Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Anthony's Birth Story- Part 1

I have been avoiding writing this post for a while now. I know it needs to be written, it is the main purpose of creating my blog. It’s just.. .every time I sit down to type, my heart begins to beat faster, a lump forms in my throat, and I am immediately brought back to that exact moment. Reliving that moment, my son’s birth, is one of the hardest things in the world. It should be the most amazing story in the world, one that you enjoy telling a hundred times to everyone you meet…but, not me. That’s not how our story began. I had my phone off for a few days after his birth because it was just too hard to wrap my head around. How was I going to tell everyone? How could I make myself relive it over again? Well, finally after over a month, I chose today. I am sitting bravely here at my computer, ready to open my heart up to the world. With my baby at my side, I have the strength to share our story. This is the honest, amazing, scary, emotional, and wonderful story of my son Anthony’s birth.

It seems like everything about my life has gone according to plan. Until now, I have never liked living moment by moment. I enjoyed having everything planned out, so I knew what was going to happen next. I liked planning ahead for the future. I now realize that this is not the way to live life, but I didn’t know that back then.  I didn’t know that everything about my life was about to drastically change. My plans were about to be left in the dust while we started our new journey down an unmarked road.  

My pregnancy, surprisingly, was almost enjoyable. I didn’t have any complications, and aside from the occasional complaining that all bloated, and uncomfortable pregnant women do, I really had it easy. (My husband has told me that I complained a little more than I thought, but I think I did a good job keeping it well contained, ha!)  Throughout the eight and a half months my days were consumed with preparing for Anthony to arrive. Every spare moment I was on Pinterest finding the newest project I needed to do before Anthony came. Anthony was going to be the first born grandchild for both my family, and Joe’s. He was the first born in our group of friends too. Everyone had dreams of what this little boy was going to be, and what he was going to do. My husband and I had big plans for Anthony. We would sit and imagine how amazing our lives were going to be.  Anthony was going to be a great hockey player, and my husband was going to teach him everything he knew. I pictured my son going to school and making everyone so proud with what he would accomplish.

After two previous early labor visits to the hospital, my husband and I felt like we practically lived there. So, when we went for the third time that week, we were honestly expecting to be sent home baby-less again. When the nurse told me that we were going to stay and get everything started, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Everything I had planned for, everything I dreamed about… it was about to happen today! I was hours away from meeting my son! My birth plan was to try and deliver without any type of drugs. I decided very early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to be completely natural. I did not take any medications, or receive any vaccinations during the pregnancy. However, I really overestimated my tolerance for pain. When my contractions became stronger and closer together I tried all the techniques that you read about. I focused on an object, practiced breathing, and counted through them in my mind. Let me just tell you, nothing worked. Every time a contraction came on, I felt like I wanted to rip my skin off! So, after a few long hours of contractions, I decided to abandon my original birth plan. Bring on the epidural! Once I got the epidural, the whole process became enjoyable. I was able to sit and talk to my husband without screaming at him to hold my hand. We were able to soak up the excitement in the room as everything was being prepared for Anthony’s arrival.  

Once the Doctor came in and told me I was ready, everything seemed to happen so fast. I pushed for forty-five minutes, but it honestly seemed a lot shorter than that. Thank goodness for the epidural because I couldn’t feel anything.  Joe held one leg and the nurse the other (My brave husband for witnessing it all and still loving me all the same after!). Then it was time to push! The only pain I felt was in my head, literally. I thought it was going to pop off from the pressure of holding my breath and pushing for ten seconds during every contraction. I swear the nurse counted slower than anyone I have ever heard before.

Let me rewind for one second before typing what comes next. Before all of the pushing and head popping off pain, the nurse asked me if I would want my son put on my chest right after delivering him. I told her, “Of course! There is nothing I would love more than that bonding time!” She said, “Wonderful, we will most definitely do that, if everything is okay with him.” I seriously didn’t even hear that last part, because I was just so excited to finally hold my son. I had seen his face in ultrasounds, and 3-D ultrasounds, but I couldn’t wait to meet him and have this immediate bond that every mother gushes about. What could go wrong…?

