Try, try again

There are a million things that can go through ones mind when you get a positive pregnancy test. For many people, it’s excitement. For some, it’s dread and denial. For a select population, it’s fear. Fear is honestly such a normal part of pregnancy but I’m going to speak specifically to the population of women that only experience fear.
For any woman who has had a traumatic pregnancy event, fear is practically the only emotion experienced when seeing a positive pregnancy test. After a miscarriage or still birth or infertility diagnosis, the rose-colored glasses are off. Gone are the days of running excitedly out of the bathroom to show your partner the little stick. Excitedly calling parents & best friends are a memory if they ever existed at all. You are filled with a fearful hope and begin preparing yourself for the inevitable loss rather than get swept away in dreams of the future.
There’s another group of us that fall into a similar category – Moms who are pregnant after a special needs diagnosis. We’ve seen the “other side”. We’ve gotten the call or sat in a somber room. We’ve met with professionals & heard the statistics. And regardless of how blessed we feel to have our “special” kiddos, there’s a fear that rests in the back of your heart. At every appointment and visit, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re waiting for a similar yet completely different diagnosis. Cleft lip? Missing limbs? What surprise issue will this new little one have? It can be scary to even hope for “typical”.
I was chatting with a fellow therapist recently about my current pregnancy. I was quick to dismiss my feelings of anxiety & fear but she stopped me. She reminded me that my pregnancy with David was traumatic and I don’t need to minimize it. I love my son & wouldn’t change him for the world but that doesn’t mean I didn’t experience heartbreak during my pregnancy with him. It definitely doesn’t mean that I’ve accepted anything that comes my way & by default this latest pregnancy has been blissful and calm. Quite the opposite! I look back on my youthful naivety when I was pregnancy with Ella and almost laugh. In comparison, this pregnancy has been quiet. That’s the best way to describe it. We’ve been reserved, haven’t made any major announcements or even told everyone we know. We kept it to ourselves & didn’t even tell our parents until the end of the first trimester and our blood work testing for all Trisomies had come back negative.
It’s been a journey. It’s been emotional. It’s been a process. Every day we get a little closer to calm & blissful. We are more than delighted to be surprised blessed again & know we’re lucky. But I don’t want to minimize the journey. I don’t want to put on a brave face and be inauthentic. I think that’s detrimental to other moms. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed. Pregnancy doesn’t have to look like a TV commercial. It can be messy with lots of tears. There is no shame in taking each day for what it is and trying again the next day. This is our journey and we get to determine what it looks like, tears, fears & all.

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The best offense is a good defense

There are a lot of components to being a special needs mom. It’s a balancing act of treating your kid like “everybody else” and managing all the nuances, therapies and appointments that make them “special”. You don’t want to treat them differently and yet their situation calls for different. You don’t want to talk endlessly about one child but you feel like you have to enlighten everyone about your child’s specifics.
As you all remember, I did not want to be “that mom”. I didn’t want to be an advocate for Down syndrome or start every conversation with, “My son has special needs . . .” But I’ve become her. I wear my sandwich board & ring my bell proudly, probably annoyingly. I have become David’s biggest cheerleader and a fiercer mama-bear than I expected. I have turned into a highly educated advocate (Well, highly educated for 16 month olds or younger. I know nothing about school, inclusion, IEP’s, etc. But that’ll come)
With the rise of genetic research and developments has inevitably come genetic testing. Just this week news broke of a couple who utilized fertility treatments in order to select their babies gender. Families are finding out very early in the first trimester if their children have genetic abnormalities and are given the option to terminate practically simultaneously with the results. The age of designer babies is here so where does that leave David & his peers?
I’ll tell you where it doesn’t leave me. In the judgement zone. People assume because we had a prenatal diagnosis and continued on with our pregnancy that I have strong feelings against termination. But I don’t. I have strong feelings toward education. I think the information that is out there is dated and scary. I think parents are terrified of the unknown. I think technology moves faster than human emotion. And more importantly, I think it’s not my place to judge. David is a lot. Strike that, David’s schedule is a lot. His needs are more extensive and the impact of his life has had an emotional affect on me. But truthfully, he is my easy child. He rarely cries, he calms easily and he’s perpetually joyful. When I hear parents say they couldn’t handle the difficulty of a special needs child, I don’t judge, I just know they haven’t been educated. Saying that is like saying it’s too difficult to schedule pediatrician check ups, pick proper food or buy diapers. All children have needs. A special needs child’s are just different. Not more, not less, just different.
So I’m not defensive about my decision or anyone else’s for that matter. I just really stepped up my offense and decided to rock parenting. Not special needs parenting, just parenting. Turns out food, clothing, shelter and love work for “special” kiddos too.

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The Lucky Few

Here’s a little secret to perk up your day. If you search #theluckyfew on Instagram, you’ll be lost for hours in the joyful, cute, stubborn, funny and unique pictures of individuals with Down syndrome. I stumbled upon the tag early after David was born & I’ve used it myself a few times. Those of us who love someone with Down syndrome really do feel we’re lucky. We’re part of a secret club. Remember when I was desperate to be kicked out of that club?! My gosh how things have changed! I truly don’t know if there is a day that has passed since David was born that I didn’t feel lucky. Through the NICU stay and the surgeries, the PICU stay and more surgeries and this spring when we spent more time at the hospital than at home, one giant smile from my sweet boy & I immediately think, “Damn, I’m lucky.”
We are fresh off a month of thankfulness & counting our blessings and just beginning a month of hope and advent. I sit in awe that I have been entrusted with these little beings. I am overwhelmed at the responsibility and blessing that has been given to me. I know I wasn’t “chosen” for this role but man am I blessed to be inducted into the lucky few.

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