As reported by TODAY.com, at 30 years old, with a steady job and boyfriend, Lisa Newtop learned she was pregnant. But the news wasn’t received well by everyone. She even lost some friends. But with the support of her mother Patti and her stepfather Norm, Lisa — who has Down syndrome — gave birth to her son who is now 27 years old.
The United States has a history of forcibly sterilizing people with Down syndrome to prevent them from having children. While this sort of eugenic practice no longer routinely happens today, the idea that someone with Down syndrome can be a parent is still unacceptable to naysayers. So when Lisa became pregnant, she endured strong disapproval.
Despite the criticism, Lisa gave birth to her son Nic, who also has Down syndrome — and with support, has successfully raised him.
“I am proud of my son,” she told TODAY.com.
Adjusting to the news
Her mother recalled the day she learned about the pregnancy. “I was checking my messages at work, and there was this message from Lisa saying, ‘Hi, mom. I just wanted to call to let you know that you’re going to be the grandmother.'”
A call to Lisa’s social worker confirmed the good news, but it didn’t feel like good news at the time. Friends were telling Patti that the baby should be placed for adoption. And Patti knew that her future traveling plans with Norm were likely no longer going to happen.
“[Lisa’s friends’] families deserted us,” said Patti. “They were afraid that Lisa would influence their daughters. And that was very lonely for her.”
In addition, she said, “A lot of people, even close friends said, ‘Patti, you shouldn’t take this on, you can do an open adoption and remain in the baby’s life. People definitely expressed concern.”
Norm and Patti (who was 48 when Lisa gave birth) drove from Sacramento to Napa where Lisa was living with support services and working 32 hours a week. “I couldn’t imagine placing the baby for adoption, and the whole way there, I was thinking, ‘Norm is going to leave me.’ We had only been married a few years at that point. This was way more than he had bargained for.”
But Norm wasn’t going anywhere. He told her he would be by her side while she helped Lisa raise her baby.
Lisa and her boyfriend Tim welcomed baby Nic in February 1996 and moved to Sacramento to be closer to Patti and Norm. Though her mother said Lisa mostly took naturally to motherhood, there were some challenges.
“The hardest thing for Lisa is that she’s very sensitive, and when Nic would cry, she assumed he was in pain, and she felt responsible. She couldn’t grasp that babies just cry, often for no reason at all,” said Patti.
Patti lined up assistance for Lisa, including a specialist to help her learn how to choose age-appropriate toys for Nic. And Lisa was responsible for Nic’s diaper bag, but Patti would tape a note to it listing the items that Lisa would need to pack. Lisa also breastfed Nic for a time, prepared formula for him, and changed his diapers.
Twenty-seven years later, Nic feels he has two moms: Lisa and Patti. His father Tim died from a heart condition when Nic was only five years old; Norm, whom Nic called ‘Dad’, died in 2021 from cancer.
“I’m lucky because I have two moms,” said Nic, who lives with Patti while Lisa lives nearby.
Nic graduated from the Wayfinders Program at California State University, Fresno, and became an actor, appearing in movies and television shows. He feels ready to move out on his own. He enjoys writing scripts, and Patti is encouraging him to write a script about himself and Lisa, now 57, who was recently diagnosed with dementia.
Patti, now 75, worries about what will happen to Lisa and Nic when she’s gone.
“That is the billion dollar question for any person who has a disabled offspring, and I’m not satisfied with my answer at this moment,” Patti says. “I am still exploring and trying to create and discover the right situation.”
Parenting with Down syndrome
It may be rare to see individuals with Down syndrome as parents, due to both societal pressures and fertility issues that men with Down syndrome can have. Just like anyone else, people with Down syndrome have a range of skills and abilities unique to them. And Lisa is not the only person with Down syndrome to raise a child.
Sader Issa, a dentist, was raised by a father who has Down syndrome. Jad Issa was like any other father, working hard to provide for his family. Issa’s parents have been married for more than two decades.
“A child who grows up in the lap of a person with Down syndrome will have all the love and tenderness that anyone can offer,” said Issa in a video shared by Symphony homeland. “This will lead up to a person who has an emotional and social well balance and is able to achieve anything he wants.”
Did you know that as little as $10 a month is enough to reach more than 3,000 people with the truth about abortion that no one else is telling them? Click here to start saving lives 365 days a year.