June 3, 2012

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The Other Side


Happy. Not to over dramatise things, but back in the ‘dark ages’ post Nicholas’ Down Syndrome diagnosis being confirmed, I did wonder whether I would ever feel truly happy again. Of course, I hoped that I would, that I would I would meet my baby and fall helplessly in love and never feel sad again. But it did feel like a pipe dream on some very dark days.

I am pleased to report, though, that that’s kinda how it’s happened. And I am truly, from the bottom of my toes, feeling rather happy these days. Happy, content, comfortable in my own skin. In fact, I feel almost a little silly for the sadness post-diagnosis, but I know that it’s all been part of the journey in getting me here, happy and in love with my baby boy. Life on the other side feels like a very different place.

As I reached the final stages of pregnancy, I used to think about the ‘are you glad you have a prenatal diagnosis or would you prefer to have found out at birth?’ question a lot. The six million dollar question. Some days, I felt like it would have been easier to have my baby delivered into my arms at the same time as the diagnosis and get used to the news while I had a beautiful, squishy baby to delight in – you know, like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Six months of having to live with a diagnosis without the squishy baby to cuddle and smile back at me seemed like a veeeeery long time. But after Nicholas arrived, and all the staff in the maternity suite shared in the joy of welcoming our newest son, when I knew this little boy had so many people awaiting him with love and excitement, when every person who entered our hospital room over the next few days could feel our happiness at this new cherub in our world, I was so thankful for that prenatal diagnosis. For me, all the sadness, tears, darkness was worth it to be able to welcome our baby boy into the world with joy and love and excitement.

One of my first thoughts on meeting Nicholas, as I touched his soft newborn cheek and looked into those dark blue eyes, was ‘who wouldn’t want you?’. He was (and still is) perfect, 47 chromosomes and all.

I respect that each family is different when it comes to the choice of whether or not to have prenatal testing, but it was the right choice for us. In the few weeks between us receiving the initial nuchal test result and then having the Down syndrome diagnosis confirmed, as much as we told ourselves we were prepared for either outcome, we were devastated by the positive result. I think it’s human nature to assume you won’t be ‘the one’. I can’t imagine going through an entire pregnancy debating the likelihood (or not having any inkling at all) and then having to deal with that diagnosis right when we should have been celebrating. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have family members and friends saying ‘I’m sorry’ rather than ‘congratulations’. Yes, living through the ‘darkness’ post diagnosis was probably the most difficult time of my life to date, but I wouldn’t give up a second of it for the light that Nicholas has brought to our lives since the moment he arrived.

It seems hard to believe that our baby boy is 11 weeks this week. Life feels so very normal (and by normal I mean exactly as chaotic as you’d expect with three children under four and adjusting to life with a new baby in the family!). Nicholas is so healthy and growing like a weed. In his first two weeks, he only put on 95 grams but he soon made up for it. At six weeks, he weighed in at 5.5kg and at eight weeks, a hefty 6.35kg! Yep, pretty sure that’s off the chart for any baby boy. Needless to say, Nicholas is feeding like a champion (trying to prove wrong anyone who says that babies with DS have difficulty nursing). His heart checks have been all clear, thyroid is functioning well and, after failing two hearing tests on his right ear whilst in hospital, he passed his third hearing test (at six weeks) with flying colours.  We are so thankful that Nicholas is proving to be such a healthy, robust boy, and we keep our fingers and toes crossed that it continues.

Obviously sensing that his mummy was feeling a little weary managing three little boys, my little munchkin started sleeping through the entire night, from 7pm to 7am, from about eight weeks (still not sure how I scored that one, but I’m not complaining… let’s just hope I haven’t jinxed it by saying out loud). To make up for lack of overnight cuddles, though, Nicholas is not a big fan of daytime sleep unless he’s on me and he tends to catnap most days. As much as I love my cuddles with him, it makes it a little difficult to get anything else done, especially with two big brothers who also need attention! Lucky their mother is multi talented.

