Sarah Kate’s birth story, published in honor of her 10th birthday in December, was among the most popular of my recent posts. As I said then, it seems a bit narcissistic to publish my children’s birth stories, but Sarah Kate’s was obviously interesting to many of you, who expressed interest in hearing Nathan’s, as well. He turned three yesterday, so in honor of his birthday, I’m posting his birth story (also in multiple parts). If you missed it, you can go here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.
We didn’t tell our families right away.
I didn’t want my mother, who would be driving the six hours early the next morning to be with us, to worry. I did call my sister and ask her to pray for us, which she dutifully did, and more. By the time I spoke with her again the next day, she had slept only a little and researched a lot.
Nathan had to use an oxygen mask in the beginning, making it harder for me to hold him and bond with him. Instead, I focused on my husband, who was hurting and closed in on himself in a way that alarmed me. I had texted my friend Katie earlier to let her know about Nathan’s birth; under the covers in the darkness I messaged her again to tell her what the doctor had said.
Rooming in wasn’t possible.
But the hospital was small and the nursery wasn’t far away. In the middle of the night on Sunday, I lay awake in my bed, fretting over Mr. Andi’s deep funk. It’s hard to imagine now, but there were moments that I wondered if he would ever be able to bond with Nathan. I thought of my tiny baby boy and feared that his father would never be able to love him.
As I lay in the darkness, I was struck with the urge to get up and go to see Nathan.
I struggled out of bed and headed down the hall, fighting the pain of my incision and dragging my IV pole alongside me. I didn’t want my baby boy to be alone, and I was determined that he would know the love of one parent. In that moment, I loved him with a fierce passion that would have given me the power to do whatever it took to protect him, even if it was from the indifference of his own father.
By Monday morning, I was beginning to worry about Mr. Andi’s mental health. When he was briefly out of the room, I called the nurses’ desk and begged them to call our church and ask our priest to come. A short while later, Deacon Hank arrived. Within moments after Deacon Hank’s departure, Mr. Andi stood up and told me he was going to work.
I couldn’t fathom what would motivate him to go to work. I was certain he had flipped out completely. I briefly wondered if it was possible that he might abandon us altogether. But then he reminded me that he impresses upon his employees – “his guys,” as he calls them – that it’s up to them to choose their response to what life throws at them. He said that it was time to walk the walk. From that moment on, he was a different person. A renewed person. A loving, doting father.
Later that day, the initial blood screen came back positive for Down syndrome. Our pediatrician told us we would have more complete results within about a week, and described mosaic Down syndrome to us for the first time. Like most people, we didn’t know there were different types of T21.
Many people called or visited us in the hospital, but the one call that I most treasure was from the mother of one of Sarah Kate’s school mates. Her son had been Sarah Kate’s “guardian angel” in kindergarten, helping her and accompanying her on a daily basis. Unlike many others, she faced the diagnosis head on, without pity or clichés. As we talked, she reminded me of the Beatitudes, and specifically of “Blessed are the pure in spirit, for theirs shall be the kingdom of heaven.”
That acquaintance became my oft-mentioned friend, Dawn.
My ob/gyn and several of his office staff paid us a visit. Because of my frequent trips to the doctor during the pregnancy, I knew the staff well and felt closer to him than I had either of my previous doctors, so I was happy to see him. He came in the room, sat on the edge of my bed, and with a warm but tentative smile said, “Doggone it.” It may sound cold or flippant to an outsider, but his reaction was one of the best things anyone said to me in those early days. We had been through a lot in those 8-1/2 months and we both felt, in that first moment after Nathan was born, relief that my baby had finally arrived and was healthy. With that simple phrase, he acknowledged that the outcome wasn’t what we’d hoped for, but that it wasn’t the end of the world. Life goes on.
As my discharge day approached, we began to worry that Nathan might not be released at the same time. The fierce momma bear that had struck me in the middle of the night when Nathan was 30 hours old began to rear her powerful head again. After the dreadful experience of leaving the hospital without Sarah Kate seven years earlier, I was determined that Nathan and I would go home together.
In the end, we did.
It was a small thing, but one that was important to me then and that I treasure now. Though many non-typical experiences lay ahead, I rejoiced in the opportunity to have this one small experience that other, normal, people have.