My instananeous joy from hearing Julian Thomas’ strong, healthy cries turned to the heaviest feeling I have ever felt in my heart. The nurse handed Julian to me, his umbilical cord still attached and he was slightly bluish.
The first second that I held him I knew. I looked into his eyes for the first time and I just knew. My baby has Down syndrome. I felt a gut wrenching pain and shock as I held him in all his glory as he came straight out of my womb. This is not my baby. This baby can not be mine.
I am not quite sure what happened after that. I think someone must have recognized the state of shock I was in and took him away. I immediately looked into Tom’s eyes and the first words out of my mouth after Julian’s birth were, “Baby, I think our baby has special needs.” I looked into Tom’s eyes and he didn’t know what I knew. I wanted him to say it was not true, I wanted him to make it all go away. I wanted to be happy. But I wasn’t.
I started crying intensely.
The room was a blur and a lot of hustle and bustle in the room. After one hour and 15 minutes of pushing I had to turn over onto my back again in order to deliver the placenta. I was numb. All I remember were bright lights and the blood and the soft placenta coming out and more blood.
Where I had previously kept my eyes closed throughout the entire birth to protect myself from looking at and seeing the blood, I sat there numb, with my legs wide open – looking down, and ready to let the placenta fall out of me and listening to my midwife say push. Thug. Out came the placenta. The placenta that had been the source of life to my baby – but when I looked at it I felt dead.
I looked around the room, and at the table that was previously empty where I had imagined the baby that we had planned for but that now held my baby that I hadn’t expected – a baby with Down syndrome. The doctors were looking at him and inspecting him. While this was happening I was looking at everyone’s faces and saw their looks of concern. I searched their faces desperately – I wanted someone to tell me that everything was OK, but I could tell that it was not.
I leaned over and told my doula that I was really concerned that my baby had Down syndrome. That is all I could say. Then the rest is a blur. My body and mind went into shock the instant I held Julian so I can’t really remember the rest of what happened in the birthing room.
I do remember smiling for the camera:
The next thing I remember it was time to move rooms to the maternity ward. I didn’t know where my baby was. I felt nothingness. In this moment I was supposed to be cuddling and holding the baby I had expected, but Julian was being cared for in the nursery. I was holding my husband and he and I were sobbing uncontrollably and grieving for the baby we did not have in our arms.
Every time I looked at Julian in the hospital all I could think of was that he had Down syndrome. I could not bond with him but I knew I wanted what was best for Julian so I tried to breastfeed. I cried and looked up a lot of the time that Julian was in my arms because I could not look into his eyes. A lot of times other people had to help me hold him because that was too intense for me to cuddle with him and hold him. I wanted this moment to be joyous and happy but tears of pain were streaming down my face.
My detachment from Julian went so far as to tell the nurses to please remove the name Julian Thomas Mather from his nursery cart because I could not bear the sight of it. This was not even his correct name – his full name is Julian Thomas Sherman (my husband’s last name). To me, that was a name that I had picked out for my OTHER baby. Not this one.
My husband and I were both in such a state of shock that we didn’t correct them.
I was grieving too much and wanted to “put away” everything associated with this baby. I hid the baby clothes I had so hurredly thrown into a bag when I went into labor the day before. I could not bear to put the baby clothes on him because this was not the baby I planned for. The sounds and sights of other people’s typical babies just made me realize that I do not have a typical baby. Late at night I could hear those cries and the muffled sounds of other people in the rooms with their babies but Julian was not in the room with us – he was still in the nursery. My husband and I were both in such a state of grieving that we couldn’t have him in the room with us and take care of him on our own.
The days passed at the hospital. Social workers and nurses came in and out – there was a constant flow of caretakers and people checking in. The eye doctor came to examine Julian. A myriad of other tests. And on day 2 of Julian’s life we needed to take him to another hospital to get an echo cardiogram to check his heart. He had a heart defect – a transitional AVSD
. Why didn’t they find this heart defect during the level ii ultrasound?
Tom and I were not doing well. We discussed adoption. The social worker pressed us for a decision. I was going downhill, fast. My body was going through a hormonal crash and an emotional rollercoaster. I was in the maternity ward, but could not bond with my newly born baby. I did not sleep for 5 days.
Soon it was time for us to go home. What? Already? I started to realize what I had done – I had rejected my baby as soon as he was born. It sunk in. The day of our discharge, I asked Tom if he would hold my hand as I walked into the nursery to visit Julian. I was really nervous. Slowly, slowly, we walked – one foot after the other, through the nursery. We asked for a private room to visit with Julian – we knew it was going to be emotional. I sat there in the private room – crying and crying, apologizing to Julian for neglecting him in the first few days of his life. As I leaned over his bassinet and took him out, my breasts leaked right through my shirt as I finally started to attach to my baby. My body was meant to feed him, nourish him. My body knew what it needed to do – but my heart had been far behind. Before we left, I breastfeed Julian for the first time for an extended period of time successfully.
