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Fargo mother told to abort baby with Down syndrome, now advocating for acceptance

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:00 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Every year, 6,000 children are born in the United States with Down syndrome, making it one of the most common chromosomal disorders according to the CDC.

However, one mother’s life in Fargo is anything but common as she raises her youngest child with Down syndrome all on her own, but she turned helplessness into hope.

As 1-year-old Amara plays the xylophone at GiGi’s Playhouse in Fargo, you might notice how she plays the notes to an unfamiliar tune.

“I was devastated, I cried for weeks,” mother Jillian Baumgartner says. “I was scared.”

When then 28-year-old Baumgartner was pregnant, she learned through pre-natal testing that her baby had Down syndrome, sending her anxiety “sky high.”

After multiple tests and confirmation of the diagnosis, life got even harder for Baumgartner, Amara’s father decided he wanted nothing to do with his child.

“Right away he was like abortion, abortion, abortion,” Baumgartner says ,”You cannot bring this kid into this world. I will make you regret it the rest of your life. It was really hard.”

Baumgartner was then left on her own, raising one daughter at home, working and now another child on the way--she was praying she could just get through it all, until that moment in the delivery room when she knew everything would be ok.

“They brought her back and she was crying and I was just so thankful that she was crying,” Baumgartner says.

From the delivery room, the journey got harder, doctors later learned Amara had congestive heart failure. The family went back to the hospital as Amara had open heart surgery, then they were sent to a hospital in the Twin Cities to recover.

“That first year was very hard,” Baumgartner says.

Eventually, Amara overcame the heart problems and now her recovering heart is stealing ours and changing her mothers.

“I don’t know what I was so scared for,” Baumgartner beams.

Now the nearly 2-year-old child goes to GiGi’s Playhouse in Fargo, a Down syndrome achievement center in Fargo where families can get the help they need, all for free.

“When you meet these people who are on the same path as you, it really means a million to you.”

Life can still be a struggle for Baumgartner, but with her faith and support from others in the same situation, she’s happily playing along to the tune her daughter creates.

“I still ask Him (God) why me, but now it’s for a different reason, it’s why am I so lucky?”

On Thursday, March 11, GiGi’s Playhouse Fargo held a virtual gala to pay for programs to help more families. If you would like to help families with individuals with Down syndrome, you can donate to the playhouse here.

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