It was December 30th and I was in a wretched mood. Well, my 20-month-old daughter Violet was the one having a really bad day, which in turn made all of us (particularly my 38-week pregnant self) pretty miserable. It was so bad that I actually apologized to my parents, more than once, for the terrible attitude I had put on display all day long. Looking back now, I think I was anxious…I knew he was coming.
I had a doctor’s appointment late that afternoon. My husband and I waited for an hour to be seen by the ultrasound technician. This was the second ultrasound we had in just 4 days. I was being monitored twice a week because I was high risk. The tech was very talkative (when you’ve had something go wrong in a pregnancy you’re used to them being silent until a doctor arrives) and said, “Your amniotic fluid is low.” “How low?” “It’s only a 3.” I knew what that meant. I looked at Andy with tears in my eyes and said, “I hope they let us go home and get our things.”
I already had a bag packed, my parents could have easily brought it to the hospital, but it was Violet. I had been so impatient with her that day. I needed to see her. I needed to hold her tightly one more time as my only child.
When we got home, I sat on the floor of my daughter’s playroom and cried. My parents didn’t understand, how could they? Having a baby had only ever been a joyous occasion for them as were all 9 births of their grandchildren. I told them how scared I was. I read the books on babies with Down syndrome. I knew what could happen at the hospital. Mothers of children with Down syndrome assured me for months that it would all be better once he was here…what if they were wrong? I worried that we would search his little body all over for signs. I worried that we would feel sad instead of elated the way we were at the birth of our daughter. All of my fears that had built up for 4 months were coming to the surface at once.
So, I did what I always do when I feel my worst. I took a hot shower and I cried it out. Then I put my game-face on… a.k.a makeup. I had mascara on, so I couldn’t afford to cry now. I was not going to let my fear take over the entire birth. As silly as it sounds, I wanted to look like the fierce mother I wanted to be for our son.
We got to the hospital and the doctor told us that Christmas may have passed, but “We have a Bethlehem type situation.” There were no rooms available, so they put me in a triage room and the stress of it all made me go into labor on my own. Two hours later we finally got a room in labor and delivery. The doctors didn’t want me to be in labor too long so they gave me Pitocin to speed up the process.
There we were, in the last period of waiting during this pregnancy. I’ve written about the waiting periods in our lives during 2014. We waited to find out where we would be stationed. We waited for the blood test results. We waited for the amniocentesis results. We waited to see if we would move and then we waited for where we would get moved to next. The waiting was about to end on the last day of the year…fitting, right?
As I waited this time, I wasn’t filled with fear. Instead I prayed. I prayed for hours that night. I brought my prayer journal and I wrote down my prayers to God. We made it no secret that we were praying for God to take away our son’s extra chromosome. It’s a decision people have both supported and criticized. But we prayed this not because we think a life with Down syndrome is less of a life, but because we are his parents. If we could ask God to take away a syndrome that would make parts of his life (the parts so many of us take for granted) more challenging…that would require years of therapy…we would ask.
But as I felt myself pouring my thoughts out on those pages, I felt my words coming up short. I didn’t feel my heart 100% behind them. I didn’t feel right about the words looking back at me. I thought it was because it was 3 a.m. and I was delirious and sleep deprived…but really I think it was God’s way of telling me that he had answered this prayer we had been praying for months by saying “no”.
The nurse came in to check me and I was at 6 centimeters. A half hour later I called her to come back. I told her something was wrong, that I could feel everything despite getting an epidural. She was a new nurse on L&D and she told me she didn’t want to check me again for a while. Good thing I insisted because I went from 6 to 10. All of a sudden, dozens of people were in the room. I didn’t understand what was happening. They told me it was time to push.
Andy held my hand and I pushed for what seemed like seconds (in reality 5 minutes) before I heard the tiniest cry. It was like a scene out of a movie. I kept saying, “He’s not crying, he’s not crying, what’s wrong?” A nurse from the NICU told me that he was fine and she told Andy to come over and take pictures. I saw his body language. He looked heavy. The doctors then handed my son to me and I knew. The answer was in his eyes. He had Down syndrome. And I wasn’t disappointed… I felt at peace. I stared at the gorgeous, darling boy in my arms and I knew his life might be different than I had imagined and I knew it would be okay.
We had two names picked out for our son. We had decided that if he had Down syndrome we would name him after his dad. The doctor asked us, “What’s your son’s name?” Andy and I looked at each other and said, “Anderson” in unison.
It took a long time for the staff to leave our room. When they did I said to Andy, “I feel like you need to put your head on my shoulder and cry.” And he did. We didn’t speak. I knew what he was feeling. It was the end to the 4 worst months of our lives. It was every emotion at once. It was joy and fear. I knew he needed to feel everything before moving on.
And he did…quickly. I thought something was wrong with Anderson from the moment he came out. He seemed too lethargic. When a nurse came back into our room, she noticed it too. She ran a quick test, discovered low oxygen levels and off to the NICU our baby went. Andy immediately went into Dad mode. He calmly asked the doctors questions and put it all into a language I could understand. He was either at my side or Andersons’ side…comforting us both.
Call it a premonition, a mother’s intuition or the Holy Spirit, but I predicted Anderson would be born on New Year’s Eve. We all picked dates a couple of weeks before. Andy asked me why I thought the 31st would be the day. I told him that I thought God would show us a miracle on the last day of the worst year of our lives. I said all along that our son would be a blessing whether he had Down syndrome or not. But he’s not only a blessing…he is a miracle. He has changed my heart. He has opened my mind. He has made me better. I know his work isn’t done. I know I will continue to grow because of him. I know he will have the same impact on those who come to know him. My sweet boy, Anderson, is a miracle.