Friday, December 2, 2011

Carter's birth story

Dearest Carter,
I wanted to write our story so I could share with other mommies and daddies about the joy you have brought to my life. Saying that you have changed my life would be an understatement. You have given me an inner strengthen I didn’t even know existed. You taught me to love with my entire heart and soul so much that it hurts, in a good way. You made me a mama and that is the best gift that anyone could have ever given me. I love you my sweet precious boy. Thank you for being you and letting me share our journey.
It was December 1st, 2008, I walking down the hallway to pick up my kindergartners from recess. One of the other teachers said, “Mrs. T, your baby hasn’t even dropped yet. I bet you are going to be overdue”. Word to the wise do not make comments like that to a very pregnant and tired women. My due date was December 15 and I was determined to work up until the day. I didn’t want to take off any extra time that I wouldn’t be spending with my new precious baby boy.
That night I was tired and exhausted from the day so after dinner I told Eric I was to going to bed early. I wanted to take a shower that night so drying my long curly hair would be one last thing I wouldn’t have to do in the morning. As I stepped out of the shower and wiped the foggy mirror with my towel, I felt a trickle of warm water down my leg. I dried myself again but more water was dripping down my leg. Oh my gosh, I think my water just broke. I yelled to Eric and he actually thought I was kidding. But when he came around the corner he realized, I was not kidding. I remained calm and Eric took on the panic role. I had prepared my suitcase weeks before, I had a checklist for items needed and a phone tree of everyone to call and text on the way there. Within minutes we were in the car and calling the doctor to say we were on the way, he reassured us that first births could take up to 16 to 20 hours, he said not to worry and take our time. My contractions were coming fast but I proceeded to put a little make up on because I couldn’t be ugly in all of the pictures. I was already upset that I didn’t have time to straighten my hair and was trying to accept the fact that our child would look back on pictures and say “nice hair, mom”. I said to Eric, “this is the last time you and I will be just you and I. Our next trip in this car we will have a baby boy in the backseat with us.”
As we pulled up to the emergency room, we had no idea where to park and Eric let me off in front. There I was with wet hair, in PJ’s and a big old red towel between my legs. Around the corner comes Eric running with a suitcase, diaper bag, my purse, a blanket, and a giant body pillow. A girl has got to be prepared right. My contractions were getting stronger and I was in pain at this point. We walked in and they immediately whisked me away to the maternity ward. I had been there just several weeks before with kidney stones, I was much more excited this time to be giving birth to a baby rather than a stone.
The time seemed to fly by and everything was happening so fast. Before I knew it they were offering me the epidural and promised it would ease the pain. The doctor came into to check and said I was dilated to a 6 and I would be able to push before long. I called my parents to give them the update and told them I would call as soon as we knew more. I remember just staring at the baby station and knowing that any time now my little baby boy was going to be wiggling around in there.
It couldn’t have been more than a half an hour later when they checked me again and said, I think we need the doctor, she is at a 10 and ready to go. I watched around the room as nurses prepared and made sure everything was in order, Eric paced back and forth but remained calm. The doctor rushed in and looked at me and said “are you ready to push?” Right then I confessed to the nurse, “we didn’t take the birthing class, please don’t judge us I said, I promise we will be good parents”. She smiled and told me not to worry, everything would be fine. This was it, everything I had anticipated and planned for, and I was ready. I was ready to become a mama. I began pushing and 20 minutes later we were welcoming our baby boy. Carter Nicholas was born at 12:31am. The nurse set him on my chest and looked into his deep dark blue eyes. I kissed his sweet face and Eric cut the cord. I didn’t cry right away and I remember feeling like what is the matter with me, why am I not crying? I think that God was preparing me and helping me to be strong before the news was delivered that changed our lives forever.
They whisked his small fragile body off of my chest. Eric was over taking pictures of Carter’s first minutes of life and the 7.4 oz on the scale. While I was lying there, I was watching the nurses hover over him and whisper to each other. And I knew. The pit of my stomach was telling me something is wrong but I didn’t know what. I terrified to ask. A nurse was standing beside me and I asked in a joking matter, trying to make myself feel better, “does he have all 10 fingers and toes?” She nodded yes and said that they were concerned about his tone. The nurses continued to huddle around Carter. Nobody was talking to us, I just waited and prepared myself for what it could be. I watched as a nurse hurried out into the hallway and within minutes another doctor was there with her. I watch as she looks over Carter’s tiny hands and feet and then sits down on a cushioned black stool to wheel over to my bedside. I will never forget the sound of the squeaky wheels making their way over as I lay there in absolute fear of what words could be coming out of her mouth. Without any hesitation she spits out the words, “your son has Down syndrome”. She then proceeds to ask, “So I take it you two were unaware of this?” I wanted to reach out and strangle the woman for her insensitive delivery. I believe the look on both Eric and I’s face should have answered her question. I felt my insides turn over, my eyes were burning with tears and the lump in my throat was making it impossible to breathe. Just then a nurse walked over with Carter and handed him to me bundled up in a tight hospital blanket with a blue and pink striped beanie on his head. I don’t think Eric or I said anything. We just sat there, held each other and cried. I literally was numb, I didn’t want to feel or believe this was really happening. They must have made a mistake. We were 29 years old and healthy. How come no one told us? What had we done wrong? I thought about every regret in my life and immediately blamed myself, so this is my payback. I held onto Carter so tightly like I was never going to let go. Inside of my head I thought about complications. What if he doesn’t make it? Is it safe to love him, what if we lose him? I cried aloud like I had never cried before and I kept saying, “he is perfect to me, I love him no matter what”. I thought that if I kept saying it over and over again, I would feel better, it would make it all better.
It was almost 1:30am when I saw my mom poke her head through our hospital doorway, my dad a few steps behind her. I had been hysterically crying for over an hour and it took all the energy I had to mumble the words, “they think he has Down syndrome”. It was as if they had seen a ghost, I knew their heart hurt, just as bad as ours did. I watched tears run down my mom’s face, shocked by the news and terrified to think of what I was feeling. My dad remained strong, he just gently kissed me on my forehead, he didn’t have to say anything. I watched Eric hug them and almost fall apart even more. They stayed for hours and tried to be supportive as possible. They held Carter in their arms and despite their fears of the unknown, they welcomed him.
A few hours passed and I needed to use the restroom. Eric helped me and we stepped into the bathroom, it was our first time alone. We talked about how our lives would be so much different then we planned and how Carter would probably live with us forever. I just remember feeling a sense of relief knowing I would be going through this with such a strong and supportive husband. Maybe things would be okay. Maybe our life could go on.
The next day I barely remember, Eric and I had not slept at all. Eric’s parents came first thing in the morning. It was hard to watch Eric greet his parents. I watched him just melt into his mom’s arms, a mother loving and trying to comfort her son. I think the news was just as hard for our families as it was for us because nobody knew what the right thing to say was. They stayed for hours and by the end of the day we were smiling, laughing and celebrating the arrival of Carter. Once you held that baby boy in your arms, he had you wrapped around his tiny little finger. The tears of unknown were turning into tears of joy. Carter was a son, a grandson, a cousin, and our gift from God.
We stayed in the hospital for four days. The doctors and nurses wanted to monitor his progress. He had a little trouble latching on to nurse but soon became quite the eater. Carter never experienced any health problems such a heart defect or other complications related to Down syndrome. I thank God for that every day. We were free to take our baby boy home from the hospital.

