Motherhood Isn’t Always Black and White

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Today is an extra special Mother’s Day.

It is also our twin’s 7th Birthday.

I never dreamed that I would ever be the mother of 3 children, especially twins. After experiencing the picture perfect pregnancy and delivery with our son; it was very hard accepting the realization that our son would be an only child. We finally decided that our family would consist of being just the 3 of us after suffering through numerous miscarriages. The stress was just too much. We had a very healthy and lively little boy and he would be just fine as an only child. Or so we thought.

I soon went back to work full- time when my son started kindergarten. I was happy to be back in the work force after spending so many years as a stay at home mom.

A couple of months after going back to work and starting to enjoy the fast paced mortgage industry once again, I was feeling a little sick. I soon confirmed that I was pregnant again. After having experienced the ups and downs of infertility, I was nervous, anxious, skeptical and elated all at the same time.

With my history of miscarriages, my doctor wanted to see me right away to do a sonogram. I looked up at the screen just praying to see a heartbeat. Not only did I see one but two. Could this really be happening? At 39 and using no fertility drugs, I was pregnant with twins. I left the doctors office in disbelief.  Was our life really going to change so drastically or would this pregnancy have the same dreadful fate as all the others.

We decided to only tell our close family until we had made It through the first trimester. It helped that I was now working and could keep my mind off of the possibility of losing these babies. I was monitored very closely since I was a carrying twins and being over 35. It was considered a very high-risk pregnancy.  It was at one of these appointments of my Maternal and Fetal Specialists that I would soon learn that this was not going to be the normal pregnancy after all.

During one of the level 2 sonograms Twin A was showing 4 markings of Down Syndrome and Twin B had 2 markings. Could this really be true? I knew of so many friends that had been told the same news in their sonogram appointments and they had been wrong. My mother told me that my Daddy, who was a physician, had delivered thousands of babies and not one had been born with Down Syndrome.

I was devastated. After finally having another pregnancy last through the second trimester and knowing that we were having little girls; I just couldn’t believe what God was doing to us. I thought I had been faithful. I had spent my entire life in church. Why was I being made to suffer so much?  I just wanted another baby; these babies that had been growing inside me for almost five months.

After doing a lot of research and soul searching, my husband and I decided to have an amniocentesis on both babies. I had to know the truth. I had to prepare my mind as well as my heart. I couldn’t bear to hear all the percentage numbers from the doctor anymore.  It was all too scientific. He was so cold and callous with the all the data on babies born with Down Syndrome. He had us totally convinced that our lives were destined to be over with the possibility of this diagnosis. He was 95 percent sure that both of our babies would be born with Trisomy 21.

It was soon confirmed that Twin A would indeed be born with Down Syndrome and Twin B would not. The doctor informed us that this would be good news and bad news and gave me a pamphlet on the local support group. That’s it? I sobbed. I prayed. I blamed God. Why me? Why us?

I went to my very first Down Syndrome support group meeting knowing that I would soon be a parent of a baby with DS on the following Tuesday. I was all by myself. I knew no one. I was nervous. I was expecting to open that door to doom and gloom. Why me God? I thought my life was pretty perfect.

I opened the doors to hear laughter. The parents were telling stories about their children. I then spotted the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. Her name was Darah and she was six months old. She had Down Syndrome.

I woke up the next morning with a new faith after spending time with these wonderful parents. They were more than eager to share their stories of what it was like to be a parent of a child born with DS. The pride on the faces in that room was brighter than anyone I had ever witnessed. It was such a stark contrast to the picture painted by my Maternal and Fetal Specialist only a few days before. After spending time with these families, I was starting to accept the idea that I would soon be the mom of a child with DS.

The next couple of months went surprisingly well. I was feeling good and looking forward to being the mother of 3. I finally allowed myself to go shopping for the nursery and adorable little girl clothes. It was finally going to happen. I would soon be holding two baby girls in my arms. Or so I thought.

