Having three older children, I was always hesitant about having a fourth child. However, my husband was never hesitant about it, he wanted a house full of children and he wanted them NOW! I was in a constant battle with my thoughts – on one hand I did want more children, but on the other hand I didn’t know how having more children would affect the current path that I was on. Well, thankfully it came to a point where I didn’t have to decide – God decided for me.
One day in October 2011 I woke up and had an instant craving for a huge, juicy, meaty, 5 Guys burger. And while I love a good burger anytime, this craving was so intense that I knew it had to mean one thing – I was pregnant. I’m very carnivorous in the early stages of all of my pregnancies. And I’m also a Texan. So you know, it’s kind of in my blood.
I managed to ignore the ongoing pregnancy symptoms for about 3 more weeks all the while eating anything and everything in my path. Finally, one Saturday I decided to face the facts. I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “I think I might be pregnant.”
No sooner did the words pop out of my mouth than he was out the door and off to the store to get a pregnancy test. In what felt like minutes later we were huddled together in our tiny bathroom and the results confirmed it – we were pregnant with our fourth child!
As the months progressed my belly got bigger, the baby was by all accounts healthy, and all the while I was daily whining/praying/begging/ asking God for the following:
1. A girl. She had to be a girl.
2. She better have a head full of hair. I love all bald babies, but I wanted a girl with a head full of hair.
Thankfully, my 11-year-old daughter joined me in my daily petitioning to God. It got so bad that my husband had to sit me down one day and try to convince me that I needed to be ready just in case it was a boy. I wasn’t having it. It had to be a girl, and she had to have a LOT OF HAIR!
Fast forward to June 13, 2012: it was about a week from my due date and I had begun waking up in the very early hours with contractions. At first I tried to ignore them while going in and out of sleep, but after about an hour, I just gave up and got out my laptop so I could hit some work while I was tracking the contractions. They eventually started coming with a vengeance and by 6am I hustled to get my husband up and going. We got our stuff together, and ourselves ready to go. Meanwhile it was the first week of summer vacation so my older kids were literally sleeping like logs! An earthquake couldn’t rouse them during the summer time. If I were to see them before noon some days it would be a miracle.
Soon our amazing babysitter arrived and by 8am we were making our way to the hospital. At this point I was pretty sure I was in labor, but they squeezed me into the “pre-labor room” to monitor me to make sure I was actually in labor before admitting me. I was in the bed no more than 5 minutes when I felt what could be best described as an explosion between my legs. My water had broken and it scared me to death! I was petrified to lift the sheets to see what had happened! Up to this point, I had never experienced my water breaking naturally so I had no idea what the feeling was like! The pregnancy books left out the description of “a giant thick pool exploding in between your legs”!
By this time my contractions were getting us somewhere – I was in FULL BLOWN LABOR and 7 centimeters dilated. They wheeled me into the delivery room and I BEGGED for an epidural. All I remember during this time was being curled up at the side of the bed, holding my husband’s hand, and BEGGING ANYONE WHO WALKED INTO THE ROOM FOR DRUGS! For whatever reason there was a mix up with my blood work, which caused a delay in my receiving the epidural. I have had both ‘natural’ and ‘epidural’ deliveries before so knowing the difference between the two I pretty much told the nurse, “I ain’t doing nuthin’ until I get some drugs. Stat!”
Thankfully, soon after all of that an angel appeared wearing a white coat and holding a very long needle! Yay! Before I knew it, my body was melting into the labor bed, relaxed and happy. All was right with the world.
After giving me some time to rest, the doctor came in and said, “It’s time”. “Here we go,” I thought. I’m pretty sure at this point I was crying. It had been 8 years since my last delivery, so I was pretty nervous. It’s amazing how quickly you forget things.
As I was pushing someone in the room said the inevitable, “I can see the head!” To which I began yelling out, “DOES SHE HAVE HAIR?!?!?!?” After asking about one billion times, someone graciously yelled out, as the baby appeared, “YES!! SHE HAS HAIR!”
