-the-headlights look. They didn’t want to start over again with another baby.
I struggled to find somebody who had that same desire to still have a child and that’s when I said, let’s just do this on my own. I always joked with my family that if I turned 35 and was still single, I would try artificial insemination. Then 35 came and went and I thought, what am I waiting for at this point? I don’t want to miss the opportunity to be able to have children.
But I had Down syndrome on my mind. I knew that after 35, your chances for having a baby with Down syndrome went up; and after 40, they went up even more. I was afraid of it. I didn’t want my child to have it because there are so many health complications. They have a lot to overcome and I didn’t want those obstacles for my child.
Still, I underwent artificial insemination on Nov. 10, 2020. I used a sperm bank so the donor was a complete stranger. There was a 10% chance of the procedure working, but I was able to conceive on the first try.
The second the procedure was done, I just knew I was pregnant. It was the anniversary of my grandma’s death and I knew it was because of her and I knew it was going to be a girl. I truly believe everything about what happened from that point on was meant to be.
At about 12 weeks into the pregnancy, I underwent non-invasive prenatal testing. I didn’t really think anything of it. I just figured, OK, I’ll find out if I’m having a boy or girl sooner.
The results said there was a 93% chance my child had Down syndrome. When I got that call, my whole world just started spinning. I don’t even remember everything the girl said to me on the phone because my brain just went to mush. It was my worst nightmare at the time.
An ultrasound found the fetus didn’t have a nasal bone, another marker of Down syndrome.
Exactly one time, I was asked, “What do you want to do?” and I took that to mean: Do I want to have an abortion or not? For that fraction of a second, you think, I could do that. But then, like instantly, I knew that there was no chance that I would ever take that route. I wanted this baby more than anything. That’s when my father looked at me and said, “We love this baby no matter what.”
Delaney was born on July 11, 2021. I prayed for a healthy baby and I ended up with a healthy baby. She was born with three holes in her heart, but they were all super tiny and closed on their own.
She’s the biggest blessing I could have ever hoped for. I needed every single thing about her, every extra chromosome — I just didn’t know it.
She is my whole world. The girl is such a ray of light. It doesn’t matter how bad of a day I’m having, all I have to do is see her and all my troubles melt away. It’s just me and that little girl and I couldn’t ask for more.
Sometimes, I’m just speechless at how amazing and determined she is for being 16 months old. Occupational therapy comes to my house in the evenings and they will work on her with something and the next day, she’s doing what they wanted her to do.
People associate Down syndrome with negativity, so I started an Instagram page for her called “goingupnotdowns” to advocate, educate and break down stereotypes. I love sharing her with the world. I want everybody to love her as much as I do.
Cleveland has a mural that says “More Alike Than Different” to celebrate people with different abilities and I think that really hits home to what I’m trying to do.
I want people to accept children with Down syndrome. I worry about bullying. I’ve had some negative comments on her Instagram and it just scares me for the real world and when she’s in school.
I hope she has friends who accept her for exactly who she is. I want people to understand what a child with Down syndrome looks like. I want them to see her. I want them to see how she grows. I want the mom who gets the diagnosis that I did to not be as afraid as I was.
If there’s one mom out there who sees my page and says, "That’s what my child can be," then my mission is accomplished.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.