Unexpected Blessings: January 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Augusta Evelyn's Birth Story

“I’m Mommy’s wish come true.”  This was written on a baby outfit that one of my friends gave me at my baby shower.  I had received a lot of baby gifts like that with shirts that read mommy’s little angel, little sister, and daddy’s princess, but this one was perfect.  I remember opening it and thinking how fitting that saying was.  After all, I had always wanted a girl.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my son more than anything in the world and the day he was born was one of the happiest days of my life, but I hoped that one day God would give me a girl.  I grew up playing with Barbies, taking gymnastics classes, and making necklaces.  My husband had his golfing buddy and it only seemed right that I would have a daughter to do the girly stuff with.  So the day the ultrasound technician announced, “It’s a girl,” you can imagine how my heart felt.  There in the radiology room - with my husband, son, and mom – I remember thinking my life couldn’t have been more perfect.  Oh…hindsight is a beautiful thing.    

The day of the induction…
We were scheduled to get to the hospital around 9:00 p.m.  I spent the day doing everything I could think of to keep myself busy.  I was anxious to meet our baby girl, but I also wanted to give our son as much attention as I could.  It started to hit me that it would be the last time we would be a family of three.  I was also a little uneasy because this would be the first time I’d be away from my son overnight.  A little crazy I know, but it’s always been hard to leave my son – the downside of being a working mom.  Finally, the time had come to leave our son with my mother-in-law, who goes by Ma.  After double-checking my hospital bag and laying out a “big brother” t-shirt for Maverick to wear to meet his little sister, we exchanged hugs and kisses, said our good-byes, and headed to Labor and Delivery.

The induction went easier than I had anticipated.  My labor with my son lasted 23 hours so I had mentally prepared myself for another grueling labor.  To our surprise, when we checked in that night, I was already dilated to a three so the doctor decided to let me continue labor on my own.  By the next morning, things were progressing and they broke my water at about 9:00 a.m.  I held off on an epidural as long as I could; I didn’t want to slow things down.  At about noon, I couldn’t take it any longer and they called anesthesia.  After that, I couldn’t feel a thing!  Things seemed to be slowing down though.  It was about 1:45 p.m. and I wasn’t budging from a 6.  I remember my husband calling our family from out of town and telling them not to rush.  No sooner had he hung up the phone when the nurse came in to check me…I was dilated to a 10 and they told me I was ready.  What?  I had braced myself for another few hours and here they were saying it was time.  They were surprised too…for a second, they didn’t think my doctor would be able to make it in time.  This of course sent me into a panic.  I didn’t want just any doctor; I wanted “my” doctor…the one who helped us grieve a miscarriage, delivered our first child, and helped me get through this pregnancy.  Thankfully, she made it and before we knew it, I was pushing.  Labor with Augusta was a piece of cake compared to our son.  I only had to push three times before she came out, arms and legs spread out like she was flying.  I never wrote a birth plan but there was one thing I had asked for – please put her on my belly as soon as she comes out.  I had read that the skin-to-skin contact right away leads to successful breastfeeding and a closer bond.

When they put her in my arms, I remember thinking she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  And oh was she chubby!  I wanted to hold her forever and keep smothering her with kisses, but the nurses said they needed to take her.  My husband followed them to the warming bed a few feet away.  I remember someone telling him to get his camera and thinking how silly we were not to have it out.  I guess we had an excuse; it was only fifteen minutes from the time they told me I was at a 10 to the time she was born.

I was anxious to hold her again, but my doctor was still working with me and the nurses were looking Augusta over.  I remember hearing someone say, “Six,” and my heart dropped.  My baby books said an Apgar scale of at least seven was best…and she was one less.  That’s when I asked my doctor if she was healthy.  She turned away from me to speak with the nurses and all I could hear was whispering.  I started crying and asked Ryan what was wrong and he just looked confused.  And that’s when the nurse said it.  “She has a couple characteristics of Down syndrome.”    

I will never forget those words.  At that moment I felt like my dreams had been shattered.  I didn’t want my baby girl to have Down syndrome.  I wanted the girl I had dreamed about, the one that would follow in her mommy’s footsteps and become a high school cheerleader.  I started rambling off a million questions.  What characteristics?  How can you tell?  Are you sure?  Nurses make mistakes, right?  I remember them putting Augusta back into my arms, wrapped in a blanket, wearing an adorable hat with a bow.  She felt so warm, so soft, and had just passed her Apgar with an 8.  Looking at her, she looked pink and healthy, not like what I would expect from a baby with Down syndrome to look like.  I begged my doctor to tell me she was fine.  All she said was, “Kristan, she is beautiful.  We won’t know for sure until we can get a pediatrician in here.”  We just have to wait.

That wait was the most painful, long, and exhausting wait of our life.  I’ve always been an impatient person - just ask my husband - but this was awful.  Luckily, my mom had been there for labor and she joined Ryan and me right away.  I remember us trying to talk ourselves out of the diagnosis.  She just has small ears like her mommy.  Maverick’s eyes looked just like that right after he was born.  And the space between her first two toes?  Well, her daddy has silly-looking feet too.  For a moment there, we were convinced that everyone was wrong. 