After 10-15 minutes it was over. She was here, the cord was cut, she was a girl, she had hair, and she was in my arms.
She was perfect.
As I was holding my “God-answered-baby” in my arms, my doctor leaned over and said, “I wanted to let you know what the labor nurse suspects. She is contacting the pediatrician on call because your daughter has signs of Down Syndrome.”
At first, I was not computing what I was hearing. I didn’t even know what Down Syndrome was… not fully. I switched back and forth from looking at the doctor to looking at my husband. My husband immediately dismissed all concerns. I’m pretty sure the doctor kept talking, but I don’t remember anything else at this point. While all this was happening, I looked down at my beautiful – head full of hair – daughter who was staring back at me with these huge eyes and reached her tiny hand up to me as if to say, “Love me”. I melted. And I could see it… I could see it in her face, and I knew that she had Downs Syndrome.
Moments later, the pediatrician confirmed it. My husband proceeded to breakdown pretty hard, while I morphed into stone cold silence with big bear tears running continuously down my face as I tried to process everything.
Within moments, I was cradling Emma while being wheeled up to my recovery room. I’m sure we were some sight to behold. I was just staring away, trying not to look at anyone, holding onto my blessed daughter with bear tears falling down my face. My husband was following us with shock and awe on his face as well.
Once I was settled into our recovery room, I encouraged my husband to leave the hospital for a bit to get some fresh air and to process everything. Emma and I spent the next few hours’ alone, precious moments that I treasure now since a long stay in the NICU was in her future.
At this point looking back, I wish that I had more pictures of this experience to share with all of you and to have for myself. Being away from family, we didn’t have grandparents or family members in the waiting room anticipating with excitement to see the baby or us. No one else was there with a camera in hand to catch everything. We didn’t have arms to hold us, or people there to give us encouraging words. It was just the three of us. And my husband and I did what we seem to do best – we switched into survival mode.
Over the course of the next few hours, my husband returned with vigor in his step, ready to take this on while the baby was wheeled off for the dreaded “tests”. Doctor after doctor came by my room to meet me and to give me all the “worst case scenarios” Emma would most likely face because of Down Syndrome. Open-heart surgeries, digestive surgeries, and physical therapies… the list went on and on.
By that evening my older children had arrived and we took them to the NICU to meet their sister. We made a conscious decision not to tell them immediately about their new baby sister having Down Syndrome. We wanted them to meet their sister just as she was, and not have her diagnosis have any affect on how they saw her. Plus we were not ready to mentally, emotionally, or any other “ly” handle this. This even poured into our social media, my husband and I made a conscious decision not to post her picture or talk about her diagnosis publicly for the first few days and weeks of her life. We needed time as a family to process everything, and I was fiercely protective of her. We had to learn a new way of life in our new reality. And I wanted to learn it privately.
Emma spent over two weeks in the NICU – being loved on by all of the amazing nurses, doctors, and the endless stream of friends who came to love on us as a family. All of them of course exclaiming, “LOOK AT ALL OF THIS HAIR!”
The days we spent in the NICU were as much priceless as they were endless. I spent hours at a time by her crib… whispering to her, cradling her, and loving on her.
I also remember endless tears. Tears when I went to bed…tears when I would hold her…. tears when I had to break the news to close friends and family.
It’s been over a year now since the birth of my youngest daughter, but I still remember many of the sights and sounds of the experience as if it happened yesterday. I look at pictures of myself in what I call the BB period (Before Birth) and I don’t even recognize that person anymore. I’ve been to too many doctor appointments and therapy appointments than I care to think about. I’ve sat and wondered about the future and what it holds for her, for us… and for now – it’s one day at a time, and we are loving every minute of it!
Thank you for reading our story – there are many more chapters coming! I hope you can join along for this journey, Emma’s Journey, here on Not aLone Mom!