January 15, 2015

Anderson’s Birth Story {Prenatal Down syndrome Diagnosis}

Anderson hospital

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.  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.”

last pregnancy picture
Two days before Anderson was born

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 10 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 even applied mascara, 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?

photo-19

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.

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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 believe he will have the same impact on those who come to know him. My sweet boy, Anderson, is a miracle.

anderson home

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44 thoughts on “Anderson’s Birth Story {Prenatal Down syndrome Diagnosis}”

  1. I can’t even tell you how happy I am to read this. Happy and sad and emotions that I can’t even find words to describe. I know so many of the feelings and thoughts you wrote. I have been there. We didn’t know before our son was born but I still know the fear and love and fierce feeling of protection you feel over your beautiful baby boy. Nothing prepares you for it. The diagnosis is life changing. There isn’t any way around it. But I am so, so happy that you are seeing the good in the way it has changed. First and foremost, he is your son. Life may not look exactly like you imagined, but it will still be beautiful. Sending you hugs and prayers from Georgia.

    1. Kristi, yes…all of the feelings! You’re right, the diagnosis is SO life changing. But I’m clinging to the hope that life is still going to be beautiful. I’m so happy you are following along with us.

    1. Thank you, Kasey! One thing I strive to be on here is honest. Otherwise, what’s they point, right?! Thank you so much for following along.

  2. Jill this is just beautiful you are such a blessing to so many people for your raw honesty, you speak from your heart. Thank you for sharing this time in your life…. N. Storey

  3. Jill, this is so well written and so amazingly beautiful. my heart is remembering the sweet little girl saying “guess what my favorite color is. Pink”. I couldn’t be more proud of the strength and love that you show in your writings and the woman you have grown to be.
    My prayers have been with you and your family. God bless

  4. This is so beautiful. And Anderson is so perfect, because he is just how God made him to be. Thanks for sharing this journey with us. I will continue to pray for you and your growing family, but I know y’all will be just fine. You have your faith, and you have one another. And that’s all any of us can ask for.

    Morgan

  5. I’m a member at Trinity and I read some of your blog posts. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful little miracle. May you feel God’s abundant blessings poured out on you.

  6. Jillian, how precious your new baby boy is. I connect with this post in so many ways because we are fellow believers. We are praying for the very same thing you did and for the same reasons….but I know, in my heart, that God is also saying “no” to us as well. It’s a hard thing to get my head around and I fear the same thing.
    When she gets here, I’m scared I won’t feel the same about her as I do about my 17 month old daughter, Brielle. So many fears and anxiety.
    Thank you again for sharing and please know that you are making a difference, it’s nice to know someone else who is on such a similar journey. Anderson is gorgeous and God bless you and you start your lives together :)

    1. Brenda, I’m so glad to hear that this story is helping you in a way. That’s why I’m writing. Sometimes it’s nice to know how others have made it through whatever it is you’re facing. Thank you so much for following along. Please stay in touch!

  7. To Anderson’s parents: Over the years as an educator, I have worked with many special needs children and want to share with you that you will find him to be so intuitive about the grand mysteries of life that we all struggle to put into words. In many ways he will understand life on a higher plain than most people not to mention most kids . He will be very loving and fascinating. He has already proven he is clever and wise in choosing wonderful parents and grandparents. I will be celebrating him in my prayers. Martha Farmer (friend of Arnie and Joanne

  8. Tears fall from the words you write as it will soon be my journey…Thank you for the post and peace and blessings to you this year. I wish you love, health, and happiness.

  9. Jill, This is so beautiful and so thankful that you are able to share. You are a beautiful woman inside and out and you will continue to grow especially through this little miracle. It is a blessing to so many who following you because we all seem to take life for granted. It is in miracles such as these that we become humble and know that we can do ALL things through our Lord who strengthens us. Keeping you and your family in my prayers always and may all your days become brighter!!
    Love you.

  10. Your post was featured by a DS group (can’t remember which one) on Facebook, and showed up in my newsfeed. I never, ever comment on blog articles, (I prefer the ‘less is more’ approach to online stuff), but I want you to know…it gets better. It gets SOOO much better. We too, had a prenatal diagnosis, and that time was SO hard. I will never forget it. Toby is now 18 months, and such a joy. If I had the opportunity, would I still take away the struggles he will face, because of DS? In a heartbeat. But I also cannot imagine life without him, now. One thing I would encourage you to do, is to research a supplement called Nutrivene. I am not connected to the company in any way, I just was SO grateful to have learned about it by accident, when someone mentioned it on another DS group page. It angers me now, that no one ever mentioned to me, in all of the prenatal and first year’s Dr visits or support-group type FB pages, that there was nutritional support for DS. So now I make a point of mentioning it to everyone I meet, who has a child with DS. Be smart, do the research, draw your own conclusions. But I can see such a difference in my own child. It is a hope that I wish I had known existed sooner. Feel free to email me, and I will answer as many questions as I can, and put you in touch with those who can answer more! Our son has been such a gift to us. I know Anderson is a gift to you, too! Nutrivene may make his life even better. God Bless.

    1. Thank you so much Liz! I really appreciate you reaching out. Thank you for taking the time to do so!

  11. Congratulations on your adorable baby boy! Our son Matthew will be 10 years old and I cried when I read your story. My husband and I went through the same thing. The feelings you have at that moment you see your child are amazing in a way that not just anyone can understand. Blessings to your family and give him lots of love and hugs and kisses!! He truly is a gift from God!

    1. Thank you so much Anna! I love hearing from moms like you. I find it so encouraging, thank you!

  12. congratulations on your perfect baby boy! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story with us! You are so strong Jill and I really admire that!

  13. Beautiful story, beautiful mother and even more beautiful baby boy!!! Remember you from Channel 6 here in Augusta!!! May GOD bless you and your family!!!

    1. Hi Neil, I’m so glad that you’ve found my blog. Please keep following along! Thank you for your kind words!

  14. Congratulations! He’s beautiful! There’s something extra cuddly about babies with Ds. My daughter is 18 mos and really active but she will still just melt into my arms. Welcome to the club! :)

  15. What a beautiful story to go with a sweet, beautiful baby. Thank you for sharing your story.

  16. Thank you so much for this blog. My husband and I had a beautiful baby girl 1/2016. Much to our surprise, she has Down Syndrome with an AV node defect that will require open heart surgery very soon. My mother in law told me about your blog and I really am enjoying it. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much for reading. I hope your daughter is doing well! You should join a Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network support group if you haven’t already!!

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