Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Since my super-active boy's diagnosis was first rumored, I've heard about the negativity that I, as a parent, will face in the world of special-needs. Up until now, I praisefully report I haven't heard a whisper of it!

But today, while researching online, I ran across some comments that made me angry. No, not angry - DROP DEAD GUT-FURIOUS! I truly wanted to kill those people.

I have never felt that way before. I don't know exactly why my reaction was so strong - the people were obvious idiots and their commentary was unbelievably stupid - but I literally wanted to kick them, punch them, and beat them into a bloody pulp.

Not just for my son, but for every person, special needs or otherwise, who has become the target of cruelty. Who cares if someone is different? Skin color, body shape, weight, accent, disabilities - stop being scared of the difference! Step outside your sugar-cookie world and take time to discover how yummy gingerbread is.

The emotion of rage is still bubbling inside me. It's scary. It's not pretty. And I pray that I never run into such cruelty in real life - because I don't think I could control myself.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Our Super-Special Boy

On July 6, 2011, a brand-new person was born into the world. At 5:35 pm, sweaty and exhausted from labor, I became this person's mother. I remember looking down at the birth-wet, purply-crumpled face of my son and thinking, the hard part's over.

Little did I know the hard part hadn't even begun.

I only got to hold Hunter for a few seconds after he was born. Snip went the cord and whisk went my baby, as the nurses hurried him to an incubator next to my bed. “Wait, I want to hold him!” I said.

“We've got some tests to run, you can hold him soon,” the nurses said.

Tests, I thought. Apgar scores and such. And not holding him was part and parcel of a hospital delivery – not what I'd wanted, but I had no choice. Tanner left my side and hurried to wrap his hands around our baby. We'd discussed this earlier, and it was important that Hunter would be in physical, loving contact with at least one of his parents for every second.

The doctor (who'd completely missed the Hollywood-drama delivery) came in about then, and set about stitching my tears and examining me. The adrenaline bled from my body, leaving black spots in my vision and a wooly feeling in my brain. I kept my head turned toward the incubator, where I could barely glimpse my baby's form between the green scrubs of the nurses.

“I love you, Hunter,” I called. “He's all right, isn't he?”

He's fine. We just need to run tests.

Okay. All right. I sank into the fuzzy warmth of post-labor and barely paid attention to the nurses' murmured request for a neonatologist. I was too happy. Tanner stood by the baby, grinning through the tears running down his face. “Thank you,” he whispered to me. “He's perfect. Thank you.”

I'm not sure how much time passed. Tanner left for a while to get food and let our dog out. The nurses came in and told us our room was almost ready. All I wanted to do was scoop my baby out from the heat lamp and nuzzle him close.

Tanner came back, with a white rose and a big smile. He kissed me, then moved over to the baby. “Have they let you hold him yet?”

At that moment the door opened and the neonatologist came in. Quietly, he did the appropriate pokes and prods.

I reached out to touch Hunter's foot. “Can I hold him now?”

The doctor said some thing about tests.

“What tests?” I finally asked.

The doctor turned to face me, blinked twice, and said, “There's a strong probability that--”

That's when I started to cry. Because in that split second, I knew. I don't know how. The possibility had never crossed my mind. But I knew, oh God I knew.

“--your baby has Down Syndrome.”

In the silence I heard the endless icy tinkle of shattered glass.

Life as we knew it ended. That brief blissful moment of unspoiled joy was gone before we fully knew it had come.

What does one do when they're told their child has Down Syndrome? We went on with life. Scared. But hoping against hope, in that week before the test came back. With Hunter hope was so easy. He's a strong baby, crazily active like he was inside me. He had no heart problems, no obvious physical features. He responded to my voice and touch and tracked my face with his beautiful blue eyes.

We hoped.

One week later the hospital called. They had the results and were faxing them over to our pediatrician. Tanner stepped outside to get better reception. I sat on the sofa with Hunter in my lap, white-knuckling the sofa pillows. Please God. Please God please God please.

