So much reflection and a whole lotta nostalgia this past month. Amidst the chaos of our move, I've had the opportunity to speak twice at different church functions about our story. Once was to a group of youth (Scott was dragged into that one with me;)), and the other was in front of about 2,000 church members. At both engagements I was asked to focus on how to deal when life doesn't go as planned. Easy topic, right?? When does life ever go the way we plan?!
As you must know, Welles' diagnosis was so far from my "life plan" and I love talking about that transition in re-routing our future, goals and dreams. I think so many of us think our dreams aren't coming true when really we're just trading them in for better dreams without even knowing it.
I know that most of you know our story, but here is a section from one of my speaking engagements...
"On September, 11th 2013 my water broke early in the morning. Scott asked if I could try and keep the baby in for a better birthday than 9/11. After I looked at him like he was crazy and then expressed my pain from the contractions, he agreed we should probably rush to the hospital. We kissed our daughter goodbye, leaving her with an aunt, and then zoomed to labor and delivery.
Once the epidural kicked in and I calmed down, Scott and I held hands and talked about our excitement to meet our first son. Both of us come from families of all girls and already had a precious little girl of our own. We were thrilled to be welcoming a baby boy.
The labor was fast but rough and within two hours he was with us. He let out a precious first cry as they laid his perfect little body on my chest and it was love at first sight. Happiness filled the room as we met our boy, Welles. He was absolutely an alien looking new born just like every other new born I had ever seen! Perfect.
In studying my new baby head to toe, I didn’t even notice his almond shaped eyes or the flat bridge in his nose. I didn’t think anything unusual about his floppy low muscle tone or his stubby little hands and feet. And sure, he was small but he’ll catch up, I thought! I didn’t even have time to notice his low set ears or the simian crease in his hand. He felt different from our daughter but surely it was because he was a boy. When the nurses finished whispering in the corner, they came and asked if we had done prenatal screening and what the results were. Then they insinuated that our baby looked like he may have Down syndrome. Shocked and almost insulted by the thought, I told them there was no way. I was too young… My pregnancy was smooth and normal. Also, a baby with Down syndrome was not part of my plan! So sure, go ahead and take him to be looked at and have tests done. I KNOW they will come back normal and I’ll forgive you all for saying that my baby looks like he has Down syndrome! Then Scott followed our perfect new son out on a wheeling cradle to be assessed.
I sat there, alone in my thoughts. At first I wasn’t even worried and the thought crossed my mind that this was such a waste of time and I should really be snuggling my new baby. Next, I sent out a couple of texts letting family know he was born. Then it hit me…. Well, what if?…. What if?…. Suddenly frantic, I asked a nurse to take me to the room where they were examining my son. As soon as she wheeled me out of the delivery room I could see Scott walking towards us from down the hall. His face said everything and we both burst into tears. “I think he is honey, and that’s okay” said my sweet husband. We went into the recovery room and just cried all day and night. Welles spent the first few hours in the room with us where I cradled him with such a powerful love and sobbed over him with so much guilt and sadness. How could this have happened?? Why was this happening to our family?? I didn’t want this or plan on this (so I thought). Where was the perfectly “normal” and healthy son that I thought I was having?? How could I love this boy in my arms so much but feel so sad about the boy he was “supposed” to be at the same time? I felt lost and confused."
People often times comment on how optimistic I am about life with Down syndrome, and it's true. I am so honest-to-goodness thrilled that we have this diagnosis in our family. There is a beauty in Down syndrome that's unexplainable and down right wonderful. But did I always see this? No. Absolutely not. Did I have a process of mourning and grief for that child I thought I was having? Yes. Let me tell you, I spent so much time in silence, meditation and fervent prayer coming to terms with my new and unforeseen future. It took a lot of time and tears wrapping my head around the fact that my family was not going to be exactly how I had planned or dreamt up.
Now watching my 27 year old sister pick out grave plots for herself and her husband next to the spot they will be burying their baby this year has been heart wrenching. No young mother should have to do such a morbid and difficult thing. This has been so far from the plan she had for her life. Some days she's got this and some days are filled with predictable melt downs. I recently sat by her on the couch putting my hands on her moving belly while she smiled through tears and talked about what a blessing this sweet baby boy will be. Even though they will only hold him for a few short hours.
Life is so unpredictable and many of our plans will fall through. But there are blessings and beauty in life's challenges. Relying on loved ones, and for me, God, is what gets me through the course changes. And some of those course changes will prove to be our greatest blessings. Other bumps in the journey will make us stronger and bring us closer to things that truly matter.
Through these little life experiences, I'm learning to be more adaptable and positive. Why try so hard to have control when ultimately, you just don't? Have faith in the journey and learn from the trials. You may end up being incredibly grateful for them.
I thank the heavens above each day that my plans fell through and my dreams were changed for the better. I mean that Welles... Aint nothin' down about him.