It was less common than it used to be in the 1990s for a single adult woman to be shunned when she became pregnant out of wedlock, but that’s what happened to Lisa Newtop. Even though she was 30 years old with a long-term boyfriend, many of her friends pulled away. The reason? Lisa has Down Syndrome, the most common chromosomal disorder. Her friends’ parents were afraid she’d be a bad influence.
It used to be common for people with Down Syndrome to be forcibly sterilized. Thankfully that is no longer the case, but it’s still rare for them to start their own families. However, Lisa had a pillar of unwavering support to help her bring her son into the world: her own mom, Patti.
Patti told TODAY that she was herself relatively newly married when Lisa’s bombshell news took her by surprise. She and her new husband Norm had plans to travel and see the world. Then she got a voicemail message from her daughter.
“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,’” Patti said.
In shock, she listened to the message three times, then called Lisa’s social worker for confirmation. The grandmother-to-be was totally bowled over. She was even afraid her husband Norm would leave her if she committed to helping Lisa raise the baby.
“This was way more than he had bargained for,” she said. But Norm was ready to stand by his woman, her daughter, and their unborn grandchild. “He looked at me and he said, ‘No matter what you decide to do, I’m going to be there for you,’” Patti recalled.
The loss of support from Lisa’s community of friends with Down Syndrome was painful. “They were afraid that Lisa would influence their daughters. And that was very lonely for her,” says Patti. She and Norm jumped into action to provide added support for Lisa, including hiring a doula to teach her about pregnancy and childbirth.
On February 10, 1996, Lisa and her boyfriend Tim joyously welcomed a baby boy, Nic, who also has Down Syndrome. Lisa took to motherhood naturally in many respects, Patti says, but she had a hard time when Nic would cry. “She assumed he was in pain, and she felt responsible,” Patti says. “She couldn’t grasp that babies just cry, often for no reason at all.”