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.


  1. ((Hugs))

    While my guy isn't Down's, he'll have special needs. And, you never know how serious something will turn out to be. He may grow up with very little problems. I pray that's the case.

    Now, the important question: are you seriously in Italy?? (I'll be jealous if you are... but only for a second or two.)

  2. *hugs until your ribs crack* He might not have it very seriously, you know. ;)

  3. You don't know me, Nina, but I'm Hannah's mom. She sent me both links about the birth of your son. Your thoughts about his birth are beautifully expressed. I'm so sorry things have not turned out as you and Tanner were anticipating, but hard things so often turn out to be blessings in disguise. Hunter is a sweet little baby and though raising him will be difficult at times, you will also take great joy in him . . . as you already have. He is God's gift to you. He chose you to be Hunter's mother and Tanner to be his father and He will equip you if you look to Him for help and grace. Learn to ignore the unkind and downright cruel things some people say; they are ignorant and thougthless and don't see the value in each life. There are still many people who do see it, as does God, Hunter's Creator. I have been praying for you and will continue. God bless you, and congratulations on the birth of your first child!

  4. Hi. I'm another Hannah's mom. She told me I absolutely must come read the most beautifully written post about the birth of a child. She's right. Absolutely spot on . .. plus, I loved your 35 week pregnancy post. Been there.

    I'm also the mom of a special needs adult. Autism. God grants us these special miracles and He gives grace more than sufficient to cover our weakness. You have an absolutely beautiful, perfect child.

    I'll be praying for you all to have joy, peace, and Italy!

    Kim H

  5. I too intensely dislike that awful poem...why it's given to us I have no clue...
    great post

  6. Hi Nina,

    I came over from your other blog to say congratulations on your new baby - congratulations! He is amazing.

    And you are so right. Never ever ever and the loss of hope is a horrible thing - remember instead Jeremiah 29:11 and that God makes everything beautiful in His time.

    Praying that your family's stress goes down quickly and that you can be resting in God's love during this time of unexpected things. 2 Cor. 12:9


  7. I felt the same about the 'never ever' bit too. When I copied that reflection to send out to our family and friends, I took that bit out ;) Who knows what the future will hold. I'm holding onto the hope that our future will be filled with joy and our baby (yet to be born - in March 2012) will enrich our lives in ways we can't even imagine yet.

    Congratulations on your beautiful boy!