I remember pushing him out.
I remember feeling so amazing.
I remember Joe fumbling to cut the cord.
I remember my son not crying.
 I remember seeing his face for a split second before he was taken to the other side of the room. . . he looked different.
Why did he look different?
Why wasn’t he crying?

And then everything started to go black. I can honestly say I don’t remember everything that happened after that point. It all happened so fast, yet my world stood still. I couldn’t breathe.

I so badly wanted to know what was going on, but no one in the room would answer me. It was as if I wasn’t there, I didn’t exist. What was going on?

Then I heard him cry, I took a breath with him. Relief. Little did I know, it was my first breath as a different person. I would never be the same.  

That moment of relief slipped through my fingers faster than I could hold onto it.
Then everything about my world changed.

The nurses kept looking at each other with concerned faces, whispering. They wouldn’t tell us what was going on. He’s okay, right? … nothing.

I heard them ask my husband if we had the first trimester screening test done. Joe said no.

We didn't get the test done because insurance wouldn't cover it. No one had to tell me anything. I knew what that meant. I knew what they were trying to say. My son had Down Syndrome.

No. no. no. no… NO! This can’t be. Someone is wrong! I couldn’t breathe. I locked eyes with Joe. I wanted him to make it all better, make it not true!

People have talked about having an out of body experience before. I never understood really what that meant, until this moment. It was like I was above, looking down, watching this all happen. It wasn’t my life. I was completely removed from what was going on. They grabbed my finger to put on the birth certificate. They tried talking to me, no use. I wasn’t there.

Then two nurses in green scrubs came into the room, while I was still getting stitched up, before I held or even saw my son. The one nurse had a packet in her hands. She came closer to Joe and me. She asked if this was a good time to talk about Down Syndrome with us. A good time? A good time…was she serious? Then I came back into my body, full of anger. I wanted to jump off the bed and shake her. How could she not see how horrible she was being? We sent them out of the room.

They finally put my son on my chest.

No. this was not my life. I was supposed to be happy. I was supposed to look into his eyes, hold his little fingers and melt. I was supposed to be crying tears of joy, not sadness. I was supposed to wish him a happy birthday. I was supposed to be seeing the son I had imagined for eight and a half months.  

I wanted to press rewind. I wanted to go back to the time where nothing was wrong, and everything was as it should be.  I wanted to have the moment that other mothers get. I was robbed.

I knew that everyone was in the waiting room wanting to come back and see our son. My whole world had just collapsed. I didn’t have enough time to even wrap my head around what had happened. But, I knew they had to come in. 

With tears in his eyes, Joe went out to let them in. I don’t know how he found the courage or the strength. He told them all that our son was born with Down Syndrome before they came in. Everyone entered the room with red puffy eyes and tears rolling down their cheeks. These were different tears then I what I imagined before. The room quickly filled with all of the people I loved most. I was showered with hugs and kisses. They passed around Anthony and took pictures. I just went through the motions.

Then everyone left, and I was wheeled to my new room. It was just the three of us, a new family. It was quiet. Then I let everything go. I cried harder than I ever have in my life. Joe held me, and I held our son.
It wasn’t until I tried to feed him by myself for the first time, that I felt the bond. I looked deep into my son’s eyes, and he had me. I knew at that moment that everything was going to be just fine. It wasn’t the moment I had pictured in my mind, but it was ours. It was our amazing life. I wouldn’t let anything change that. My son was perfect.

I want to be honest for any other mother that may be going through these exact moments. I want you to know that it is okay to feel anything and everything you are feeling. You have to go through this in order to make it out okay on the other side. That’s where I am now. I’m in the most amazing place. I couldn’t imagine life without Anthony. I love him so much more than anything in this world, and I wouldn’t change his extra chromosome. It makes him special, it’s one more chromosome to love! But, like I said, you have to go through the bad to get to the good.

