If I knew then what I know now…

Yesterday (May 8) marks the one year anniversary of the day we got “the call”. The call that confirmed our unborn baby has Down syndrome. Our Down syndrome day. The day our lives were forever changed. One year ago we thought it was the worst day of our lives – the ending of our life as we knew it. Truth be told, it was just the beginning. The beginning of actually living life. A second chance to appreciate the world and all that is in it. My eyes were opened (and looking quite scared I’m sure) that day in May. My heart was opened October 25 when our little boy was born. Oh we are so blessed. So, so blessed.

Please note, our lives are not perfect. Not even close. Although I try to remain upbeat and positive in this blog, we struggle just as any family does. But, our challenges are not because Eli has Down syndrome. We have more bills than we have money. Our car is in the shop. Our toddler decided to throw an embarrassing tantrum in the middle of the waiting room at the doctor’s office. I’m sure those “problems” are probably similar to half the population. It’s called life.

We went to the beach this past weekend. The same beach that we went to last year that helped cleanse our souls and pointed us in the direction towards acceptance. To read about that trip (and the sad, overwhelming few weeks leading up to it) check out my very first blog post – ACCEPTANCE. This trip, I spent a lot of time reflecting. I thought about the scared woman who cried so many tears after receiving that phone call. The husband who physically and emotionally checked out for a week. The friends and family members who offered their condolences. The baby that was growing inside me, completely unaware that we were all so devastated. It seems like a lifetime ago. Yet I remember it like it was yesterday.

If I only knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time grieving. I should have been celebrating. Rejoicing in the blessing that was being bestowed upon us.

If I only knew…
We are good enough parents to “handle” this. We can do more than we ever expected (and do it well!).

If I only knew…
I would be fortunate enough to meet a whole group of new friends, some who have become like a sister to me (and reconnect with many old friends throughout this whole process!).

If I only knew…
My baby will be cute. Quite possibly cuter than typical babies. 😊

If I only knew…
I will find strength in myself that I never knew existed. But, that strength will never compare to the strength I see from my child.

If I only knew…
Cody will be ok – even through four hospital stays, a host of health issues, doctor visits, and therapy all for his brother. He still goes to bed each night telling me he loves me and that I am his best friend.

If I only knew…
Eli will do things at an “age appropriate” level. And when he does fall behind on occasion, it is not the end of the world. (By the way – He rolled over for the first time this past weekend. He sat unassisted for the first time today!!!).

If I only knew…
Dreaming about his future is ok. He will have a future.

If I only knew…
Super heroes are real. My son proves it.

If I only knew…
I will love this child with every fiber of my being. I love him just as much as his brother (I really was once afraid I wouldn’t love him as much!).

If I only knew…
I will eventually forgive myself for the feelings I once had.

I took a bunch of pictures at the beach. Some of Cody, some of Eli. When Cody’s shadow joined him in a picture, there was only one. (I am referencing an amazing picture I posted in ACCEPTANCE). That shadow joined him in the flesh this time. I am still certain that extra shadow was his brother.

One year later I can tell you life certainly is ok. It is more than ok! Through our challenges and subsequent triumphs we, as a family, have made it through stronger, tougher, and more appreciative. Life is different. It is actually better than I could have ever imagined.
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Acceptance

May 8, 2012 at 1:15pm our world changed forever. We got the call from the genetic counselor that we had been dreading. The baby I have been carrying for 15 weeks, is not healthy. He/she has Down Syndrome. What?! How can this be? I’ve done everything right. I don’t drink, smoke, take medicine, eat foods I’m not supposed to. Why me? Why us? Cause I’m old? But I’m not old! I’m only 36. What will this do to our family? I’ve gotten mad, sad, anxious, confused. Will I be able to love this baby? What does their future hold? Bullying, dependence, frustration? What does Cody’s future hold? Constant defending? Other peoples intolerance? Jealousy? What does our future hold??? I can’t even go there right now. Everyone assures us that they’ll love the baby regardless and that they’ll always be there to support us. Will they? Will we? Can we? I have felt thoughts that I never thought I could feel about my unborn baby. Those thoughts make me angry, sad, and feel very un-mommy like. I’ve prayed for forgiveness of those feelings. Can I handle this? Can Chuck? Will our marriage survive? Is it worth risking? Right now, I don’t know the answer to those questions. I pray for clarity, for love, and for acceptance. I pray for peace. I pray that everything will just be alright.

I wrote that journal entry a few days after we found out that our baby has Down syndrome. It makes me sad to read it now. I felt so out of control. So desperately trying to understand what was happening. I’d go to sleep and wake up not remembering if it was a dream or real. I would pray it was a dream then remember it was not. We cried a lot. We stopped praying. We felt betrayed by God. We worried and worried and worried. We grieved for the child we thought we were having and didn’t know if we could ever come to terms with the child we were given.

After three long, insufferably challenging weeks my eyes were finally opened when my OB doctor (of all people!) quoted the bible during an appointment. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee;…”. All of a sudden, it all made sense to me. We were chosen by God to be this child’s parents. He knows we are capable of loving this child unconditionally. He picked us for him and him for us. I walked out of that appointment knowing everything would be ok. There was a feeling of calmness and acceptance that was such a new, welcomed feeling for me. Chuck still wasn’t there. He was still depressed. I feared he may never get to a point of acceptance like me. What if he never did?

A few days later we named our son. Eli Michael. There is a lot of meaning to his name that I won’t go into right now. But now our baby, our son, had a name. He was real. No longer just a scary diagnosis to us. He became ours.

We spent the following weekend on the Washington coast. If there’s a wonderful place to reflect and gain insight, it’s the beach. We were surrounded by peace. We were filled with love. As we took pictures of the three of us on the beach I had an overwhelming feeling that our family was going to be what it was meant to be. The four of us. Me, Chuck, Cody, and Eli. A family that was chosen. I took a picture of Cody playing on the beach. When I looked at the image on my camera I could not explain what I saw. Instead of one shadow standing with Cody, there were two. I just knew it was Eli. I just knew we’d be ok. That weekend was the best weekend of our lives (so far). We both accepted the child we were given. Not only accepted, but embraced.

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