Finding out my baby has Down syndrome

Airplanes have made it easy to travel to faraway places, but when you travel with a toddler, any trip might seem endless. By the time we were picked up at the Florida airport, stopped by to have something to eat, checked in for the conference, checked in at the hotel room, and unpacked our bags, we were exhausted. All three of us were looking forward to a good night sleep. We went to bed, we fell asleep, and we had dreams.

No!!! I bolted up in bed, breathing heavily and feeling cold as I stared into the dark hotel room. I looked over to my husband sleeping next to me, breathing deep and slow. Ellie slept peacefully on the bed next to ours. I could not remember my dream, I tried to reach for images, pictures, or words from it, but there was no specific recollection. Nonetheless, there was something I was sure about because of my dream; our baby was going to have Down syndrome. All of a sudden I felt like I was choking, gasping for breath. This was not real; it was just a dream, nothing more.

I got up and walked to the bathroom. I closed the door and sat on the toilet seat, stroking my protruding belly. My mind raced and it did not take long before I broke down and began to cry. I was not emotionally capable of having a child with special needs. I did not have the patience, or the strength for such a task, I was not one of those special parents.

Oh Lord, it is okay for our friends, but not for us, not for us. I could never have a baby with Down syndrome.

It had been two years since the birth of our friend’s daughter. Visiting them at the hospital when we met their newborn baby, Andy and I marveled at how beautiful and perfect she was. Bill and Kristin were as proud as you would expect any first time parents to be. Doctors seemed to be concerned about Jennifer, and she was transferred to a larger hospital, where she stayed for ten days in the NICU. It was in that hospital that they were told their baby girl had Down syndrome.

As I cried in the bathroom, my thoughts went back to the feelings I had when I first heard that Jennifer had Down syndrome. I had grieved for our friends, as I imagined the horrible tragedy they were facing. I felt sorry for them. I wished with everything in me that I could take it away, that I could make Jennifer “normal.” I pictured shame and embarrassment as they faced family and friends when they shared the news. I didn’t even know how to act around them. I had no words of encouragement. All I could do was comfort myself by saying that there were no better parents for a child with Down syndrome than Bill and Kristin, both of them full of love and acceptance. What a lousy friend I had turned out to be.

But this could not be us. This could not be our future. We had lived our lives seeking to please the Lord, my husband was a pastor and I faithfully served the church. Surely He would bless us with a healthy child. Another little girl, as perfect and beautiful as Ellie.

The next morning I was still very upset.

“What if our baby has Down’s?” I asked Andy.

“Why do you ask that?” he replied, confused.

“I . . .” My voice broke as I struggled with my emotions. “I had a dream about it,” I finally said, as tears streamed down my face.

Andy was thoughtful for a while, then he reached out and held my hand, “If it comes to be, then we will walk down that road, and you and I know that we will not walk it alone.”

I fell into his arms and cried. He was right. Bill, Kristin, and Jennifer would walk with us every step of the way.

***

It is Down syndrome awareness month, so I am sharing our story of finding out our daughter had Down syndrome and the first few weeks of her life. If you missed yesterday’s post, make sure you read: What if there is something wrong with my baby?

If you just joined in, make sure to read the first post introducing you to this journey: The road less traveled.

Next post: Level 2 ultrasound

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