This Was Meant To Be

 |  By Dr. Lee Tasker  | 

Infant son with Down syndrome

So there I was, lying inclined on a birthing table in a hospital delivery room. I was baring down with the last hard push needed to deliver our baby. My husband was bedside, holding my hand. The doctor, seated in front of me, began guiding the baby safely out.

"It's a boy!" the doctor announced. My husband jumped for joy at the good news. But, my initial reaction was very different. "He looks like a martian," I said, as a nurse placed him upon my chest. He was also making high-pitched, gurgling sounds and air bubbles were forming around his mouth. His new-born look and sounds were a little off-setting to me.

I was equally struck by the unusual activity among the hospital staff. Among other things, I noticed my doctor, who was standing in one corner of the room, rifling through my prenatal medical chart. There was also a hush among the nursing staff as they went about their post-natal duties -- quite opposite to their usual, interactive hospital-room chatter. These were events unlike the ones I had experienced with the birth of our first child, which had occurred with the same hospital staff two years earlier.

I felt something was not quite right. But I just couldn't put my finger on it. The nurse then told us our son was not breathing very well and they needed to take him to the perinatal intensive care for further observation. She gently removed him from my arms.

By this point, my husband was calling my parents to tell them the great news: they were grandparents again, but this time they had a grandson. He'd hung up the phone and had returned to my bedside when the doctor approached us.

"There is a good chance your son has Down syndrome," he said, pinching the skin on his throat. This news immediately threw me into a whirl-wind of nano thoughts and a roller coaster ride of mixed emotions.

First, I was overcome by shock. It was paralyzing. Then, despair and self-pity quickly crept in. All I wanted to do was curl up into a ball, roll myself into a cave, and lick my wounds. But these feelings were immediately replaced with empathy for my husband. I saw the sorrowful look on his face. He seemed to be hurting more than I was. Then, thoughts of my husband's broken heart got me quickly thinking of our daughter. How was having a little brother with Down syndrome going to affect her life?

My husband and daughter were the two most important people in my life. As was my natural instinct, I wanted to remain emotionally strong for them. But how? I was in such emotional pain. Accepting this situation was the only thing that came to mind.

I then recall experiencing a purposeful and high-speed elevator ride through the levels of emotional acceptance. At each level, the doors would open and I'd asked myself: "Do I accept this?" With each negative response, the doors would close and I would be launched to the next level. So the journey went. Until the doors finally opened onto this divine, pale yellow light.

It was so beautiful and it enveloped my whole body in warmth from head to toe. I then heard a tender voice from within me saying, "This was meant to be and everything will be alright." These words, along with the warmth I was feeling, brought me an overwhelming sense of peace. While I was not yet at a level of full acceptance, and still in a significant state of shock, they were enough to comfort me, keep me calm, and allow me to function somewhat normally.

Notwithstanding the fact that we would be dealing with a life-time of care for our son with Down syndrome, I couldn't help but feel okay in those moments following his birth. To this day, when the going gets tough, I recall those words I heard in that hospital delivery room some 22 years ago: "This was meant to be and everything will be alright". They have become a main mantra in my life: I need only to repeat them and I feel an immediate sense of comfort.

Tell us your story of what it was like for you to give birth to your child with a disability. What were those first few moments or hours like for you? Perhaps you adopted a child with a disability. Whatever the circumstance was that gave way to this kind of parenthood for you, we'd love to hear about it.

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