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.
*HAPPINESS. JOY. LOVE.
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!