Sunday, May 14, 2017

the mother without a place

I don't belong anywhere.

I want to work. I want to be able to say I'm a working mom, the toughest job in the world. I want to have a career. I want to feel that sense of personal achievement when I get promoted or give a killer presentation. I want to be able to say that all those late nights climbing the corporate ladder weren't for nothing. I want to be Hadleigh AND mom. I want to spend time everyday working toward something that is uniquely mine. I want to use my education that my parents bent-over-backward to provide for me. I want to know that if anything happens to my husband, we will still be okay. I want to contribute to our family's finances. I want to have my own retirement plan. I want to easily pay for all of our kids' college tuitions. I want to buy things without feeling guilty for spending money. I want a break from my kids so I'm more engaged and appreciate the time I do get to spend with them. I want the time we're all home together to be family time, not time to hand off the kids to my husband. I want someone else to teach my kids the alphabet and numbers so the time we spend together can just be focused on fun. I want my kids to be independent and socialized. I want Joe and Faye to be raised by a successful and independent woman. I want Joe to view his future wife as an equal in the household. I want Faye to know that she can be valued both at home and at the work place. I want her to see first-hand that there is no glass ceiling. I want to be happy.

I want to stay home. I want to be able to say I'm a stay-at-home mom, the toughest job in the world. I want to spend every second with my kids because I know how quickly these precious moments will pass. I want to be the one to snuggle them and kiss them all day. I want to be the one to teach them the alphabet and numbers so I can watch their minds grow. I want my kids to have a deeper bond with me. I want them to feel safe and secure at home. I want them to stay out of the classroom as long as they possibly can. I want my kids to spend their summers outside, running the neighborhood and just being kids. I want to spend my summer watching them do so. I want my kids to take the bus home with their friends and not have to wait around in after-school care. I want to witness every single milestone first-hand. I want to be the one to comfort them when they get boo boos. I want my husband to feel secure that others don't just assume he doesn't make enough money. I want to nurse for a year and never have to pull out a pump. I want to be able to pick up our house. I want to start dinner before 6pm. I want to go grocery shopping before 8pm. I want to be able to cook my husband dinner more often because he deserves it. I want to not have to pay for child care. I want Joe to grow up with a mom who is present and is a more compassionate man because of it. I want Faye to know that being a mom can be fulfilling enough. I want to be happy.

I want to be a working mom, but I don't want to be away from my kids.
I want to be a stay-at-home mom, but I don't want to give up my career.

I am the mother without a place.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Much Loved Baby and An Impossible Choice [guest post]

Written By: Allyson

I’m sharing our story because our choice mattered. This choice shouldn’t be taken away from parents. I believe we all do the best we can with the information we are given. And we should be trusted to make the right choice for our babies and our own bodies. My hope is that others will get to continue to choose what they feel is right for their babies and their families.

Sunday, September 16, 2016 was one of the happiest days of my life. I told my husband to go to the drug store to get a pregnancy test. I hadn’t slept well the night before because of many pregnancy symptoms. I just KNEW I was pregnant. But I didn’t believe it could happen our first month of trying. That disbelief went away as soon as the word “pregnant” came up on the digital test. I had so many plans on how I was going to reveal it to my husband. However, I was much too excited to do any of those things. I immediately screamed while skipping towards my husband. “We’re having a baby!” That’s all I could get out as tears rolled down my face.

The following weeks, I was excited but also nervous about miscarrying. I spent those weeks pleading with God not to allow me to lose this baby. I was so in love with our baby from the moment we found out we were expecting. At our 10 week appointment, my Dr. found his heartbeat on the Fetal Doppler. It was strong and my husband thought it sounded like a train. We were so joyful that we cried the whole time we heard the heart beating. At that appointment, our Dr. discussed genetic testing with us. He told us our chances of having a baby with any fetal abnormalities would be low. We were healthy and young - so a 1 in 1200 chance of abnormalities - we were pretty confident our baby was fine. We scheduled our NT scan and genetic testing blood draw for 12 weeks.

Our 12 week NT scan looked beautiful. Our baby was measuring normally, the heartbeat was strong, and he had great placement. I was so overjoyed I couldn’t speak. I really just wanted to make sure the tech was concentrating, so she didn’t miss anything. She was pretty happy, so I was confident that things were really looking good. She asked me if I wanted to know her guess of the gender. I was so curious, I immediately said “yes!” She thought it was a HEALTHY girl, so I left the scan to do our blood draw for the genetic testing - I had zero concerns or nerves. I just knew our baby was healthy, and that was all that mattered to me.