Over the next few days my emotions were never consistent. I went through a roller coaster of feelings I never knew I had. I would be overwhelmed with happiness in one moment, and then quickly slip into such unbelievable sadness. I felt:

*Grief. I mourned the loss of the son I imagined and planned for. – I realized that even though it isn’t the life I planned, it’s better. My life, because of Anthony, is going to be so much bigger and better than anything I could have imagined. We are blessed.

*Anger. Why me? Why did this happen to my family? Why Anthony? He doesn’t deserve to struggle in life. – I realized that my husband and I were chosen. We were picked to be Anthony’s parents because he was meant to be in this world. And, throughout any struggles or difficulties he may face in life, he will have two extremely supportive parents standing by his side.

*Fear. I was terrified of the world outside our supportive bubble. Will they love and accept Anthony as much as we do? Will they judge him before getting to know how amazing he is? - As Anthony’s mother I believe it is my duty to protect him. I will raise awareness. Down Syndrome is nothing to be scared or fearful of. I want to tell the world just how wonderful it is, and I will.

*Jealously. I was green with envy over any other mother in the hospital that got to have the experience they imagined. Why did they get to have everything work out just the way they planned, and not me?- Yes, I didn’t have those moments. But, I am having them now, times a million. I am experiencing life through different eyes, and Anthony is showing me just how beautiful it can be. I will be having my “moments” every day for the rest of my life thanks to him.

*Hurt. My heart ached when anyone would cry or apologize when we told them about Anthony. Is there something that we should be feeling sorry about? Don’t feel sorry for us, or anyone else that has been blessed with a child that has Down Syndrome. Instead, congratulate us. We are lucky to have an amazing son/daughter that can instantly change the lives of those around him/her for the better.


There was a lot that happened after experiencing the bonding moment with my son. Only hours after, he was taken away to the NICU because he couldn’t maintain his temperature, and was having a difficult time breathing. He spent two weeks in the NICU before he was strong enough to come home. The story of the NICU experience is another post for another day.

Please feel free to leave me a comment after reading Anthony’s birth story.  I hope I was able to help someone with my honesty. It will be okay. It is a beautiful life, and it’s better than we can imagine.

Keep reading, because I can’t wait to share our amazing life with the world. Not every post will be about Down Syndrome. Right now in our lives, we are living moment by moment… celebrating all of Anthony’s milestones along the way. We are enjoying being a family. Yes, there probably will be hard times down the road, but for now we have a beautiful healthy baby boy and we are experiencing the joys of having a new family...just as anyone else would.
Thanks for reading! 


  1. I am so lucky to have a friend like you, Kels! You bring such positive life and love to this world. Anthony is one lucky little boy to have you as a mommy, and I am one lucky auntie to have such an amazing little boy in my life! I love you guys! :) <3

  2. I know your Mother in Law Donna from growing up in SW Philly. This is an amazing story and I love that you wrote it all down! I agree with everything you say. I grew up with CF and my twins pregnancy was very complicated. However, I received a double lung transplant 7 years ago and my twins are 9...after doctors predicted the worse. Love and faith along with hope...live with them and they will get you thorough it all. God Bless you with a beautiful son! Congratulations!

  3. Kelsey, I don't know you (I know Joe's parents) but I'm about to be a new grandmom too in a few weeks. My daughter didn't have the triple screen either because she knew they couldn't/wouldn't change anything anyway and reading this just solidifies this choice even more. I want to thank you for sharing this amazing story for us and for baring and sharing your heart and soul to us all. Because I know that's what your son is to you..your heart and soul. Your story is filled with honesty,love and hope for everyone who reads it! I wish you nothing but love and joy..there is no bond like a mother and son (or daughter). Thank you again for sharing! Enjoy that beautiful baby boy. I look forward to the pictures that Grammy posts!