Julian still needed to stay in the hospital for jaundice so we came back to an empty house. No baby. I asked my parents to close the nursery room door because it was too hard for me to look at the stuff we had prepared for the typically developing baby we had expected. Throughout my pregnancy, I had imagined the day we would proudly bring home our new baby. This was not that homecoming.
So many thoughts were racing through my mind that night. I couldn’t sleep, I had the shakes from the hormone imbalances. Every few hours, I had to pump my engorged breasts, a reminder that our baby was not with us. Tom and I f umbled with the breast pump in the dark. We barely spoke to each other. We had so much to think about, more appointments to make for Julian, calls to make to our insurance company, the list went on and on.
Finally my racing mind came to a rest, as early in the wee hours of the morning, I fell asleep.
Early the next morning, I woke up on my couch and my breasts were leaking. Where is my baby? My cats were on top of me and kneading my chest and purring. My breast milk was coming out of me in reaction to the kneading motion. This put me over the edge. I did not have a baby to feed, and my cats were acting like my babies. On top of that I was feeling detached from Julian. I wanted him more than ever, but I was unsure of how I felt toward him. Did I love him?
All of this was too much, and at that moment, I had a psychotic break from reality that landed me in the mental hospital. I was in so much emotional pain, my body was hormonally unbalanced, I had no sleep and I was in shambles. My mind detached from my body to escape this reality I was in. This meant that on Julian’s homecoming, when my entire immediate family gathered round to welcome Julian “home” (where he would stay at Tom’s aunt and uncles place for a while so Tom count have support), I wasn’t there. I was not there with my baby. I was absent. I missed the first two weeks of my baby’s life. Where was momma?
For the first couple of months of Julian’s life, that was how it was- although I was there physically after I was released from the hospital, I was emotionally detached. We had a lot of help to take care of Julian from family from my amazing relatives, and Tom got a leave of absence from work.
And that is the story of Julian Thomas’ birth. It took me a whole year to write it because it was a traumatic experience for me. Now, looking back, I can look at the photos of Julian’s birth day in a whole new light. I scrutinize the photos and examine every little piece of his face, looking at his beautiful eyes, little button nose and perfect body. But I couldn’t see that then. I couldn’t see HIM. All I could see was Down syndrome.
Today, as you can read and see in my recent blog entries, I am in a much better place and Julian is doing great. But I realized that in order to face the present, you must face the past. So I decided to do that tonight. I have since forgiven myself for the thoughts I had about Julian when he was first born. That was not easy to do.
Thanks for reading.
Julian turns ONE on Sunday so stay tuned for some awesome photos as we celebrate our beautiful little guy’s life on earth so far.
Here are the how to get pregnant tips I promised you:
How to get pregnant:
1) Go get an ovulation predictor kit at CVS.
2) Start keeping track of your cycle length on a calendar (I used Google Calendar) if you do not already know how many days your cycle is. To do this, get a calendar and mark day 1 as the first day your period starts. Keep counting from there…Day 2 is the second day of your period, Day 3 is the third day of your period, and so on and so forth. That last day before your next period starts is the total length of your cycle. The average cycle length for women is 28 days, but there is a range between 21 and 35 days.
4) Start ovulation test kit testing about 2 weeks (the range is 11-16 days) BEFORE your next period is supposed to start. For example, if you have a 28 day cycle, subtract 14 days, so you would start testing on day or 12 of your cycle.
5) Once your ovulation test is positive this indicates the release of the “lutenizing hormone” (LH) indicating the start of your luteal phase, so your egg will be released within 24-36 hours, An egg typically lives for 12 hours or so.
6) You don’t have to try to time doing the baby dance EXACTLY when the egg being released since spermies will live up to 5 days before and 1 day after ovulation….so the key is to surround your little eggie with spermies around that time (aka do the baby dance as much as possible, but once a day is enough. Doing it more than that will just tire you out I’ve found. But of course, it couldn’t hurt.
7) test once morning and then again in the mid afternoon/early evening. for a positive test it really MUST be the exact same color or darker than the test/control line. And usually when it is positive it shows up pretty quickly (at least with mine). so if it fades in over time that is probably a negative. and sometimes there is a really faint line on the test line - also negative.
6) sometimes your surge only lasts a few hours so if you don’t “catch” the LH surge your first cycle testing twice a day on your first cycle, then move to testing for ovulation three times a day next cycle
7) also watch the consistency of your cervical mucous which will increase as ovulation approaches. Some women will feel a “drying up” of the cervical mucous right after ovulation
8) do NOT bother charting your basal body temperature..(another ovulation indicator….way too complicated in my opinion)
9) relax and get to know your cycles and you do not have to do it like bunnies every day when you are ovulating to get preggars. do what feels right
10) some people say that if you stay lying down after intercourse or prop up your bum that helps little spermies with gravity.