We packed all of our belongs and were ready to go. Eric went to the car to get Carter’s car seat while I was dressing Carter in his outfit to go home. I picked this outfit out months before. It was a blue and brown oneies with fuzzy light blue pants and a striped jacket to match. I started to cry when I was dressing him thinking about all of the other plans I had made. I had always envisioned this perfect life for our happy little family of three. I knew it was going to be a long road of hurt but it was necessary for us to grieve to be able to move on with our lives. We were going to lead a new life now, with new dreams and new expectations.
Eric came back from the car almost a half an hour later, sweating and looking flustered. He couldn’t figure out how to release the car seat from the base. I hadn’t given him lessons yet because we were in the hospital two weeks earlier than planned. The nurse came in with the wheelchair to take us to the car and to stock us up with every supply she could stuff in our bags. Carter was tucked tightly in his seat bundled up in his oversized clothes, beanie and soft blue blanket. This was it, we were headed outside of the hospital for the first time as a family. I remember studying people’s faces as we passed them in the hallway of the hospital, everyone was smiling. Did they know? Could they tell our new baby was born with Down syndrome? I knew from this day forward I was going to protect this boy of mine with all that I had in me. I held onto his car seat even tighter and smiled proudly back at the onlookers. I was proud to be Carter’s mama.
By no means will I ever forgot the pain and agony I felt that day. Some of the feelings I felt that day will probably never actually be said aloud. No one will ever be able to feel what I felt unless you have experienced it yourself. If I could have seen into our future, if I could have known what I know now. I would have been relieved to know that the aching in my heart would be replaced with pure love and happiness for a child that I unexpectedly dreamed of. There are still days that I worry about his future. How will he be in school? How will the other kids treat him? Will he ever fall in love? What will he do when he grows up? Things every typical parent asks themselves but I realize that some of life’s questions are unknown and won’t be easy. However since the day Carter was born, he never ceases to amaze me. I know my little boy will have a bright and promising future.

Today Carter Nicholas turns three years old. He has graduated from the birth to three program is ready to start Pre-school in January. Carter is still learning to use his words and is able to use some sign language. Eric and I understand him perfectly, we have our own special language. Carter loves music and is a dancing machine. Carter is also part fish and loves his swim lessons. Carter is a vibrant, enthusiastic, and loving little boy. People are naturally drawn to him and you will love him instantly after meeting him. We still have our challenges and some days are harder than others but I wouldn’t change our lives for anything. Carter was meant to be in our family. In my lifetime I want to dedicate my time to change perceptions of how people view individuals with Down syndrome and other special needs. Carter is capable of changing and teaching the world and I promise to be by his side to help him do that.
Carter Nicholas, I love you with all of my heart. Happy Birthday sweet boy, thank you for choosing me to be your mama.

Alison Corey Tharaldson
December 2, 2011


The Gibson's said...

Oh, Ali. I don't even know what to say. I will never forget the day Carter was born. Ever. I can't even begin to describe what an amazing little man he is. You amaze me. Not only are you an amazing mom, you are beautiful, and most of all...your house is freaking the cleanest most perfect house ever! haha...I strive to be like you. Your friendship is the best. You are the best. Period.

Erin said...

Ali - this is a beautiful post. I think I started crying by about the 2nd paragraph. Carter was absolutely meant for you and Eric and you two have done the most amazing job raising the perfect son. I love your handsome boy and am so incredibly thankful that he is a part of our lives and that he and Raleigh will be friends forever.