I was continually being monitored with Level 2 sonograms due to the fact that this was a high-risk pregnancy.  At the appointment near 30 weeks gestation it was discovered that twin A was starting to show signs of erratic diastolic flow and was no longer gaining weight.  It was recommended that I take it easy and rest and monitor the movement of twin A in my belly closely. They wanted me to make sure I felt her kicking from time to time and I needed to come in even more often for monitoring. We were hoping to make it until the babies were 32 weeks. Babies have a lower risk of problems being born after then. I couldn’t believe this news, yet another set back in the nightmare of a pregnancy. I just wanted my babies healthy and in my arms.

The day was Friday May 13th, and I was scheduled for an early morning visit with the Maternal Fetal Specialist and then an appointment with my hairdresser.  I was exactly 31 weeks and 5 days pregnant with twins.

That morning it was discovered that twin A was quickly losing diastolic flow. We were given the decision to leave her in there and let her die because “we knew she had Down Syndrome and it was probably God’s way of giving you an out” or we could deliver now and risk the life of Twin B who we knew to be “normal.”

These were our options? Did we just hear what I thought we heard? The doctor was giving us a choice to terminate the pregnancy of twin A? We had to make this decision this morning? Right now?

Twin A, who was already named Catherine, was part of our family. Even though she hadn’t yet taken a breath, she was my child.  We could never think of giving up on her just because she had DS. I was raised Catholic and was now being given the option of playing God with my own unborn child?  This had to be a dream.

After hurriedly walking over to the hospital to visit with the NICU staff as to what to expect if we delivered the babies that morning; we made the toughest decision of our lives.  After calling our church pastor and friends to make sure our son would be picked up from school, we gathered in a private room in Methodist Hospital to pray. Our pastor prayed with us to have healthy babies and protect me during the delivery. I took the biggest leap of faith in my life. We put all my faith and trust in God when the medical experts were advising us that twin A would be a burden just because of her known diagnosis.

In a few hours, the twins would be born in relatively good health. I was finally able to hear those cries that I had long been yearning for.  Catherine, twin A, was 2 pounds 11 ounces and would spend 8 weeks in the NICU. Savannah, twin B, was 3 pounds 3 ounces and was the first to come home after 6 weeks in the NICU.

They are 7 years old today; Mother’s Day.  They are healthy, happy and thriving. I never dreamed that I would be blessed with 3 children and one of which would have special needs. On most days, we forget that she even has DS. Although there will always be unique challenges for Catherine; we have very high expectations for her.  She has taught me more about faith than I ever felt possible. I can already see how she has made her siblings more patient, thoughtful and compassionate to the world around them. My husband and I have grown so much closer because of that rushed decision we made in a non-descript hospital waiting area seven years ago today.

Although motherhood is almost never black and white; I am enjoying life as the mother of these 3 wonderful children in bright and vivid color. I want my life to be witness to all the many blessings that God has given us. I want it to be proof that life doesn’t have to end with the diagnosis of Down Syndrome; often times it is only the beginning.

God is so very good.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Comments

  1. wow. thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Beautiful words filling my eyes with tears. Your life is a a wonderful testimony to our glorious and merciful God. Happy Mother’s Day sweet friend and sassy Bunco Babe! Love, Carrie

  3. Angie Ritenour says:

    Such a wonderful story Laura! XOXOXO

  4. Susan Burk says:

    Beautiful Laura! I

  5. I remember seeing you at a JLSA event shortly after your level 2 ultrasound told you Catherine would be born with DS. I had gone through the same thing with Ain and we discussed how often those tests are wrong. I prayed and prayed for you and your beautiful family, and I have often marveled to Derek that God obviously gives babies like Catherine to AMAZING parents like you and Steve for a reason – to be loved and cared for in the best way imaginable. You are the most amazing mother, Laura, and I regularly sit in awe of you. She is so blessed to have wonderful parents like you, and I know you feel the same way about her, which is of course what makes you such a great mommy. I didn’t know about your birth story, and it just confirms for me what a strong, wise and God-fearing woman you are. I feel so blessed to have you in my life and call you my friend. Happiest of Mother’s Days to you, and Happy Birthday to Catherine and Savannah. Love you much, my friend!