Six days later, the day before Thanksgiving at 4:55 PM, I saw I had missed a call from my Dr. He left me a voicemail which was kind of confusing to listen to. Looking back, I don’t think he looked at the results until he dialed my number. He had no reason to believe there would be any abnormalities. I immediately called him back. I could tell by the sound of his voice something was very wrong. He said “Your baby is low risk for all Trisomies except Trisomy 21.” I didn’t understand - I didn’t believe it. So I asked, “What is my baby’s percentage risk of Trisomy 21?” He said, “There is a 99% chance your baby has Trisomy 21 based on this test.” He asked me if I wanted to know the gender and I did. He said our baby was a boy. Because this was the exact opposite result as 6 days before, I was in complete denial. I was so sure that they had gotten our test mixed up with someone else, so when my Dr. suggested an amniocentesis, I agreed.

I continued to be in denial the next week, but I still cried. I cried so much over the fact that our baby could possibly be sick. But I didn’t believe that the NT scan could be so wrong. So I held on to hope until the following Tuesday when we saw the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctor. As soon as the tech confirmed our baby was a boy, I just knew the test was accurate. The MFM looked somber when he walked in to explain what he saw in the ultrasound. He explained they saw two soft markers, which would correlate with T21. One of the soft markers was the heart and the other was a sandal gap. He explained that he would never recommend we make any decisions based on an ultrasound. So we scheduled an amniocentesis for a week and a half later. Before he left the room, he asked us if we had any other children. We both looked at each other and then said, “No, this is our first.” His eyes were teary and he said, “This is not the way the first is supposed to happen, I’m so sorry.”

The next week and a half was agonizing. We spent those days researching Trisomy 21. I really didn’t know a lot about Down Syndrome. I just thought it was a person who had physical and developmental delays - which is true, but in many cases it’s much more than that. We started to read as many articles and watch as many YouTube videos as possible. Many of the articles we read were uplifting stories, which made it sound like our son’s life would be as fulfilling as we wanted it to be. The videos showed happy children and adults that shared jokes and laughter. But the more we dug, the more we read about the hardships that our son could possibly live with.  People with Down Syndrome have increased risks of heart problems, Leukemia, early onset Alzheimer’s, and so much more. My heart dropped when I read all of them. Heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s all run in my family, so they were my main concerns. Because of our family history, our child would be at an increased risk of that, AND because of T21, there would be another increased risk of those issues on this baby. He was already a probable candidate for heart surgery. I already couldn’t imagine bringing a tiny baby into the world with so many struggles. But we continued to research, clinging on to hope that there would be something that might give us a sign that our baby was going to have a good life. When we came across parents who had raised their children with Down Syndrome, who could no longer take care of them—it was heartbreaking. The way they described the pain they felt knowing that their child would be alone after they passed away, was something I never wanted to experience with our child. We encountered parents who shared how their child has never spoken, laughed, walked, or fed themselves. It started to become clear that we needed to ask more questions as to what our baby’s quality of life would be like.

So, we went into our amniocentesis with a list of questions for our MFM. One of those questions was, “Can you tell us whether or not our baby will have a mostly normal life, with only physical and developmental delays?” He said, “Unfortunately, you most likely won’t know the type of life he will have until he is born.” My heart dropped. We awaited our amniocentesis results with so much hope. I prayed and cried and pleaded for a miracle.  Unfortunately our miracle didn’t come. The amniocentesis diagnosed our baby with Down Syndrome. The doctor asked me, “How would you like to proceed with your pregnancy?” I wanted to sob uncontrollably. I just let the tears roll down my face, took a deep breath, and then tried to make the following words sound as loving as I could, “We have decided to terminate.”

The only thing I would like to go into detail about the termination is that besides the physical appearance of the clinic, the whole experience was as good as it could have been. The doctor, nurses, and volunteers are some of the most loving and compassionate people I have ever met. They held my hand, they cried with me, and they told me they understood our decision. They truly made a difference during such a tragic situation. And I thank and pray for them every day as they continue to help people like my husband and I get through such devastating experiences.

I swore up and down I would never share our whole story with the world. Part of me was ashamed that we had chosen to end our pregnancy. But as the days continue to pass and the more I learn about the type of my life my son would have had, best case scenario, I know we did the best thing we could have done for him. The words termination and abortion sound like the most hateful words out there. I can tell you as someone who understands how important my choice was to have this abortion, that for me it is a love-filled word. Our decision was and is something that was only filled with love. A decision filled with love that keeps our son, who we lovingly named Bradley, from a life of struggle. A decision filled with love that keeps Bradley out of hospitals. A decision filled with love that keeps Bradley from battling cancer. A decision filled with love that keeps Bradley from ever having to be alone in a group home and not know who he is. I fully believe that Bradley is in Heaven. I believe that God is holding him close and telling him how much his mommy and daddy love him. I believe that God knows our decision was made with love for our son. That is how I live with our decision. Our son will always know who he is in Heaven. Our hearts will never stop aching for him. I will never stop wondering what he would have been like, how tight his hugs would have been, or what he would have looked like. We gladly will hold those burdens of wonder and heartache, because we know that Bradley will never have to experience a day of suffering.