Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Bitter Part of Bittersweet

    July 31st was a bittersweet day. Honestly, it was about 5% sweet and 95% bitter. It was the day our son, Bryce, was born. I feel so horrible already for saying that. This post will be full of things I feel guilty about, but I'm a painfully honest person. I know there are people who read this blog who don't know me. If you are here to judge or criticize, please don't continue reading. As of a month ago, I probably would have been appalled to read some of the things I will write...but I hadn't walked in these shoes yet.

     As explained in my early post, Bryce's labor and delivery was a whirlwind. I was so ready to not be pregnant anymore. When he was born and they placed him on my chest, it was one of my happiest moments. The day your child is born is supposed to be that way. He was so nice and big for being a preemie, and he had that beautiful head full of dark hair. He was crying and healthy enough for them to let us hold him for a while and take some pictures before whisking him away to the nursery. During that time, I couldn't see him very well, because he was right under my chin. Everyone said he was beautiful, but I just remember noticing his dark hair and how little his hands were. I didn't think he looked anything like his brother. I just found out recently that Mike suspected something was wrong right away, and I feel bad that he never had those few moments of ignorant bliss that I had.

     After a few minutes, they took him to the nursery and Mike was able to go along. I started looking through the pictures we had just taken on my camera. In a couple of the pictures, I noticed that it kind of looked like he had Down syndrome, but I shrugged it off, thinking that all newborns are kind of funny looking. It didn't seem to me like anyone had been concerned, and I had been monitored so closely....

     When Mike came back into the room a little while later, he asked me if I thought it looked like he had Downs. I again dismissed it, but could tell Mike (who had seen him a lot more than me) was worried.  Shortly thereafter, the NNP came in and told us that our son was healthy and beautiful (part of that sweet 5%)....and that she suspected he had Down syndrome (start the bitter 95%). My world stopped spinning. The whole high of  bringing a child into this world came crashing down. I couldn't tell you what was said after that, but in my memory, it seemed like she dropped a bomb and then went running from the room to save herself, leaving Mike and I to "grieve" the child we thought we were going to have.

     I also instantly and selfishly grieved the life I thought we would have. We had a "handicapped" child. He would live with us forever. There goes any dreams of having an empty nest and enjoying retirement. People will stare at us in public. Connor won't get to have a "normal" brother. Even though I now feel guilty for thinking these things instead of instantly loving my child unconditionally, they are legitimate fears and ones that may or may not actually happen. Our lives went from path A to path B without our knowledge or permission. How could we NOT grieve?

     Much of the rest of that day is a blur. I know I cried a lot, but I also know I pretended everything was okay a lot too. When I went to hold my son in the nursery, I didn't recognize him as my son. All I saw was the face of someone with Down syndrome. I am so ashamed to say it, but it wasn't really love at first sight like it's supposed to be. He scared me. He didn't look like Connor. He didn't look like me or like Mike. He looked like a kid with Down syndrome. But, I continued to go into the nursery, hug him, kiss him, show him off to his grandparents, and pretended to be so happy and proud.

He LOVES his baths!
    Luckily, the reason I can admit to those feelings now, is because they are no longer the case. I AM completely in love with him. I rarely even see the Down syndrome in him anymore. He DOES look like Mike. He has the same mouth and chin as Connor. He IS my son, and I AM proud of him. A lot of it was shock, a lot of it was fear of the unknown. In the two weeks since Bryce was born, I have come to accept the feelings  I had (and sometimes still have) as normal. I have read blogs and stories of other parents of children with Down syndrome and they very much echo my own story. The feelings of grief are healthy and normal. I wasn't grieving the life of my child, I was grieving the expectations I had for my child.
How could I NOT  be in love??

     Even though three weeks ago I was completely unaware of what my life was about to become, I already can't imagine it being any different. I can't imagine what life would be right now had Bryce been born without that extra 21st chromosome. Do I wish he would have been? Yes, of course I do. But that's who he is, and I love him--he is my son, the one I was meant to have.

    In the days since the grief and shock have lessened (not disappeared...), I have even become excited to raise Bryce and see what he can do. I have been able to see some positives in the situation. There is a large community of people we will meet. Not a club we wanted to join, but one we are a part of nonetheless. I believe Connor will be a better person--more loving, patient, and accepting of others. I know that he will be such a good brother. I remember in the horrible, dark moments after we found out, I kept thinking about how Connor will just see him as his brother--he won't know there is anything wrong with him. Eventually, yes, we will have to explain it to him somehow, but I was envious of the fact that Connor would just look at him and see the baby brother we'd been talking about, not the face of Down syndrome that I saw.


    I am so lucky to have a partner like I have. Things like this have to be exceptionally hard for men, but my man stepped up to the plate and accepted Bryce even before I did. He is so full of love, and me and these boys are blessed beyond belief to have him. The road ahead of us is bumpy, long, and will take many unexpected twists and turns. We don't know how 'severe' Bryce's Downs will be. We don't know what he will be capable of...but do we know that for any of our children when they are two weeks old? What we do know is that he appears to be healthy right NOW. We do know that we will do everything in our power for him to exceed expectations. We do know that he is a sweet, snuggly, adorable baby who needs us. When he gets home, our lives will be filled with appointments, assessments, meetings with OTs, PTs, speech therapists, doctors, etc. But it will also be filled with love.

So Blessed!
   

5 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy!I have been reading your blog for a couple of months and I love your honesty. Have you read the blog "Enjoying The Small Things," by Kelle Hampton? She also wrote a book called Bloom. She may be a wonderful resource for you :)

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    1. Hi Julie, Just loved your blog. Life can beat you down some days..... then there will be so many other fantastic days. Life is a rollercoaster. Just call when you feel like you need to get off of it for awhile. I am so proud of you both. Love Aunt Colleen

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  2. Julie, you have to be one of the bravest and strongest women I know. This is an incredible post written so beautifully I was in tears reading it. God has truly blessed your life, perhaps with some bitter, but definitely with a whole lot of sweet! My prayers are with you all for God's grace as you continue on this journey. Beautiful, just beautiful.

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  3. Melanie Sananikone (Gladhill)August 28, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Julie,

    This is Melanie Sananikone (Gladhill) from BT. Jill Elfering shared this with link with me and I too am in tears reading this. You couldn't have written this better and more honest. You are amazing!!! Your boys are beautiful. Bryce is beyond lucky to have you and Mike for his parents. It is not going to be easy and will not always feel fair, but you get through everything! Thanks for sharing your journey!

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  4. Julie,

    This is Megnan from the hospital. Checking out your blog, I love keeping up with our graduates. You brought tears to my eyes...you all are such a wonderful family! Bryce picked some great people to bless!

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