It would be negative, right? It had to be.

The door opened. Tanner came inside, his eyes shiny, his chin puckered like a peachstone. “It was positive,” he said. “He has Downs. But it doesn't matter. We love him.”

I cried. And cried and cried and cried.

It's a week today since we heard. It's funny how many times your life can change in seven days. We've said goodbye to our dreams. We've let the little boy we imagined fade back into unreality – because we have to, because we must welcome instead the little boy who is.

And we love that little boy! We held him through the tears and kissed his fuzzy blond head and told him how much we wanted him.

In the last seven days I've plumbed my soul to the bottom, searched every crevice of myself for strength. For answers. For understanding.

And I've realized you can't live your life in fear of the future. Life is scary. We never know what's around the corner. It could be cancer. A car accident. A heart attack. Betrayal. Loss.

We don't spend our lives worrying about those things. We acknowledge their possible existence, and then return to the present. That, I know, is what we must do with Hunter. Being his parents isn't going to be easy. It's going to be sad at times. It's going to be scary at others.

But such is parenthood. And that's all in the future, in the unknown. Right now, he's a gorgeous little bundle of babyhood. Tomorrow, he'll be an adorable toddler, scooting around the floor and giving us gummy smiles. Then he'll be a cute little boy running through the grass catching toads with me.

That's the future I'm focusing on.


I got a poem in the mail the other day, sent in a package of DS information from the hospital. In it, the author likens the experience of becoming a special-needs parent to a traveler who has dreamed their whole life of going to Italy. They have the guidebooks, they know where they're going and what they will see. They get on the plane, thrilled and excited – but instead of going to Italy, they land in Holland. They're shocked, hurt, upset, until they discover that Holland is also a beautiful place, full of joy and fun.

Up until then the poem was good. But then it goes on to say that the traveler will never ever ever stop being sad about not going to Italy.

That's when I crunched the poem between my hands and hurled it across the room. I will NOT live by never-ever-ever. I never ever ever thought I'd be the mother of a baby with DS. The odds said never ever ever. Well, here I am. Here is my beautiful little boy. So I refuse to believe I will always be sad. And I refuse to believe I can't go to Italy! I will go to Italy. I have gone to Italy. For brief splinters of time, we've been like any family: happy parents with a gorgeous baby. No worries. No fears. No future, just the present.

Those moments don't last, but while they do, I clutch at them, determined to drain every bit of the beauty and joy before they pass. And I believe the moments will last longer and longer, until most of our life is spent in Italy.

Hunter is everything we wanted. He makes us smile. He's our son. And we love him with all our hearts.


I'd like to take a moment to thank all the people who have reached out with love and kindness to us in this time. From friends and family to complete strangers who have answered emails, returned phone calls, offered hugs, and in so many ways showed support and love. I wouldn't be in Italy without you all. I'll never be able to thank you enough.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Baby Is Born

(apologies in advance for the garbled tangle of words below - someday I will write this story in beautiful prose - someday when I have time!)

Two weeks ago, I thought I knew what it would be like to labor. I thought I knew what it would be like to give birth. I thought I knew what it would be like to be a mom. I thought I knew what the future had in store.

I knew nothing. And on July 6, 2011, my life changed forever - twice. At 5:35 pm, I became a mother. And at 8:00 pm, I became a mother to the most special boy in the world.

More about the last part later. This is Hunter's birth story.


I started going into labor on July 5. Tanner had the day off, and after the first "oh-my-goodness-is-this-it" thrill abated when my contractions backed off, we hopped in the jeep and spent the day at the beach. Tanner fished, and I scrambled over rocks in the Pass, awkwardly balancing my pregnant belly as I jumped from boulder to sand. I waded in the hot shallow water collecting hermit crabs until the sun went down and we left for home.

