The Story of Jack

I met Angi through a good friend in common years ago, footloose and fancy free wine tasting in our beautiful Sonoma county. Ahh, life before children was so different. Some people, you just like right away…she was one of them. Sparkling eyes and a bright smile are her outfit of choice, complimented by the sandals of a river guide and the sassy flair of a newlywed. Since then, I have witnessed from afar as this woman steps into her role as mother with tenacity and the unconditional love that each mother is given from her child. She is an activist, as she educates her community about Down Syndrome and gives us all the chance to learn from her life. Thanks Ang for showing us your strength within your vulnerability and wearing that bright smile to invite us in to learn.
I have waited to write this. I guess I had wanted more perspective. I had wanted to heal a bit before diving in. I had wanted to really feel like it was time….for what, I’m not sure. Maybe to move on with living. Well, here it is.It starts with a routine 37 week OBGYN appointment. During which I expressed a minor concern with the fact that I wasn’t feeling “ready to pop”, I wasn’t hating being pregnant which seems to be the norm at this stage. I told my (a former mid-wife) OBGYN that I had dreams that I delivered a TINY baby, we’re talking the size of a pear and that I couldn’t get the thought of problems with umbilical cord out of my head. Because of ALL that she suggested an ultra sound (only our 2nd ever). We weren’t finding out the gender and were really excited about the surprise. What we didn’t realize was that we were in for more surprises down the road.They conducted the ultra sound and sent me on my way. I met with friends for lunch, laughed, and got a call asking me to come back to review the results. Funny, how at this point I wasn’t alarmed….at all. I called another friend to tell her I was going back in and she had the foresight to see that there might be something wrong and she met me there for my review. THANK GOD!They called me in and said, “Your instincts were right. There is something wrong with the baby.” This is where I feel like I’m overlooking the scenario. Like I am hovering over everyone, listening to what the doctor is telling that 28 year old woman below. I don’t have time to understand my feelings. I am too busy trying to listen to the potential complications….”proportionately small baby…..intestinal issues….PROPORTIONATELY small…. no amniotic fluid….crushed umbilical chord… nutrients….” and then, “You have to have the baby today, like now.” I was sent to the San Francisco Kaiser because they had a trauma 3 NICU, the local hospital wouldn’t be able to offer my baby the care it looked like he/she would need…..another shot of anxiety ran through my veins. This is serious. This is scary. I called my husband and he sounded calm, was coming home to meet me. My friend and I got in separate cars, she met me at my house, I called my friend I lunched with and CRIED….they said there’s something wrong with the baby. HOLY !@#$ , this was really happening.

Called my husband again…. he was RUSHING home from work, driving in the hazard lane on 101 for over 40 miles…..NOT recommended, btw. We headed to SF with surprisingly high spirits, we were together….a family. I thought to myself, we caught it, things will be fine. LET’S HAVE A BABY!!!! YEAH!

We arrived and they didn’t really know why I was there. Yes, my OBGYN called ahead, but no one saw any reason for concern, nor did they understand why I thought something was wrong. After about an hour and a phone call to the OBGYN they induced me and asked for my birth plan. I laughed, and so did they. I guess I wasn’t getting the “hippie” (their word, not mine) birth I wanted, but they would try to stick to the parts they could. I felt like they really cared. I had to abandon my exercise ball, freedom to move about, intermittent fetal monitoring etc….I didn’t bat an eyelash, I knew this was how it had to be….for my little one.

After about 8 hours of labor and no meds they expressed concern for my baby…again. I was only dilated 1cm!!!!! and the baby wasn’t responding well to the increased contractions. They brought up the C word, and that was the first time I really cried. Why was all this happening? After a series of heart rate drop/stops they really recommended a C section and I knew that it was necessary. I felt the severity of it all. I accepted it all right there. We need to do this for our baby.

JACKbabySurgery went well, John needed some apple juice to help with fainting and it all was great, for what it was. They delivered our little baby boy at 3am and daddy held him up to my face…”it’s a boy, honey, we have a baby boy.” Tears, oh the tears. He’s here, I survived surgery and he is fine. A bit small at 5lbs 4oz, but no pear! We all went back to my room to rest. My parents and my in laws were there with us. Everyone got to hold their FIRST grandchild. When I held him, I thought….he looks awkward, different. He must have really been through a lot in there. Everyone gave us kisses and headed home to rest. Around 6am they came to get our little Jack because he wasn’t keeping temperature and they wanted to monitor his breathing. John went with the doctors to take him to the NICU. They were gone for what seemed like over an hour.

At this point I am worried, but trying to rest. When they come back John is crying and the head of pediatrics is with him. I think to myself……..he died. Silence. No one spoke. John is still crying. The head of pediatrics steps in. She says, “I already told your husband, but we think that Jack might have Down Syndrome.” more silence. It wasn’t shocking, it wasn’t horrible, it was almost like I knew. It was almost like I was expecting them to say it. Like, finally, now we know.

I know this will sound crazy….if you’re even still reading this, but I knew all along. Really, promise. I told my mother in law once (she doesn’t remember) that I was worried that there was something “wrong” with the baby, that that was my biggest fear. She said, like what? I said, like that he/she will have Down Syndrome or something. I said that. And more than anything, I am so grateful for her response….she said, ” Oh, really. Those kids are great.” I haven’t cried at all through writing this, enough time has passed…I have healed. But as I think of that moment, I cry. I cry because I know that my family loved him before he even arrived. I know that he is accepted and cared for for who he is and not because of what he wasn’t.

After they told me, I didn’t cry. Not one tear. I consoled my hubby (the strongest, most incredible man I know). They kept sending in social workers and doctors to check on me. To make sure I understood what “it” meant. They spoke with our parents, my mom asked them to send in a minister….she thought I was in denial, she said I was taking it too well. I don’t know why on that day I didn’t cry. Maybe because I was in shock, maybe I knew I had to be strong for my son, my husband, and my family. I had to show them that this was ok. That he was healthy, and perfect and I was happy. And I was.

Jack had to stay in the hospital for a week for various monitoring: white blood cell count, sleep apnea, low temperature, and an eventual transfusion. But, other than that he was healthy. Once I was discharged (3 days later) we went home without him…..and I cried. This is what wasn’t right. This is what I needed support for. My baby should be with me, not in a hospital full of strangers. When we got home we sat in his nursery and cried and held each other. I think I actually kept saying, “wow……wow…, is this really happening” I cried and tried to adjust to this new idea of family and life and living. John and I decided then and there that we HAD to make communication a priority. That we HAD to vent to each other, we had to talk about all the things that we were afraid to say, admit, wonder, worry about.

jackCribWhen Jack was finally discharged one LONG week later (which seemed like an eternity after 2 yes’s, 2 no’s and a final YES) we were “normal” parents. We dotted onver him, we dressed him in his best preemie outfit (which my mom had to rush to buy, at 5’8” and 6’3” we weren’t expecting a tiny little guy) and shot pictures all the way to the car. We joked about how cool he’ll be when he’s older because he’ll get to say he was born in San Francisco. John stressed about the city traffic and we noted his first trip over the Golden Gate Bridge. All was well in the world, we were a family. We came home to an outpouring of love and support, which continues to this day. And I think, thank god for my family, friends and my loving husband. And thank god for the greatest gift of all, my perfect son, Jack

Written by mama extraordinaire, Angi B.

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