Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Ending: Liam's Birth Story

Today, our beautiful Liam is 9 months old. Unbelievable.  This first year with him is flying by, but every day with him is a blessing!

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Nine months ago, we were wondering if our baby was going to be a boy or a girl and wondering what we were going to name him/her.  We had no idea our lives were about to change in more ways than we expected.

I shared the first part of Liam's birth story shortly after he was born. I put off sharing the ending, because it was the most difficult part to write.  Oh, I wrote it.  I just couldn't bring myself to hit the publish button.  The weeks turned into months, and here we are.

As difficult as it was to write, Liam's story deserves to be told.

My recollection of the events that occurred after Liam's birth is foggy.  I remember things that happened, things that were said, and the way I felt, but not necessarily in order. The hours after his birth were filled with shock, grief, worry, and fear.

We went into the hospital expecting to meet the perfectly healthy baby we saw in all the ultrasounds.   What actually happened was enough to rock anyone's world. 

I found out after Liam's birth that all my feelings that day were completely normal.  I'm not proud of the way I felt at times, but my thoughts and feelings were identical to many I talked to who shared a similar experience.  Thoughts went through my mind that no mother should ever feel. The truth is, it was a grieving process. I grieved the loss of the baby I thought we were getting, and had to to go through the process of grief, acceptance, and healing. 

What I'm about to share is going to be raw, emotional, and completely honest, but the ending is beautiful. 

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I left off with our son being rushed away and surrounded by nurses and doctors.  We weren't allowed to see our baby, and everyone ignored our questions.  Finally, he cried, the room cleared, and a nurse handed him to me.

The room was completely empty and the delivery lights were still shining brightly on the bed.  I took my son from the nurse, and held him out so Grant and I could finally see him.  His eyes were wide open and they locked on mine.  As soon as our eyes met, my heart plummeted.

Those eyes were so much different than my other newborns.  I knew.  I just knew, deep in my heart, that he wasn't the baby we expected. I actually turned to ask the nurse if he had Down Syndrome, and nobody was there.  I stared at him and every expectation I had for him and our future shattered.

I started to cry while I was holding him.  I turned to Grant, sobbing, "He has Down Syndrome."  I remember the shock on Grant's face and him asking me how I knew.  All I could say was, "He does. He just does."

We were alone in that room for what felt like an eternity.  Grief enveloped me as I hugged my baby, and I couldn't stop the tears from falling.  Nobody came in to check on us.  I remember feeling so alone and lost.

After what felt like hours, a doctor came into the room, pulled over a chair, and sat down. That's never a good sign. He didn't have to say a word. I already knew.

He struggled to put into words that some of the doctors suspected our baby had a genetic disorder.  I remember Grant asking, "Do you mean Down Syndrome?"  I remember the doctor nodding his head, then assuring us that all our questions would be answered. As if that wasn't enough to process, he told us that 3 out of every 5 babies born with Down Syndrome have a major heart defect and that he needed to take him to the cardiologist immediately.  With that, our son was whisked away yet again, and we were truly alone.

That's when I lost it.  Completely, truly lost it.  I sobbed, uncontrollably, while Grant tried to reassure me that it would all be okay.  I think I kept repeating the same words.  "It's not okay. I can't do this. I don't want to do this."  I remember asking God why he did this to our beautiful baby.

I remember thinking that I didn't want any of this.  I wanted the perfect, healthy baby I expected. Instead, we were faced with uncertainty.  I was terrified we were going to lose our son or that he was going to need multiple surgeries, and I was terrified of how much our lives were going to change.  I knew nothing would ever be the same again.

It felt like a nightmare.  I kept thinking I was going to wake up at any moment, roll over, tell Grant all about it, and laugh at how much I worried about things. Everything that was happening was completely surreal.

Eventually, our son was brought back to us. Despite the grief, I knew I had a baby to take care of.  I tried to nurse him.  He would latch on, suck weakly for a few seconds,  then turn his head away. On top of that, we still hadn't decided on his name.  I finally told Grant to pick his name. Grant proudly walked over the the board, and wrote down his son's name.

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We realized we didn't have a single picture of our new baby boy.  We were never given the chance to pick up the camera. The first picture taken of Liam was when he was in my arms for the second time.

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All I wanted to do was hide out in our hospital room and hide our baby from the world. I didn't want to break the news to our family and friends.  Unfortunately, my sister was in the waiting room, and family and friends were on their way.  Grant brought up the fact that my sister had been waiting a  long time and that we had to go get her.