  4. hi kelsey! i hope you & joe remember me from GV.. just wanted to say that 1. i love your writing 2. CONGRATS! on both your marriage (i'm a little late haha) and of course anthony! you two will be awesome parents and 3. i hope in your internet searching you've come across "enjoying the small things" by kelle hampton - her daughter's birth story reminds me of yours :) - looking forward to reading more, because i know the writing will be great- and anthony's story will be even greater

    - jacqui german

  5. Hi Kelsey and Joe,
    First of all let me start out by saying what a perfect little bundle of Joy you have brought into the world!!! Welcome Anthony and I can wait to meet You! I have a 54 year old Brother in law with Down Syndrome,he was born number 9 out of 11 children! When I tell you, the room lights up every time Brian walks in! He is the excitement of every party because he loves life! Loves to eat,Loves to Dance,kisses all the girls and even gets away with giving them a little pat on the butt! LOL He is so much fun!!
    We are Friends with The Vacarino's,Your Father and Mother-in-Law from Southwest Philly!
    Our daughter Brooke is best fiends with Sandra and I have meet your hubby at many parties over at the Vacarino's throughtout the years! Enjoy every moment with your gift from God! He is Beautiful!!!
    Lots of Hugs and Kisses
    Cathy Hetherington

  6. Kelsey I met you and your parents at Johns graduation party, I first would like to say congrats on the birth of Anthony. I do believe god has a reason for everything and he chose two wonderful and loving parents for Anthony. I see the pictures that Donna post and Anthony is already being spoiled and loved. I will continue my prayers for you and your family so that your journey will be an easy one. I look forward to reading updates about Anthony and thank you for sharing your story.

  7. U don't know me, I know Donna & Joe and have for years. Yes I am one of those SWP People. I just had to tell u how amazing & beautifully written this is. How honest u have been. U, Lit. Joe, and ur families have been given a wonderful gift to love, learn, guide & help not only that beautiful little boy Anthony, but others like him and their families. I would like to thank U for sharing and will be following the journey that's ahead for all of U. May God Bless and keep U all safe. Kelly Tillett Dougherty

  8. You wrote exactly what I felt 13 years ago when my daughter, Shannon, came into my life. Your words took me back there. Those first few days were the toughest; I didn't know I could cry that hard for so long. And there are still some emotional moments here and there but it's mostly all great. You'll gain an entirely different perspective about what's really important. Enjoy every moment!
    Annie (McShane) Baker - SWP

  9. Kelsey & Family, Congratulations on the birth of your perfect, beautiful, baby boy, Anthony!! Kelsey, I enjoyed, so much, reading every tender, loving & honest word of your blog. I must admit, it touched me so that I did shed some tears, but they were happy ones :) You should be so proud of yourself that you are already helping others!! I have never met Joe... From what I have heard through the years as I have rotated from school to school working at GVSD is that his interaction with special needs students has been wonderful & he has made a difference in their lives!! Anthony is exactly where he should be in the care of such loving, nurturing parents! I look forward to reading your future blogs & enjoying the pics you post of your handsome, little guy, Anthony as he grows!!!

  10. Hello Kelsey:

    You don't know me, my daughter Whitney went to high school with your husband. Seems like oh so long ago! lol
    First and foremost, I congratulate you and Joe on your absolutely beautiful son! He truly is perfect!
    Though we have never met, after reading this beautifully written, honest and raw blog I feel like I've known you forever. I congratulate you on your honesty and willingness to tell such an amazing story and in the process you are raising awareness and understanding of Down Syndrome. They say God only gives you what you can handle. I know this amazing little boy has a purpose in this life and after reading this I am convinced that the three of you will not only find that purpose together but you will do it with much love, courage and grace. Thank you for being so inspiring! ~ Lynn Silva

  11. Hi there :)

    I found your response on the Bump (to the amnio question) and I was so relieved you posted there. I'm not a mom or expecting; my husband and I are just talking about it right now, but it's good to take a look at things and get information.

    Anyway, back on track, I was so glad that you talked about your son. Like I said, I'm not a mom, but I am a little sister. My brother has Down Syndrome and I love him dearly. Our world wouldn't be the same (for the worse) without him. He just turned thirty (or firty, as he says) last month and he's doing so great.

    My mom has described so many of the same feelings that you described - you're not alone. Thanks for sharing your story and sharing about your heart.

    Anthony is a beautiful boy.

