My wife calls me a cynic.

I call it being a realist. I have always been the type of person who has taken in information from a safe distance. Whether it be new people, places, or things, I have always taken my time to warm towards a state of acceptance, always prepared for whatever I get. Let’s call it cautious.

Regardless of semantics I have found that in the last 15 months or so, my outlook has changed quite dramatically.

I am blessed to be a father of two beautiful little girls: Easton, 4, and Graceyn, 11 months. They are my babies, my girls, the best things I have ever experienced. Easton is your typical 4 year-old: spunky, smart, silly, happy, stubborn. Graceyn is just as silly, smart, silly, and stubborn as her sister, but she has an added trait: a third copy of her 21st chromosome.

Graceyn Smith LaughsWe found out that Graceyn would be born with Down Syndrome in week 15/16 of Brooke’s pregnancy. Needless to say, it was an unexpected discovery. We had a good cry about it in the perinatalogosist’s office, but after that I resolved to be tough. After all, the father figures have to be strong, right? I wasn’t devastated at the news, as I knew it was something I could handle.

Several months and a perfect pregnancy later Graceyn was born. She was perfect: beautiful blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair. We were elated to have another little one in the house and, after some warming up, Easton was excited to be a big sister.

Once settled back home, I decided to create a Facebook page that would enable friends and family to follow Graceyn development and as a tool to educate people about Down Syndrome. Unbeknownst to me, this was the beginning of the end of my cynicism.

Graceyn had a normal first month-and-a-half, but then she began to experience expected setbacks; Graceyn was born with Complete AV Canal, a congenital heart defect that was detected during the pregnancy. Towards the end of February Graceyn experienced her first episode of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and wound up in Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) for a weekend stay. As I diligently updated her Facebook page for friends and family the support poured in, which was not unexpected.

Graceyn SmithWe found ourselves back at PCH in March dealing with another CHF, but this time for an extended stay. We ended up being at PCH for 2.5 weeks and, with each Facebook update I noticed something odd: people we didn’t know began sending encouraging comments and messages. More and more people began to follow Graceyn’s journey.

Graceyn’s surgery was successfully completed on the 6th of June: D-Day, or as I call it, H-Day. Throughout the day, update by update, encouragement was offered from as far away as Australia by people we would probably never meet. This continued throughout Graceyn’s recovery. The change began gradually. With each setback and each corresponding note of encouragement I began to soften, absorbing the love for my daughter until I began to be moved, literally, to tears. No matter how long or short the note, my spirit glowed. The fact that so many people, so many strangers, had become invested in my little girl’s life and well-being was overwhelming. The person who once hesitated to believe the sincerity of others was long gone.

God used my little girl to break me and then remake my heart. The love shown for her opened up a new world for me.