Kelly came back to the room with Grant, and she was so excited to meet her nephew.  We were still processing the news, so we didn't say anything.  She could tell I had been crying, and asked if I was okay. I just told her I was tired and emotional.  She was so happy to be there during my labor and was thrilled she was the first person to meet Liam. She held him and fussed over him, and didn't even notice anything was wrong.

Before leaving, she snapped a few pictures for us.  I'm so glad she was there and so glad we have these pictures.  A picture is worth a thousand words and these pictures tell quite a story.

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After Kelly left, a nurse whisked Liam away, yet again, for more testing.  Once again, we were left in complete silence, and nobody came in to talk to us.  My legs were still numb, so I was trapped in bed.  I couldn't move, couldn't think, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  I felt completely numb and completely drained.

We called my parents, who were on their way with our kids. We didn't say anything to them about what was going on.  Grant called his mom, and broke the news to her.  I cried in the background as he spoke.  At that point, I sent the most difficult message I ever had to write to some of my closest friends.

I was still crying when my dear friend, Steph, knocked on the door.  As soon as she walked into the room, she saw the pain on my face, and she started to cry.  She arrived at the hospital before reading my message, so she had no idea.

As she hugged me, I explained what was going on.  She quickly pulled herself together and then pulled us together.  Steph was the moral support we needed so badly.  She put such a positive spin on everything and helped us so much. She started laughing and said, "I'm more surprised that it's a boy than I am that he has Down Syndrome!"  I am so thankful she was there for us.  She saved us from falling deeper into depression. (Thanks, Steph.  I know you're reading and I hope you know just how much you mean to me!)

We decided that Grant and Steph were going to take the kids out of the room as soon as they arrived so I could tell my parents everything. As soon as my parents walked into the room, we greeted the kids, and told them Grant was going to take them to the cafeteria for a treat. My parents immediately knew something was going on, especially since the baby wasn't in the room with us. The look on my mom's face was one of pure terror.  As soon as the door closed behind them, my face crumpled.

I remember my mom's voice, filled with dread, "What's going on?"  I remember trying to get the words out through my tears, "They think he has Down Syndrome." I remember her dropping everything she was carrying to the ground, crying out, "NO!" and covering her mouth with her hand.

I think she hugged me while we cried, I think they asked questions, but I truly can't remember anything after her reaction. That is, until my awesome dad, with his amazing positive attitude, said, "Okay, where's my grandson? I want to meet him!"

Grant, Steph, and the kids returned, so I called the nurses station to ask for my son back.  Steph pulled out her camera and began capturing all the special moments while we waited.  We gave the kids their big sibling gifts, I tried to eat something but ended up feeding Lily instead, the kids felt my empty belly, and I showed them pictures of their new sibling.  Dylan, Lexie, and Lily were the distraction we needed. Their happiness and excitement were contagious.

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Finally, the nurse brought Liam back to us.

I didn't even see any of the pictures until just a few months ago, and I cried as I flipped through them for the first time. The pain on my face is evident in the first few pictures, but my mindset began to change as I watched Dylan, Lexie, and Lily meet their baby brother.  They loved him just as he was, with all their might. He was perfect in their eyes.

Steph captured these precious moments perfectly, so I'll let the pictures tell the story.

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I was so afraid that our family and friends were going to act differently around him. I was afraid that all they would notice was his slanted eyes or the extra skin on the back of his neck.  Our family and friends loved him just as they loved Dylan, Lexie, and Lily.  The love and support from them was amazing, and watching them love our special boy brought tears to my eyes.

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Everybody headed home, and Liam was taken away again.  Once again, the sadness hit when Liam was out of the room.  I remember my two amazing nurses coming in before the shift change to say goodbye.  They both wrapped their arms around me and assured me everything would be okay.  They were the first hospital personnel to even acknowledge our concerns.

We began the difficult task of telling our family and friends about Liam.  Within a half hour of telling my mom group on Facebook, I received a message from another woman that had gone through the same thing.  She was the one who gave us the most information, and I am so grateful for that.  Nobody at the hospital would give us any information. Doctors, nurses, and the lactation consultant came and went, but I can't remember anything they said. Mostly, they said nothing. Apparently, they had to treat him like a typical baby until the blood test confirmed the diagnosis.

It was nearly 6:00 before I was able to get out of bed.  After moving around for a bit, Grant and the nurse convinced me that I had to eat something.  We were eventually moved out of the delivery room and into a recovery room.

