This Grey’s Anatomy Star Talks About How Her Daughter’s Down Syndrome Changed Her Perception of Being a Mom

The cast of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy has handled every kind of trauma, health condition, and illness over the past 15 seasons. Yet one cast member is dealing with a genetic disorder in real life with her baby daughter, and shared how it changed her view of motherhood.

“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Caterina Scorsone | Byron Cohen/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Initial reactions

Caterina Scorsone, who plays Dr. Amelia Shepherd on the medical drama, is the mother of two daughters – Eliza, 7, and Paloma, 2. “When I had Eliza, I think what I unconsciously thought about my job as a mother was that I was supposed to equip her to survive in a competitive world,” the actress said on the “Motherly” podcast, according to “My job was to make sure that she was educated and that she was able and that she had all of the skills that she needed.”

When Scorsone’s daughter Paloma – whom she calls ‘Pippa’ – was diagnosed with Down syndrome, she and her husband Rob Giles weren’t sure of what their next steps were supposed to be as parents. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, I don’t know what I am as a mother, how do I mother this child?” Scorsone recalled of her initial response at the diagnosis. “If my job isn’t to equip her to compete or dominate socially, educationally or physically or economically — if I’m not just supposed to be helping her do that, what is a mother, what is my job?”

A life-changing realization

The actress openly discussed her thought process on beginning to raise a child with special needs, bravely realizing some qualities about her current parenting style with her oldest daughter. “I saw how I was loving my first daughter, Eliza, for her qualities,” Scorsone said. “I loved Eliza so much because she was so clever, and she was so beautiful and she was so funny … but all those things were external qualities.”

The revelations Scorsone was experiencing made her change her entire perspective not just on how she viewed her children, but others in her life. “It forced me to realize that I was loving my (older) daughter and everyone —including myself — for absolutely the wrong reason,” she shared on the podcast. “I was loving people for their external qualities and not for their essence.”

This epiphany brought her to the greatest realization of all in how to be the best mom to Pippa. “This simple voice came to me where I was like … Oh, I’m supposed to keep her safe and I’m supposed to make her feel loved,'” Scorsone recalled. “And suddenly my understanding of my job as a mother completely distilled and opened.” Scorsone added that the change in mindset “was the most healing and nourishing gift that I could have possibly been given by the universe.”

Building a community

Scorsone has also shared her hope for others on changing the perspective of having a child with Down syndrome, or any other type of developmental challenge. “I want to help people expand their understanding of what it is to love a person who isn’t ‘typical’ or who is living with a disability,” she told Webmd. “Down syndrome is a genetic variation, and there are lots of genetic variations. There isn’t one particular way that a person should be to have value. Life with Pippa is one of the richest gifts our family has ever received.”

The Grey’s Anatomy star also stressed the importance of accessing the community of parents of children with the same special needs. “They helped me realize that parenting a child with Down syndrome is just a learning curve as with any child. And they have so many helpful insights, like the best places to get physical therapy,” she said.

Scorsone also commented in the interview that Pippa’s relationship with big sister Eliza is very typical. “We wondered if Pippa having Down syndrome would affect things between them, but it has really unfolded just like any other sibling relationship,” she shared.

The actress was also asked about having any similarities to the character she plays on the ABC hit medical drama, where she expressed that she is very different from Amelia. “We’re alike in eye color, height, and facial structure — that’s about it!” Scorsone said. “One of the things I really like about acting is that it helps people develop their capacity for empathy and compassion. Her character began as someone facing addiction and trauma, and over time we’ve taken her from being stuck in her trauma to someone who’s being of service to others. I love portraying that journey of healing.”

We’ll be seeing more of Scorsone as Dr. Amelia Shepherd when Grey’s Anatomy returns for season 16!