    Jennifer Milikien

  6. What a wonderful woman you are and what an amazing example of God faith and love. I love that you are kind, funny and super sassy! When we found out that we were pregnant with triplets the doctor offered us “selective reduction”. Seriously! He wanted me to choose one out of my three angels to be terminated, give me a break. We switched doctors immediately and delivered 3 healthy babies all weighing over 5.6lbs. God is good. God made Catherine extra special to teach the world about His love. You are wonderful. I love you

  7. Michelle says:

    Laura,
    Here I am in Starbucks reading your post and crying! Your story is so moving and so filled with love! Thank you for sharing something so beautiful with us!

  8. I know this story and always enjoy hearing it. But to read it this time – was so moving. On a personal level – it was beautiful, passionate, and inspiring. On a literary level, Laura, I loved how you used the reference to black and white and color in your closing. Awesome work, my dear. And awesome mothering. Happy Mother’s Day to you.

    • Thank you all so much. I am crying reading all your comments. I haven’t looked back since taking that wonderful leap of faith. I can’t imagine life without that precious little girl and her brother and sister. God is so very good.

  9. Laura! Goodness gracious, now you’ve got me crying right before I’m heading off to bed!! I didn’t know all the details ’till now and am just blown away by your beautiful, strong, faithful family. And, I know that what you have shared here will encourage others in their journey and calm their fears. You may never know who they are, but know that your example will give strength and hope to many. I love the photos of your children, and girls with their sassy dark ringlets and gorgeous smile, just like their mama!

  10. JIM BOB ANDERSON says:

    MAY I SAY WHAT A WONDERFUL WOMAN YOU ARE . I BELEIVE YOUR THE MOST SUCCEESFUL CLASSMATE.

  11. Laura, what a wonderful testament to the beautiful and loving person you are inside and out. You have always been so accepting and loving of all of those around you. You have truly blessed my heart and reminded me how grateful we should be everyday for what God gives us, that is how he molds us to be the witnesses for Him, He needs us to be. I am so happy to have you in my life!!! I love you sweet friend!!!

  12. Beautiful!

  13. Christie says:

    I just read your amazing story. I had heard you alude to the tough choices you had to make with the girls, but I never heard the entire story. You are truly an inspiration, and I’m so glad that you are my friend! I’m so proud of all that Catherine has accomplished. I can’t wait to see her again. You brought tears to my eyes!
    Christie

  14. Matilda D'Alessandro says:

    You are definetely a ‘Warrior’ making such a difficult decision. Your story is very inspiring, especially to those who may be considering ending their pregnancy in knowing their baby will be born with DS.
    The way I feel I can help those that are having babies with DS or have young babies is, if they were to see my daughter Gabrielle who is now 24, they would definetely be inspired by her! She is not only beautiful, she is a great reader, speaker, dancer etc.,etc.,etc. She can be a role model for parents & young people with DS. I do think about going into DS support groups or hospitals when a mom gives birth to a baby with DS, and encourage them just by seeing Gabrielle!

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!
    Matilda & Gabrielle
    PS Gabrielle is on Facebook.

  15. Thank you for sharing your story. I am pregnant with my fifth child. With all the frustrations of motherhood and a teenager in our household I was having a difficult time dealing with this pregnancy and being excited. On top of the existing anxiety about coping with five children, I just found out that the baby I’m pregnant with has down syndrome. I feel so disheartened and sad. I understand the need for a time to grieve and being able to accept the new challenges we will face, but it’s been very difficult so I thank you for the perspective and light you have shared. I am hoping to feel that way some day soon. As for now, I feel so worried and disappointed (I know it’s not very polite to voice that but it’s what’s in my heart) I don’t really feel like talking to anybody but I’m hoping I can find a support group as you did so that I can be ready for the baby and love her like she needs. Anyway, it doesn’t look like there’s been a response to this post in years but maybe even just voicing my concern can be just a little therapeutic.

    • You do need to make time to grieve what you thought would be your new baby, it is only human nature. I do promise that it will not only bet better, but your heart will never be the same again. I have yet to meet a parent that would go back and change their diagnosis. They are who they are and it’s a wonderful thing! I will reach out to you privately in your email.

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