I think we had visitors that night, but honestly, we had so many visitors that the visits blend together.  The love and support was overwhelming and much needed.

Grant and I finally attempted to go to bed.  It was the most emotionally and physically draining day.  Liam had been taken out of the room for MORE testing and evaluation. My arms were empty, my heart was heavy, and I cried myself to sleep.

In the middle of the night, the nurse quietly entered the room with Liam.  She cheerfully announced that he had another bath and was hungry. She checked on me and handed Liam over.

The room was dim and silent.  I held Liam in front of me and studied my baby boy. I breathed in his amazing newborn smell and touched his soft cheeks and lips. His eyes opened and locked on mine.  It was almost as if he was begging to be wanted and loved.

In that moment, he took my breath away.

The tears fell again, but this time, they fell because I was so ashamed at how I felt after he was born. I stared at him and told him that I would love and protect him with all my might. I hugged him against me and kissed the top of his head.  He wrapped his fingers around mine and I fell head over heels in love with my beautiful boy.

The rest of our hospital stay was a blur. I woke up early the following morning and my wonderful doctor came in as I was walking around.  She gave me a huge hug and apologized for not discovering this during my pregnancy.  We received the great news that his heart was perfectly healthy and his thyroid was perfectly normal.  We had a lot of visitors that day, but I can't seem to find those pictures.  We also had our courtesy Welcome Baby Dinner!

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By the next day, Grant and I were more than ready to take our baby home.  Nobody helped us or gave us any information, and it was very frustrating!

I know Liam's birth wasn't typical, but I feel like we were robbed of having a somewhat normal experience.  I felt angry that we were unable to bond with our baby.  We didn't get to hold him or see him for the first half hour of his life, then he spent most of his first day away from us.  I honestly feel like the situation would have been less painful if we were just given a chance to hold him for a few seconds after he was born.  I understand their concerns and why they needed to examine him, but I really do feel like the bonding process was very delayed.  My only other regret is that we were unable to take any pictures of him after he was born.

As I was packing up our things to leave the hospital, Liam napped in the sunlight.  I remember turning around and catching a glimpse of him. His beauty captivated me.  He looked so perfect and angelic, and I was overcome with the fierce urge to love and protect him.

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My doctor discharged me and we waited impatiently for Liam to get discharged. We couldn't wait to take him home, where he belonged!

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Finally, the nurse came in with the paperwork and removed the security devices.  We were free to put this behind us and move on!

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As I was wheeled out of the hospital, I wrapped my arms protectively around Liam's carseat.  We ended up in an elevator full of nuns, who surrounded us and prayed over him. It was a very positive end to our hospital stay.

We arrived home to a decorated house, food, gifts, and 3 very excited kids!  We were thrilled to be home with our newest love!

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Liam's birth story was not an easy one to tell.  There are quite a few things I wish I could change, but I would never want to change him.  I honestly believe Grant and I were meant to receive such a special blessing. Even if we had known during my pregnancy, it wouldn't have changed anything.

Dylan, Lexie, and Lily's births were so special. Liam's birth was special, too. I remember the overwhelming feeling of joy when I met Dylan, Lexie, and Lily for the first time, but no matter how hard I try, I can't remember looking into their eyes for the first time.

The moment Liam's eyes met mine is seared into my mind forever.  There are times when I close my eyes and the image is so vivid it makes me gasp. There are times when I try to relive the moment, and I can.  It's just his face, illuminated by the only light in the room, and those big eyes staring into mine. That moment is so beautiful now. At the time, I failed to see his beauty. Now, his beauty is all I can see.

Liam changed our lives in so many ways.  Liam challenged us to be better parents. He brought our family and friends closer.  His birth brought so many amazing people into my life; people I never would have met if he didn't have Down Syndrome. Liam made our lives better.

Every day, I thank God for giving Liam to me.  He is a true gift and I am honored to be his mom. I wake up to his incredible smile every morning.  He is joyful, determined, beautiful, captivating, and absolutely perfect.  My love for this beautiful boy is immeasurable.

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44 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing!! It's a beautiful story! I love your dads response when you told your parents. I couldn't help but think how beautiful it is that Liam's siblings didn't think twice about him being different. I just love the pure heart of a child! You have 4 beautiful kiddos! :)

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  2. Ah tears! I can see why it was a hard one to write. Liam is lucky to have such an amazing mama!