Nicholas started smiling at six weeks, completely disobeying me and giving away his first cracker smile to his Aunty Bec. Thankfully I was sitting beside her and at least got to witness such a precious moment. While he hasn’t given away too many since, I have loved receiving more regular smiles in the past week. They melt my heart, and I just love watching some of Nicholas’ personality start to appear.

The realist in me wants to say something like ‘I imagine there’ll be challenges ahead…’ or ‘I know it’s early days…’ but I’m biting my tongue. I think I’d just be saying it out loud so that people didn’t think I was completely delusional. But will facing those challenges be made any easier by anticipating them and agonising over them in advance? Unlikely. And, frankly, who signs up to be a parent thinking there won’t be challenges ahead. I’ve learnt that the rollercoaster will swing and turn and dip as its meant to, regardless of which way I think it should be going. So I’m going to live in the moment, relishing the happiness that each day and each of my gorgeous boys brings me. Today, I’m going to choose joy.

I’m happy. But who wouldn’t be with these three little ragamuffin Loves to love?

I am so grateful for your thoughts and comments, so please reply below.

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  1. Such a lovely way to start my morning reading your blog! Today I too choose joy, joy in all the glorious (and not so glorious) moments of child rearing. Thank you Annie xx

  2. Thank you so much for inviting me to read your blog Annie. From the moment I met your gorgeous boy at the shops, I have not stopped thinking of him – and you and the Love men. And every time I think of you all I cannot help but smile. You inspire me. Reading through your journal I have laughed, smiled and cried – but most important of all, I have just felt pure the Love (no pun intended), Faith and Strength that you and your husband share. Nicholas chose your family for a very special reason – you are all the best fit for him and him for all of you. He is going to change the lives of everyone who meets him. xoxo

    1. Thanks Susan. I think there’s a tendency to feel like ‘why me’ when receiving difficult news, but why not us. I now feel like we’re the lucky ones, and I’m so glad Nicholas has been welcomed into a pretty wonderful extended family x

    1. Totally don’t deserve any adjectives like ‘amazing’ but thank you 😉 Just trying to be the best mum I can for our cherubs. I’m so glad you were able to share in our story and share our story with others – thank you x

  3. So beautiful, what an adorable family you have & your refreshing persective on DS is great to read. You are truely a great Mum & your family is extremely blessed to have you.xxx

  4. What beautiful words about a beautiful little boy, Anne. I had tears welling up in my eyes as I read it ….. make no mistake though, they were DEFINITELY tears of joy. I’ve not had the pleasure of becoming a mother but your words went straight to my heart and almost exploded it with love. Thank you for sharing. Congratulations on a heartwarming blog and an even more heartwarming family xo

    1. Thanks Natasha. As terrifying as it can be to ‘put it out there’, it’s also nice to share our story and have such lovely feedback, such as yours. Thank you for reading and sharing x

  5. Annie,
    You completely floor me every time I read your blog, I go on and on about this and that blah blah, I love that you are the happiest person and totally comfortable in your skin, mother of 3 or not, u inspire me, no more complaining form this little black duck. Now what will I have to talk about,!,,

    1. Oh Mel, it’s all relative… I’m thankful I don’t have to manage a demanding career as well as three little demanding Loves! 😉 Thank you for your lovely words though x

  6. Enjoy it!! He’s such a handsome little man. And let me share this little secret – there will be hard times. There will be times you feel like you aren’t doing enough as a mother but don’t we all feel that way with our “typical” children. You will grow into the challenges with him just like with your first you grew into parenting and with each year, became ready to handle the new things that came your way. Keep it up! I know you will be just fine!

    1. Thanks Krista – I really appreciate you commenting. As a beautiful friend of mine says, whenever she starts worrying about the ‘future stuff’, she remembers that in 15 years time she’ll be a parent with 15 years more parenting experience. Yes, I will try to just enjoy my baby boy and take each day as it comes x

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