And then the on-call pediatrician walked in.  She was very quiet as she looked Augusta over.  My husband was holding my hand as I was bawling my eyes out.  He was my rock through all of it.  I’ve always been the passionate and emotional one, and this moment intensified all of that.  He was so quiet, I know he was scared, but I could see the love in his eyes.  After a couple of minutes, the room grew very quiet.  She didn’t need to say the words.  I could see it in her face.  That’s when she looked at us and said, “She doesn’t have all of the signs, but there are a few things I’m seeing that suggest she has Down syndrome.”  And that’s when she started pointing out all of her “imperfections.”  The skin fold at the top of her ear, the thick skin on the back of her neck, the flattened face, the single crease on her hand, and the gap between her first two toes.  I asked her how sure she was and she said an official diagnosis couldn’t be made until the chromosome results came in, but she was pretty sure.  That’s when the tears started all over again.  And it hit me, what does this mean for Maverick?  He was on his way to the hospital and I desperately didn’t want him to sense sadness, so I sucked it up, dried my tears, and put on a happy face.

I will never forget the moment Maverick met his baby sister.  The smile on his face was absolutely precious.  I looked at him, looking at her, and I learned what unconditional love is.  It’s crazy to think that a toddler could teach me one of life’s greatest lessons about love, but I will be forever grateful for that moment.  It was the moment we became a family.   

I’d like to say that it was all butterflies and rainbows from that moment on, but I’d be lying.  The truth is, after we said good-bye to our son, and all the visitors had come and gone, the sadness returned and the fear set in.  Is she healthy?  What will she be able to do?  Are there services for her where we live?  Will she learn to read?  Will my baby girl ever fall in love?  Get married?  Have a job?  Will she have to live with us forever?  Why us?  I’m 27 and Ryan is 30…the statistics were in our favor.  Was it something I did during pregnancy?  Why did this happen to us?  Who will take care of her when we’re gone?  I couldn’t stop the crying…and not the kind of crying you do when you see a sad movie or a sappy commercial.  This was the kind of gut-wrenching sadness that you beg and plead with God to take away.  I desperately wanted to go back in time, back to the time when it was just the three of us and everything was perfect. 

Late that night, when my husband was sleeping and Augusta was snug in her little crib…I just sat and stared into the darkness.  My hospital gown was soaked from all of the tears.  I kept replaying all of it in my mind.  Down syndrome.  My husband had brought our laptop to the hospital and I even did a few google searches.  Big mistake.  I am so ashamed to say I spent the first night of my daughter’s life grieving, but it needed to be done to get to where I am now.  I had to say good-bye to the baby girl I had planned, and instead welcome the unexpected blessing that was in her place.  I’m not sure what the turning point was, but by morning, I had accepted it.  Forget what the chromosome results said…after staring at her for hours I knew she was special.  A blood test didn’t need to confirm it for me.  I walked into the bathroom, splashed cool water on my puffy face, and went back into the room to pick her up.  As I looked at her, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her.  The words of my dad kept echoing in my mind, “Honey, she is perfect.  There’s not a thing wrong with her.”  And you know what?  My dad was right.  There is absolutely nothing “wrong” with Augusta.  She has Down syndrome.  That means she is unique and special in her own way.  There’s a million questions I still have, but I don’t need them all answered right away.  The most important one was answered by my mom the next morning.  Why?  And here’s what she said, “Honey, you are the most amazing mom and if anyone is going to give her the life she deserves, it’s you.  You are strong and I know you can do this.”

Over the next couple of days, I learned just how strong Augusta is.  She passed her echo-cardiogram with flying colors.  (Ma says it’s because of Him, the biggest doctor of all.)  Babies with Down syndrome have a higher chance of being born with a heart defect so this was a huge hurdle.  I remember when the nurse whisked her away for testing and just praying, “Please God, let her be healthy.  I take back all the awful thoughts I had about Down syndrome.  I love her; please don’t take this blessing away.  If you do this one thing, I promise I will spend the rest of my life being a blessing to her.” 

Needless to say, my prayer was answered.  We brought her home after just one day of being in the hospital.  At seven weeks old, she is nearly ten pounds and has already learned to roll over, thanks in part to her wonderful therapists. She sleeps through the night, is in the 75th percentile for growth, and hardly ever cries. We call her our little snuggle bunny because she loves to curl up in our arms. So far, the only health issue we have is her hearing. The doctors predict she’ll need hearing aids in both ears at six months. Her hearing may not be perfect, but I know in my heart my baby hears mommy’s voice and big brother’s giggle.  So I guess you can say I have the beautiful baby girl I always dreamed of; I just had to alter my definition of perfection a little.  I realize the coming weeks, months, and years, will not always be easy.  Augusta will have her own challenges, but what kid doesn’t?  The most important thing is that we love her.  And to be honest, when you look into her big, blue, almond eyes, it’s pretty easy to do.    

Oh, one more thing….Today, my little girl wore the shirt my friend gave me at my baby shower that read, “I’m mommy’s wish come true.”  And you know what?  She is.

Monday, January 17, 2011

So it begins...

It's been seven weeks since I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl, Augusta.  That means I have been on this roller coaster ride of emotions for forty-nine days.  It's been quite a ride to say the least.  You name the emotion - happy, sad, scared, crazy, thankful, blessed, overwhelmed, confused, angry - and I've felt it.  A lot has changed since that fateful day in the hospital where the doctors told us our baby girl had down syndrome.  We've seen more doctors than I can count, have already started physical and occupational therapy, and are trying to keep our routine as normal as possible for the sake of our two-year-old son, Maverick.  However, one thing hasn't changed...and that is the love we have for our little angel.  Did we plan for this?  No.  Did I pray that something like this wouldn't happen?  Absolutely.  Would I trade her in for a daughter without down syndrome?  Not in a million years.  I've gone back in forth on whether to start a blog.  My main motivation is to give me the emotional outlet I desparately need right now, and keep friends and family informed about her progress.  And maybe, just maybe, my words will inspire others that sometimes the greatest blessings in life are the unexpected ones.  And so it begins...my blog.     

Copyright © 2011 Kristan.