  12. Your son is gorgeous! Thank you for your honest heartfelt words!! I can relate to every single emotion you had when your beautiful boy was born. We had a birth diagnosis too and our daughter is now 8 months. She is the rock star of our family and her two big brothers are smitten!! Down syndrome is becoming less and less a focus now. Our life has only changed for the better, it amazes me. I was so scared at first but am realizing how truly blessed I am. I look forward to following your story, I love your positive and uplifting attitude!!
    Here's my blog if you are curious: www.our3lilbirds.blogspot.com

  13. Great post!

    My daughter is 19 months old and also has Down syndrome. We had a prenatal diagnosis at 18 weeks but I still identify with so many of these emotions. Now, 19 months after her birth and almost 2 years past her diagnosis, I can hardly believe I was ever sad! My daughter, Lauren, seems to feel joy on a level most people seem unable to attain. It's totally amazing.

    Feel free to check out my blog at www.meetinglauren.blogspot.com

  14. Congratulations, Kelsey and Joe. Anthony is beautiful! My cousin, a co-worker of Joe's, shared your blog with my family. Your story took us back 15 years . . . just as if you were in the room with us when our daughter was born. Everything you anticipate for your family's future is exactly how it has been for us and more. Our daughter has opened doors to a world of friends that we would never have met. Every person, every moment has ultimately brought us joy, inspiration, celebrations, and a measure of peace. Looking forward to your future blogs.

  15. Wow. You are amazing and your son is a handsome guy! I just had my son July 23rd. He spent 9 days in the NICU and I named that the most horrible experience of my life. Like yours, he was taken a few hours after he was born because he could not maintain his temp and he had low blood sugars. He was born 37 weeks 4 days via emergency C-section for fetal distress. I understand the NICU experience. It seemed as though every time we went in there, they were sticking another tube in his tiny body somewhere. Our room faced the entrance to the hospital and I remember looking out the window at all the families that got to take there baby home with them. I was so jealous and I was angry this happened to us. But, now we are home with out little boy just as you are.

    Anthony is gorgeous. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for you to find this out. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Congrats!

  16. What a beautiful baby Anthony is! I love your heart, and I appreciate your honest birth story. God has truly blessed you, congratulations!<3

  17. Hi Kelsey. Congrats on your beautiful baby boy! I know your mom through a mutual friend (Wendy) and she also made beautiful curtains for my house. I have three sons and the youngest has Down syndrome. He is now 12 years old but I remember the early days so vividly because they were so hard and emotional. But, as you've already realized, it gets better and will continue to do so. You will be amazed at how many people's lives Anthony will touch. My son has made such an impact on people in his short life, even inspiring several of his teenage babysitters to study special ed or speech therapy in college. He oozes personality and love and it's contagious. And he has helped mold his brothers into the compassionate young men they are becoming not to mention how much I have changed for the better having him as my son. I started a local support group 10 years ago and we have fun family outings and educational events. Our site is kiids.info if you want to check it out. If you ever want to talk or meet, your Mom knows how to get in touch with me. Congrats and again and enjoy the baby days - they go so fast!

  18. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story and being so hones with how emotional it all was. Anthony is beautiful and as someone who has worked with children who have DS, they happen to be the most compassionate and fun to hang out with as well :).

  19. Thank you for sharing your family's story and being so honest about your feelings! You described exactly the way I felt the day my daughter was born. It was most certainly an emotional roller coaster for me as well, but I wouldn't change my little munchkin even if I could. I have learned so much from her already and continue to do so everyday. I'm proud to be a Chosen One too =)

  20. Hi Kelsey thank you for sharing your heart and being so honest. I just gave birth to my baby girl Danielle, 6 weeks ago who was also born with DS. I smiled and reflected when I read all the emotions that you went through when you found out your son Anthony also had DS..because I experienced every single one of them and still going through some. I will say it has gotten better over the weeks..I am her mommy, her protector,,she is my baby and the love and bond that I have for her is immeasurable. I will read your subsequent posts to learn from your experiences. Thanks again for sharing :)