Becoming a Mama - Part 3
“What’s the news?” I asked with as much confidence in my voice as I could muster. I stepped outside so that I could get some privacy and continued the phone call outdoors. As cars and people moved around the property all around me, I almost fell to my knees from the weight of the news I received from the other end of that phone call.
“The results show that the baby has Down syndrome.”
I don’t think I said a word and I only remember that I felt like I had been hit by a bus. It was like something knocked the wind out of me and I couldn’t get back the strength to speak. The genetic counselor asked me if I was okay and if I was alone. Eventually I told her that I was with friends and was okay (I was definitely not okay – I was devastated). She asked me if I wanted to know the sex of the baby and I said yes.
“You’re going to have a little girl.”
I sobbed into the phone as if I was speaking to someone I’ve known my whole life. I’ve always wanted a daughter and never thought I’d actually have one. And now I was going to have a little girl and she was going to have special needs. It was all bigger than me and I felt overwhelmed. She cried a little with me and asked if I wanted to come in to the office to talk. I declined and told her I wanted to call my husband, thanked her as best I could and hung up the phone. I tried to call Jarrod right away and knew that I had just missed him before he started teaching one of his two classes. I needed him to call me but couldn’t fathom telling him such devastating news over a text message or voice mail, so I just texted “call me as soon as you’re out of class”.
After about ten minutes, I pulled myself together enough to step back inside to the hallway where Betsy was packing up workshop props into boxes. I asked her to step outside with me and when she did, I cried so hard I could barely utter the words. I’m so grateful for how she cared for me that day. She walked me right to her truck, put me inside, drove me to my house (luckily only about 1.5 miles away), poured me a big glass of water and waited with me on the sofa until my mom could get there. Later that day, she and Nicole made sure that my purse, my belongings, and my car all made it back to my house as well since I had left everything behind at the workshop when we left so suddenly.
In retrospect, I look back on all of this and realize that it sounds so melodramatic and unnecessary. But when your expectations become null and void in a single instant, you have to grieve them to let go of them. It took me a long time to realize that’s okay.
Jarrod called as soon as he got a break from teaching and eagerly asked me if it was a boy or a girl. I told him I needed him to come home. He heard the wavering in my voice, told me he would cancel class and be right there. He walked in the front door less than 10 minutes later.
I told him the news and he let out a deep sigh of relief. I know he also felt scared of the unknown and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation, but his perspective in that moment was absolutely perfect. “Becca, this isn’t bad news at all – she is going to be okay,” he said. He had worried the results came back with a fatal diagnosis and relative to all of the other things that could have been wrong, he immediately saw the silver lining. He was right. He reassured me that out daughter may face challenges, but we would face them with her and for her. We would love her unconditionally.
We hit the road early the next morning to drive up to DC for the weekend. Though we could have easily cancelled our plans, we both felt the need to get out of town and have some time away to think and just be together. It took us both a few days but at the end of our trip we were ready to make our exciting announcement to the world and let everyone know we were expecting a little girl. While Jarrod drove us home to NC, I drafted an email for us to send all of our extended family and friends, as well as a social media post to share on facebook/Instagram, etc. We both knew that we wanted our little girl to be born into the world, surrounded by people who loved and supported her. We wanted people to know about her special circumstances and to take the time to really learn about Down syndrome as we had begun to do. After only 48 hours of research, our outlook had been completely transformed. Neither of us ever found a single example, testimonial or story from a family of a child with Down syndrome that said anything other than what an amazing blessing that child was to their family and everyone around him/her. Despite all of the world’s lack of understanding and fear of “difference”, the reality is that people born with that extra little chromosome are incredible. We realized that our daughter would be more like us than she would be different from us. We also realized that we had no right to place limitations on her by setting low expectations or comparing her/our journey to that of anyone else. There was a whole big, beautiful community out there and we started to feel a sense of privilege to be a part of it. We sent the email and posted our announcement and messages of love and support started flooding in.
The following week, the course of my prenatal care took a little different turn. My doctor called to check in with me and see how we were doing. She never once pressured me to undergo amniocentesis and I was grateful for her support. An amnio would have been the only way to confirm the diagnosis with 100% certainty, but since it carries a small risk of miscarriage, we decided against it. Our baby deserved every chance... Down syndrome or not. She scheduled us for a fetal echocardiogram with a specialist in early January to test our baby's heart and from this moment on, all of my ultrasounds would take place at the high-risk comprehensive fetal care center.
Looking back on everything now, I have so much more clarity. Once I got over the shock, the next emotion I had to tackle was the fear. The fear that I was at a higher risk of second-trimester miscarriage. The fear that our baby would have serious or life-threatening health issues. The fear that we weren't well equipped to deal with her special needs and give her the care she deserved. I gave my fears to the Lord in prayer because that's the only thing that ever works. I regularly reminded myself to breathe and take things one.day.at.a.time. Once the fears subsided, I had to deal with the shame. I was ashamed of my own sadness. I felt guilt over my initial reaction to the diagnosis that I received on the phone that day. It took me a long time to learn that it's okay to grieve the loss of your expectations. There is growth and healing in that process.
The truth is that no parent ever knows what difficulties their children will face. Our little girl was going to be born with something extra that made her special - not something less. In the end, I realized that I didn't receive bad news on the phone that day. I received news that was different than what I expected, but who was I to form such rigid expectations of the little girl growing inside me in the first place?! I felt so overjoyed days later when I finally wrapped my mind around the most exciting part of that phone call. I was gong to have a daughter!!!
To be continued...
Continue reading Part 4