A few months before my daughter was born, in my sleep, a vision came into my head of a child with a crowded mouth of ill-fitting teeth. Then I heard the words, “She has Down’s.”
My eyes popped open. It was the middle of the night, and my 4-year-old son lay sleeping next to me, with my husband on the other side, oblivious to the pronouncement I’d just heard in my head.
Oh my God. I asked my baby — using the name we had recently warmed to — “Does that mean you? Do you have special needs?”
Previously asleep, she started moving right away. And she replied: “We will be fine, Mommy. I am the perfect child for you to have. We will be fine.”
At first I remained concerned and wide-eyed, my heart racing. But I kept listening. What should I do? “Trust. Love. Breathe.”
Um, okay. Pretty wise for a 28-week-old fetus. But then again, who knows how long that soul has been around. It would appear that it has an edge on mine!
Most times during my pregnancy when I woke at this time of night — without any alarming warning, just with alertness — I had to get up. There’s just no use staying in bed. I make a snack or do a little yoga, or read, or all three. But this night I could tell my baby just wanted me to rest.
So I did. And I thought about her words. I fell back asleep.
The next day, I wasn’t shaken or upset. I felt peaceful. Accepting. It’s not up to me what child is going to come into our lives. There is no script of how things should be unless I make it up in my head and cling to it, which does no one any good.
After that, for a while I was less anxious or worried (or avoidingly distant) than I’ve been much of this pregnancy and more of the mind that whatever is the right experience for me to have will be the one I will have.
Whatever life looks like, however hard the challenges we face, we can always choose to believe that things are, in fact, fine.
The above came from a blog post back in 2010. Shortly after I wrote it, I did finally read Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. I found it beautiful and inspiring.
And then later I found out she got divorced, and that made me sad.
And then later, I gave birth to my baby in a pool of water in my living room, just 4.5 hours after my water had broken and about 3 hours after I started wanting to push. And I got scared.
I was tired at the end. The contractions were petering out just when they needed to be rumbling through. My daughter’s head hung out a little too long before I could release the rest of her body. When I pulled her out of the water, she was a little purple. And quiet. And limp.
But the first thing I thought was that her eyes were set wide apart. They were puffy little slits. She looked funny, nothing like my son who was born via c-section and stared wide at us immediately. Or at least at the doctor; I had to wait a few minutes to have him brought to me. Maybe that is why I was so clueless what to do with a natural-birthed baby.
I didn’t know how to sit in the middle of the tub with her head out of the water since her cord was too short to raise her all up with her still connected to me.
I didn’t know how to act.
I didn’t know if she was okay.
I was a jumble of confusion, but I also know that I was worried that she might have Down syndrome.
Within a minute, her Apgar was up to 9 (from 5), but I remained worried that perhaps we should have done some prenatal testing. I trusted that voice months earlier, but here I was, moments after a successful HBAC, and I questioned what kind of future I was going to have.
She’s only 15 months old, but she appears to have no known health issues. I can’t exactly say the same for me. This summer was rough with a thyroid crash worse than the one I experience after my son was born in 2006. I felt horrid and depressed. My gut is so sensitive I’ve been off of all starches and even most fruit since February. My skin is once again freaking out with a rough case of psoriasis that I expect won’t go away as long as I’m nursing through the night. A friend recently suggested that I sound like her before Lyme disease caused her to have multiple organ failure and a stroke! So maybe I will finally get tested and see if that bull’s eye we treated with mainstream antibiotics back in 2002 has been part of all these issues. We probably will not have more children.
If my body hasn’t regained fertility by the time I’m 40 + 3 months in June 2013, I’m calling it quits for sure.
I have my doubts that my body could handle another postpartum period, even if I had another easy pregnancy. And I have my doubts that I could figure out a way to mother another child in a mindful way, even if the child knew how to sleep, didn’t have separation anxiety and were free of genetic disorders or other challenging conditions.
Sometimes I wonder if the universe will hand me a special needs child just to slow me down and make me seriously prioritize. If we did get pregnant, I would do prenatal testing so that I’d have the best shot of knowing what was to come.
No one ever has control. Nothing is ever predictable. But I wish my first look at my baby had been one of joy and ecstasy instead of concern and worry. I know most people do prenatal tests and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s just part of their pregnancy.
I want to have faith that things will be exactly as they are meant to be, however difficult that may be. If I did get a tough diagnosis and continue the pregnancy, I doubt I would get the negativity today as Martha Beck did almost two decades ago. But I do think I would benefit from having the time and space to be ready to welcome my baby with all the love he or she deserved.
Being pregnant while in graduate school is no piece of cake and even more stressful to learn your unborn child had Down syndrome. In her memoir Expecting Adam, Martha Beck battled almost everyone over her decision to continue her pregnancy. Join From Left to Write on November 10 as we discuss Expecting Adam. We’ll also be chatting live with Martha Beck at 1PM Eastern on November 10 on From Left to Write.
As a member of From Left to Write, I had the chance to receive a free copy of this book but, as noted above, I had already read it… and lent it to a friend who, after two miscarriages, had her second baby at age 40 and then lost her father suddenly three months later, the day after her older son turned four. She proclaimed Expecting Adam her favorite read of the year.