The Surprise Extra Chromosome

We did not know that our baby would be born with Down syndrome. We did not know that we were having a girl, either. We like surprises.

What we did know was this – Each life is precious and whoever emerged from my womb at the end of nine months was our child and we would love him/her.

The Blessing was born in our bath tub after only 2 1/2 hours of labor (for the actual birth story, click here). I lifted her tiny body out of the water and looked at her sweet little face. I knew in that moment that she had Down syndrome. And I loved her. I was shocked, disappointed, even, and maybe a little scared. But I loved her. I hoped that I was wrong and that she would be “normal” after all. Still my love for her was growing by the minute. I closed my eyes and breathed in her sweet smell. I held her to my breast and relaxed my tired body in the hot water, thinking all the while that maybe she was fine. I looked to my husband for reassurance and could see nothing on his face except love for his new baby, his seventh child, his sixth daughter. We loved her in that moment. And nothing else really mattered.

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Had I known ahead of time, the pregnant me would have worried. She would have read everything she could get her hands on and she would have developed a good understanding of chromosomal abnormalities. She would have feared the many complications that sometimes come with Trisomy 21 and she would have cried. Oh, she would have cried a lot! Pregnancy lasts a long time, and for me, it is a miserable time due to extreme and long lasting morning sickness. The last thing that pregnant me needed was the anguish of a prenatal diagnosis on top of the physical and emotional stress that accompanies gestation.

But when postpartum me held a new baby girl in her arms, she was much better equipped to deal with the news that this baby came with something a little extra.

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As it turns out, all that I would have feared about having a baby with Down syndrome would have been wrong. Having a baby with Down syndrome has, so far, been just like having a baby without Down syndrome. She eats. She sleeps. She cries. She fills her diaper. She fills our hearts with joy unspeakable. I know that it won’t always be like this, but I also know that I didn’t need time to prepare for anything, and whatever I would have prepared would have been wrong. A baby with Down syndrome is still a baby.

I have never had any prenatal screenings done in all eight of my pregnancies. My reasoning has always been that I would love my baby regardless of how it came and that I would deal with the issues after the baby was born. I am happy to say that this proved to be right for me. I don’t regret this opinion and am even more sure of it now. I am thankful that our diagnosis arrived after we had met – and fallen in love with – our baby girl. I am glad that I didn’t know.

Do you have a baby with Down syndrome? Did you know before? Do you wish you did/didn’t? Why?

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2 thoughts on “The Surprise Extra Chromosome

  1. It’s absolutely true. The only prenatal testing we have is an ultrasound around 20 weeks to check for kidney trouble since it is genetic for us and could make the difference in the safety(for the baby) of a homebirth or not. When we saw our third child on the ultrasound screen, we loved her so immensely- as much as if they had laid her in our laps. We were too busy oohing and aahing over her to relize the radiologist and ultrasound tech were tellingly silent. When we received the phone call from my midwife telling me about what the professionals saw, I lost it. Sobbed for weeks. I read every thing possible(despite my midwife’s explicit instructions NOT to Google Trisomy 18) to prepare myself, and I wept daily. I truly began mourning my daughter’s life before she was even born. It also helped me to savor every tiny bit of her life I could. Every kick and wiggle was so precious to me, knowing it could be her last. In the end, I am glad we knew because it gave us such immense strength and trust in God, but I do know that perhaps NOT knowing would have meant a much more peaceful second and third trimester for me. That said, I believe everything happened as it should, and my daughter’s life is an immense testimony, and will be to everyone who meets her.

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