The contractions picked up again at midnight. Tanner, typically, was unwakeable, and I paced the floor for most of the night, startled and a little scared at the strength of the contractions. At seven AM I tearfully hollered Tanner into wakefullness: "Your baby is coming and I need some SUPPORT here!"

An hour later we were on our way to the Birth Center. The 30-min drive took 3 hours because I remembered all the things we HAD to do before Baby - like return library DVDs, get groceries, pick up laundry, etc. I think I was delaying the inevitable! Tanner put up with me beautifully, panicking only slightly when I announced my contractions were a minute apart as he went to return the library stuff. I have this enduring picture of him racing into the library, throwing the DVDs in the vague direction of the desk with the announcement of "My wife's having a baby!"

Once at the birth center things settled down to the steady rhythm of labor. Tanner, calm, quiet, loving, coached me thru every contraction. We kissed, I looked deep into his eyes, and thought of how much I loved him and our baby. I knew I could do it, till suddenly I started to get sharp fire-jolts of bck pain which cut off my breath then released it in a scream.

After that the labor turned into a nightmare of the worst pain I've ever had. I tried to fight it, I did, but it went beyond my threshold till I could only sob "I can't do this. I can't. I can't." Tanner led the midwife and birth assistants in a struggle to lessen the back pain, but nothing worked. I started to fade out, to enter this quiet, peaceful dark world inside myself. Tanner said later that I literally was passed out between contractions.

Finally, the back labor shut down my contractions, and at that time, we decided to transfer to the hospital. I never wanted that. I never thought labor would be too much to handle. I cried all the way out to the jeep. I still feel the sting of that failure.

Once in the Jeep racing down the freeway at 80 mph, everything changed in a split second. The contractions roared back. The backpain screamed to the base of my brain, sheer white hot pain. I started to PUSH. I remember only one thought clearly: Don't tell Tanner I'm pushing! I didn't. ;)

At the hospital I literally fell out of the jeep into the wheelchair, flopped out of the wheelchair onto the bed, and before the nurses even checked me, the baby started to crown.

Time started to move very slowly, then.

PUSH. I could feel the stretching, the head moving down. I could hear my voice, a guttural bellow as I strained, out of control, just wanting the baby to be BORN!

PUSH. "We can see the baby's head!" Between the blinding, full-body intensity of the pushes, I reached between my legs and felt - hair. Skull. Baby.

I started to cry, but not from pain. I pushed. The baby's head filled my palm, hot and soft and crinkly. "Almost there!" PUSH. PUSH. PUSH!

There was a pop. A burning sensation. Then, like water flooding out of a burst balloon, my baby flowed into this world on a tide of water, on a river of joy. I remember Tanner, bending over my body to see the tiny pink-blue squiggling body. I remember his face, his eyes full of tears, his hand squeezing mine as he whispered, "It's a boy."

And then the tiny wet form of my son was placed on my chest. I looked down at his crumpled face. At a wee nose. At two wide, startled eyes. At a form so familiar and yet so strange. He opened his tiny mouth and bawled.

The tears poured down my face. "Oh, my beautiful baby. Welcome to the world, little Hunter! Oh, my baby. My beautiful little son. I love you. I love you. I love you."

In that moment, my life changed forever.

A few hours later, I would learn something that would change my life, all of our lives, even more. But that's for the next post.

Hunter - July 6, 2011

18 inches

5lbs, 15 oz

Seen on the 4th of July

Mmm, that was a delicious baby!

Patriotic pajamas?

The All-American retiree couple.

Hummer limo? The new style for Military-In-The-Know?

I actually started feeling patriotic when I saw these signs.

Nothing funny here. Prolife in a parade is awesome. I cheered.

First horses I've seen in six months! I wanted to hug them and smell them and touch their noses SO BAD!

Shirley Temple totally attended the parade. (Justine Bieber did too, but he was only cardboard.)

Proof that wearing mixing bowls on your head is endorsed by the military.

Watching parades by myself definitely brings on an overabundance of sarcasm.