For career day in 8th grade, I stuffed my belly with a pillow and dressed up in maternity clothes because more than ever in life I wanted to be a mom. I envisioned my future husband, our perfect babies and of course the little white picket fence with an adorable home. I could not wait to grow up and be a mama.
Well I grew up, found that amazing husband and we began our adventures. See I have always been a planner, some may even say a little over compulsive planner but who doesn’t like organization? I literally planned a vacation to create our first child. Well that plan fell through and I got pregnant without the vacation. I was 28 years old and could hardly wait 9 long months until I could hold that baby in my arms.
Well that day came, and early of course because the universe was trying to tell me to ease up on my planning obsession.
I remember watching around the room as nurses prepared and made sure everything was in order, Eric paced back and forth but remained calm. The doctor came in and said “are you ready?” This was it, everything I had anticipated and planned for and I was ready. We welcomed Carter Nicholas at 12:31am. The nurse set him on my chest, I kissed his sweet face and looked into his deep dark blue eyes. 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 to be strong before the news was delivered that forever changed our lives.
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 was 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 watched 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. Down syndrome, the diagnosis never even crossed my mind, not one time during my pregnancy. 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 tightly bundled up in a 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 held that baby boy in my arms and thought about complications. What if he doesn’t make it? Is it safe to love him, what if we lose him? Is he going to be okay? Are we going to be okay? I cried aloud like I had never cried before and I kept saying, “he is perfect to me”. 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. They stayed for hours and tried to be supportive as possible. They held Carter in their arms and despite their fears, they welcomed him.
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 baby boy.
When Carter was about 8 weeks old we took him to Children’s Therapy. We walked into a warm inviting environment to smiling faces that greeted us like old friends. For the first time in weeks, I felt a sense of relief and I knew we were at the right place. Our adventures at Children’s began that day. Throughout the years we have done physical, speech, occupational therapy, feeding, social & music groups, aqua therapy and currently Hippotherapy.
Hippotherapy has been so prosperous for Carter’s speech and physical development. Every week Carter anticipates Friday mornings when he will be reunited with his horse, Tempo. He signs “horse” and says “Tempo” the entire car ride to therapy. For a child that is mostly nonverbal, this is a huge celebration in our house. Carter is exploding with excitement upon arriving and knows he will meet with Miss Lauren to go over the picture schedule. When our little man saddles up on his horse, he is on top of the world, his eyes light up and he shouts “GO” as loud as he can. Carter uses his words and signs throughout his session. Miss Lauren continues to challenge him each week with new activities and lessons. This program has been essential for Carter’s advancement in all aspects of his life. We feel fortunate to be participating in the program and want more than anything for other children to have the same opportunity.
By no means will I ever forget the pain and agony I felt the day he was born. However 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 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 has a bright and promising future.