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  3. You are such a wonderful mother and an inspiration to others! I first came across your blog when it was on Huff Post or AOL's homepage or somewhere like that; you are amazing. Your whole family is amazing. Keep being the best mama you can and the rest will fall into place!

    Karen H - a fan in South Dakota

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  4. Glad you were able to finish sharing his story.

    We love you and Liam, no matter what! xoxox

    Reading your text message that afternoon feels like yesterday. We cannot imagine our lives without your family in it, and Liam just completed it!

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    1. Thank you! XOXO We love you guys! I'll have to see if you have any pictures from when you visited.

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  5. Wow. You have a way to bring the emotions out in writing. Beautiful Story.
    How cool is that about the nuns??

    I was wondering when/if/how you told the kids, or just let them think--no, not think, KNOW, that he is perfect!

    Thanks for sharing something so personal and raw. What a blessing to have such a support system!

    Love,
    Joy

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    1. Thank you, Joy! We did tell the kids after we came home. They still insist he's perfect!

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  6. wow. this absolutely amazing. I cried, and then laughed and then cried some more. Thank you for being so honest! He is absolutely precious and melts my heart every time I see his sweet smile.

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  7. Just read this entire post word for word and am balling my eyes out like a baby. Kudos to your awesome dad, but mostly for you my friend. You are a wonderful person and mother and Liam was the lucky one to end up with you guys as parents. He is a DOLL and I'm just so happy he didn't have any of the heart issues! :)

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  8. Beautiful story, I will never forget that text and the immediate sense of love I felt for a little boy I had yet to meet. Liam is so lucky to have such a loving and supportive family to cheer him on through the challenges and celebrate the victories!! It is so fun to watch Liam grow into such a cute & sweet little boy. xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Amy! I'm glad he has you on his side! So thankful for you! XOXO

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  9. Thank you being so brave and sharing this. I so admire you for being completely honest. I've "known" you for a few years now and just love ya! You are amazing, he is amazing, XOXO

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  10. Just read this entire post & once again, am in aw of you as a mom!!! You really are amazing & as a new mom to one, I really look up and admire you!!! Liam is beautiful! As are you. Xo

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  11. Liam has a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it! He is so adorable! Even though I'm a newer follower of your blog, I can read the love written in every line you have for all of your children.

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    1. Thank you, Tracy! I appreciate your kind words and support!

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  12. So glad you wrote all this down. You did a perfect job describing in with raw, true emotion. I can relate to this a lot with Alex's birth story and then later diagnosis.

    You are a wonderful woman! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Shannon! I'm sure you could and I feel the same way about you!

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  13. So beautifully written. So hard yet so wonderful to read. Those pictures of you & him are so breathtakingly beautiful. xoxoxo

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  14. I love you so much! The strength you have as a mother, wife, and a woman is admirable. Your children are so blessed to have you as their mother. I am honored to be your friend and I feel it was such a privilege to be present in those moments...I will also never forget how I felt the moment I looked at Liam. I love you all very much!

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    1. I love YOU. Thank you for being there for us and for all the beautiful pictures. XOXO

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  15. I'm so glad you shared this story- it's beautiful and had me in tears. He makes me smile anytime I see a picture of him and I love following his journey! He has great things in store and is such an amazing little guy!

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  16. Thanks for sharing. Liam is precious, and you are such a wonderful mom

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  17. Thank you for being so open and sharing this. I know it wasn't easy. I cried throughout, but mostly because I can see what a blessing Liam is to your family and how amazing you are as his Mama. This was was so beautiful and he is perfect!

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  18. This is some powerful writing. What a sweet story. Liam is so beautiful.
    I wish that hospitals had a better way of handling moments like these, rather than silence. I would imagine not knowing or receiving information would make everything harder, as it allows a toxic mixture of postpartum hormones and imagination! I think you handled everything really well, and you shouldn't feel guilty for those initial thoughts.

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    1. Thank you so much for the support. My only regret is that they didn't deal with this better. I understand, but it made it worse.

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  19. Thank you for sharing Liam's beautiful story with us. You're a GREAT mommy!

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  20. What a beautiful post. I cried right along with you; your words were so profound, especially the moment when you realized that you would do anything in the world to love and protect this baby boy. His newborn pictures are beautiful, tender, and perfect, and your kids are AMAZING. God bless you all!

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  21. You are such an amazing mom, wife and friend. This story just proves that. All four of your kids are so lucky to have you and grant as parents.

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