One day. That is how long it took for me to get past the unexpected news that our son had Down Syndrome, and to rejoice and thank God for the little life that was growing inside me. I believe that our life experiences mold us into who we are today, and impact how we make decisions and respond to the unexpected. My journey to becoming a mother and growing my family has brought my greatest joys and deepest sorrows. It's an eight year journey that preceded the news that I would have a child with Down Syndrome.
I am a planner. Naturally, as soon as Nick and I were married in 2004, I had a plan for when each of my future children would be born. It was going to be easy...enjoy being young and married for a few years, travel, finish our masters program, and then pop out 3 kids before or around the time I turned 30.
The only thing that happened according to the plan was starting to try for a baby in 2007. What followed was a painfully long 3 year journey of infertility, that included test after test, numerous fertility drugs, failed fertility treatments, surgery for endometriosis, and hundreds of shots (most of which I had to give to myself). Month after month, we were disappointed to learn that I was still not pregnant, and with really no answer as to why not! Outwardly, I maintained appearances, but inwardly I was a mess. I felt defeated.
But, in my pain and sorrow, I felt God's presence stronger than ever before. I vividly remember sitting in church on a Sunday morning when the minister preached on infertility. WHAT?! Is God talking DIRECTLY to me? (Yes, I think He was.) It was a couple of months later when we learned I was pregnant via IVF with our first child, Madi.
God's timing was perfect. My journey to becoming a mother was longer and harder than I had planned, but it was exactly as it needed to be.
It was 2 years later in July of 2012 that I learned I was pregnant again. And this time it was naturally! We couldn't believe it. We were overjoyed! Just 2 weeks later, I miscarried. This was our first baby to go to heaven before we ever had a chance to hold him or her. I think about the baby often and find comfort in knowing that he or she is in heaven. Even in our loss, we had a renewed hope for the future. We could get pregnant! If it happened once, surely it would happen again...right? We started trying again, and after a few months the disappointment set back in.
We weren't getting pregnant.
After more than a year of trying, we decided that we would start working again with a fertility specialist at the start of the new year (2014). I believed that my prior pregnancy was just a fluke and that I was unable to get pregnant or sustain being pregnant without medical intervention. I felt broken.
In the meantime, I was training for a half marathon. It was a Sunday morning in September 2013, and I was up early to run 9 miles. I felt great. I was ready to do this half-marathon! That same day, I realized I was late for my period and decided to take a pregnancy test. I saw two lines and freaked out...like, 'couldn't control the words coming out of my mouth or the movement of my body' freaked out. I was so excited. I knew that this little child was meant to be. Seven months later and a normal pregnancy, we welcomed our son, Beckett, into the world. Again, God's timing was perfect!
And then came 2015...
It was early in the year, and the doctor-recommended 6 months post-partnum wait before trying to get pregnant again had passed. We knew we could get pregnant naturally but we didn't know how long that would take. We didn't want another 4 years between Beckett and a younger sibling, so we decided to start trying right away and if it happened GREAT, but more likely it would take awhile based on our history. We were shocked and pleasantly surprised to learn that I was pregnant again right away. The first trimester passed quickly and easily. Our early screening and ultrasound results came back normal, and our baby was growing!
We were thrilled.
Then, in April 2015 at 14 weeks pregnant, I went in for a routine doctor's visit and learned our baby's heart beat was not beating anymore.
I felt like someone had stabbed me.
I screamed and cried in the doctor's office that day. My heart broke in two. How could this happen in the 2nd trimester? All tests indicated that we had a typically-developing baby boy. But God called him home to heaven for reasons that are beyond my understanding. Our baby boy was due on October 15, 2015. Instead, heaven will hold him until we come home.
We waited until my body healed and decided to try again for baby number 3. We were amazed to learn that we were expecting yet again. We were excited, but immensely worried that this pregnancy would also not last. In retrospect, I know that while my body was healed from a miscarriage just a couple months earlier, my emotional/mental state was not healed. Throughout the entire first trimester and into the second, I constantly ran to the bathroom to check for any sign of miscarriage. I overanalyzed every ache, twitch, or gas bubble.
In a time that was supposed to be joyous, I was a crazy mess.
I couldn't wait to get past 14 weeks gestation. This was when I lost my other baby, so I told myself that if I could just get past that point, things would be ok. It was right around that 14 week mark when we learned that our baby had Down Syndrome. I didn't hear Down Syndrome. I heard, "there is over a 30% chance of a miscarriage at any time during the pregnancy, or a stillbirth". At that moment, I decided it didn't matter that he had Down Syndrome, what mattered is that he had a strong, healthy heartbeat inside me.
Through a lot of prayer, a ton of support from family and friends, and good ol' therapy, I was able to healthfully grieve for our son that we lost. I finally found peace with our loss and renewed hope for our pregnancy. There were still moments of worry and anxiety throughout my pregnancy, but my little guy's heart continued to beat strong.
After every storm there is a rainbow of hope. On March 4, 2016, August was born. For the third time, I saw God's perfect timing and plan as I stared into the eyes of my sweet baby boy whom I love more fiercely than I can put into words.
August is my rainbow of hope.
I'm not sure where this journey goes from here, but I will continue to choose joy. I am blessed with three beautiful children, and that makes me one happy momma!
For those that are struggling with infertility, grieving the loss of a pregnancy or child, or have received unexpected news...YOU are not alone. I hope you have the support and resources that you need alongside you in this journey. You are whole. You are strong. Never lose hope.