The saying goes: “if I knew then what I know now….”
When I think back to how grief-stricken I was after my son was born, it makes me ashamed! It makes my stomach physically ache. I was ignorant to what Down Syndrome meant.
At that time, I could only see a diagnosis. Maybe that is because my son wasn’t even an hour old when they whisked him away to the NICU. I wouldn’t get to lay eyes on him until much later the next day. I can still smell the smells and feel the “feels” of that first night. I can no longer wear a certain lip gloss, because it was the gloss I kept applying for the new baby and mommy pictures. Pictures that would never be taken.
How did I know to ask if he had DS before there was any mention of it? Mother’s intuition? I chose not to have the prenatal testing. I was only 34, so technically, I wasn’t of ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE. I hate that term, by the way.
When you are pregnant, you are so vulnerable. You’re already overly sensitive, you feel huge, and then on top of that they want to call you old! My pregnancy had been great, minus the morning sickness for the first 5 months. That was fine by me because by Mother’s Day, I was feeling so swell, I ate a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. (Stop the eye rolls, it wasn’t all at once! I spaced them out over the day.) Aww, those are the fun things about being pregnant – the days you just don’t give a flying flip. I am carrying a HUMAN. I earned 12 tiny donuts!
Fast forward to that stormy day (literally, not figuratively). My water broke. My sweet daughter Ashlyn was 4 at the time. She couldn’t understand why mommy was peeing in the middle of the living room floor. I mean really??? Really. There are no books that will help her understand that one. So yes, Mommy peed her pants. Off to the hospital we go.
Boy or girl?? We wanted to be surprised so we didn’t find out the sex. Little did we know, that wasn’t the only surprise we would get. At 12:35 a.m. my 8.5 pound. baby boy was here. I laid there and looked into his eyes. I just knew. Nobody was saying anything other than, “Oh he is so cute” and talking about how big he was for being 3 weeks early. It was then that I blurted out that I was worried about Down Syndrome.
I looked to my doctor and I could see her lips moving in slow motion, she was telling my husband, “Your son is showing signs of Trisomy 21.” Out… I was out, I couldn’t breathe. I was literally panic-stricken.
That first night my sweet nurse made me drink warm milk and herbal tea because, “Mrs. Shea, we can’t give you another pill yet.” Damn it! All I wanted to do was sleep. Then I would wake and it was like it was happening all over again. Where was my baby?
My baby, whom I had dreamed about holding for those long nine months. I wanted my baby back in my belly, where my world was perfect again. The thoughts I had. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Is he going to live to see his first birthday? Will he look like his big sister at all? So many negative, awful thoughts. I was so ignorant. As was my neonatologist, who filled my head with worst-case scenarios and no hope for a happy life.
That all changed the next afternoon when I was able to visit the NICU and hold my son. Guess what? He was beautiful! Everything that the neonatologist said, the baby did the opposite. The cardiologist put us at ease. The charge nurse, who had already fell head over heels for him, was full of encouragement and nothing but positivity!! I started to look at him as my baby and began the process of not feeling sorry for myself.
The first night home as a family of four, my daughter Ashlyn said, ”He makes my heart giggle!” And to this day, that is exactly what he does!! Dylan’s eyes literally light up a room. If I am having a tough day, he wraps those little arms around my neck, and says “Oh, mommy”. I feel happy when he hears a song and starts dancing his little heart out, no matter who is watching.
He is the definition of pure uninhibited joy! Dylan is Dylan. A little boy full of love, curiosity, lots of energy and a few curse words! “Uck!” he learned that from his daddy!! From me? He shares my love for donuts.
After my experience, I have some advice for pregnant moms. Please have the prenatal testing. An informed mama is a calm mama. If you do get a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, go to the nearest bakery and enjoy a dozen donuts. Have a good cry.
THEN, spend the day with a family and their baby that was born with that little extra something special. You will then realize you don’t have to be scared. A baby with Down Syndrome is a baby. And they will open your eyes to a beautiful new world. It’s your baby. Your daughter or son. You just need to be ready to love your baby. And embrace their gifts, rather than dwell on the negatives.
If only I had known then what I know now. I am one happy Motherlucker!