Jeff and Sonia McGarrity’s third child was born with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) — and they felt called to adopt three more with the condition.
Just one verse each day.
The story of the McGarrity family began in 2001. That’s when Jeff first met Sonia. After getting married in 2003, the couple welcomed their first two children, first Thomas and then Sean, into the world. Between the two, they had a miscarriage, and that’s when Sonia first considered adoption, However, then Sean came along and the thought took a back seat.
Then Jeffrey Jr. was born, and the news that he had Trisomy 21 took them completely by surprise. (Live Action reports that the family prefers to avoid the term “Down syndrome” because of the prejudices and stigma attached to it.) However, they took the news well. Sonia told Colorado Parent:
I had been around children with special needs, and there was something in their parents and their siblings that was soft — something that helped them to have a compassion I didn’t see in other families. I wanted that for my family. I didn’t think about how hard it would be. I just saw compassion, and I wanted that.
Afterwards, in 2008, the couple welcomed Brendan into the world. Doctors told them that they wouldn’t be able to have any more children. Sonia and Jeff wanted a big family, so they considered adoption. They moved from Washington to Colorado, and they were so busy getting settled in that they postponed these plans for the future. After more miscarriages, Sonia began to wonder if God had another plan for their family.
“We were extremely busy, doing therapies, trying to find and remodel a house, and were not actively discerning adopting,” Sonia McGarrity tells Catholic News Agency (CNA).
“But, when Brendan was about two years old, I had had two miscarriages, and we were open to having more children. One thing that struck our hearts was to learn about Down syndrome,” she adds.
Jeff told Live Action, “We had gone through life with Jeffrey and kind of said to ourselves, ‘We can do this. God has given us the gifts and the support system we need to do this. So, why not offer to parent children whose birth parents got that prenatal diagnosis but could not, for whatever reason, see themselves parenting?’”
She contacted the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network. Mr. and Mrs. McGarrity spoke openly about their faith throughout the adoption process. Soon the couple was contacted by the biological parents of a girl named Cecilia, asking if they would like to create a new home for their daughter. They agreed.
“Nobody understands what these beautiful souls, with their unconditional love and acceptance of every single person they meet, can do,” Sonia says in an interview with Catholic News Agency.
“It’s about opening your heart to say, ‘God, I want to love as much as you will give me love. We are surrounded by love and opportunities to love,” she explains.
“Little love machines”
Soon Sonia became pregnant with another child, whom they named Augustine, whose birth was relatively uneventful. But five kids weren’t enough for them… They went on to adopt RoseMarie and Charlotte, both with Down syndrome. “When we brought RoseMarie home, we took the sweetest picture of our boys gathered around our girls. The kids have been great to each other,” Jeff told Colorado Parent.
“We didn’t think we could handle it, but obviously we can because she’s ours,” McGarrity says with a laugh. “There is this beautiful thing that happens when you meet your [adopted] child where you are like, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s mine.’ God knows who your children are going to be and he picks you specifically to parent them,” Sonia explains to CNA.
She admits that she feels God’s blessing over their family. She calls her kids “little love machines.”
Sharing their experience
Mr. and Mrs. McGarrity help other parents who are expecting the birth of children with Down syndrome. They offer their advice, talking openly about their parenting experience and the challenges they will face. Sonia told CNA:
Our goal has always been to say, “If you are a birth parent and you have a prenatal diagnosis, come and meet our family. Come and see what life is like. Because there is this sort of unknown with a stigma attached, and what doctors are telling you, that makes it difficult to decide whether to parent or write an adoption plan.”
The mom of eight explains that the most important thing she has to do every day is to love her children and be a support for them. She says that her husband, friends, and neighbors help her with daily chores. “I have a wonderful husband. Everybody who knows us says we make a great team. Our new thing is that every morning when he wakes up, he comes downstairs, gives me a big hug, and he says, ‘Are you ready to do it again today?’ It reminds me that whatever comes our way, we can tackle it, we can take it, and I’m not alone,” Sonia tells CNA.
Jeff works as music director at St. Thomas More Church in Centennial, Colorado. The family prays together. They end each day with Compline, praying for each other, and asking each other for forgiveness before going to bed.
“My only job is to get myself and my kids to heaven. I just do the next thing,” Sonia McGarrity told CNA. The couple says that they are open to adopting another child with Down syndrome. “Each day is a new challenge — and an adventure. I watch our family, I watch the older kids take care of the younger kids, and I think to myself, ‘What a blessing,’” Jeff comments.