Today, Marc-Antoine lives on the side of a mountain, splitting his days between the daycare where he works as an early childhood educator and the trails where he trains for high-endurance races.
So, what happened between then and now?
The birth of a perfect little human.
Ten days after Noah arrived, amidst the emotional whirlwind all new parents experience, they discovered that an extra chromosome had also joined their family. Noah was diagnosed with trisomy 21 without a single warning sign.
At that very moment, Marc-Antoine bought his first pair of running shoes. “I needed an escape hatch,” he said. “Physical activity was never really a part of my life, but I had to do something. To think more clearly. To step into my new reality. To stop thinking so much – to get out of my mind and into my body.”
“Running has been a learning experience. During my first run, I made it 500 meters before tapping out. I learned to grow within the sport because it was an easy way for me to ground myself in the present moment and take things one day at a time.”
He clocked one kilometer after the other, all the way up until March 21 2022 – World Trisomy 21 Day – when his Run for Noah initiative brought him to New York. Marc-Antoine ran from the Big Apple all the way back to his house in Bromont. More than 700 km in 7 days. The equivalent of 17 marathons to raise funds and spread awareness about the lived experiences of children like Noah.
“When Carolanne and I had Noah, we didn’t know a single person living with Down’s Syndrome. We had never really been around children with special needs. Questions and fears filled my mind. From the start, we were fortunate to have a lot of help, which gave us the time to process and find our bearings. It was immediately clear to me that I needed to find a way to help other families and pay it forward.”
This is exactly what Noah’s dad does while he runs, but it’s also what motivated him to change his career. “Every day at school, Noah has someone who helps him out. So I thought to myself, why can’t I be that person for another child? Whether or not they have special needs, they all have their own unique challenges.” And that’s how Marc-Antoine became an early childhood educator.
“My life with my tiny humans and Noah is very active. My daily mountain run is a way to recharge my batteries and be fully available for my family. Living with Noah is a whirlwind from morning ‘til night, for better and for worse. I need that time with myself.”
When does Marc-Antoine feel his very best? “I step into my true nature for 20 minutes every day. It’s a fleeting moment in my routine that stays with me all day long. I get up before sunrise and head out on my own, with my headlamp, to run to the top of my mountain. I watch the sunrise, breathe in the fresh air. I start my day surrounded by nature. And then I come back home energized. Just in time to see Noah and June, running into my arms to wish me good morning. Those 20 minutes – my heart filled with nature and my kid’s smiles. That’s bliss. That’s why I do what I do.”
Marc-Antoine learned to follow his true nature thanks to the genetic lottery. “Noah was the one who showed me what it really means to be authentic. Nothing makes me more proud than sharing Noah with the world. That’s my boy. I think he was brought into our lives to challenge us to live our true nature every day. There are no half measures with Noah – he never masks his true self and he never will. If we need to turn right but he wants to go left, he goes left. He follows his instincts.
My daughter and the 16 children in my class also teach me how to be authentic. They haven’t yet learned how to filter what they think and who they are. It makes me wonder: why do adults wear masks sometimes? What stops us from embracing our differences?”
For Marc-Antoine, openness is nurtured through education. That’s why he’s made it his mission to start the conversation about trisomy 21. “At the age of 4, my daughter June is already so grounded. Living with her big brother – and being raised to make her own choices and follow her heart – has imparted a sensitivity and openness in her that will lead her to forge her own path. That’s my hope for her.”
Noah taught his parents to follow their true nature. And they decided to apply that lesson in all areas of their lives. “It might sound cliché, but I think the most important thing is to try. If an idea crosses your mind, it’s worth giving it a shot. The worst that can happen is failure. Then, you try something else. That’s how we grow.”
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