When we first moved to Georgia, I got involved with a Down Syndrome Play group. I had to drive and drive to get to it, and with all of Elise's health problems, we missed SO many of the dates. As our babies grew up and got into the school system, the playgroup went into a funny limbo...we still have the "loop" where if anybody has any "Am I crazy?" questions, or requests for specialists, or just parenting advice...we send to the group and everyone responds with anything helpful. I cannot tell you what a blessing this has been.
So a week or so into this Thanksgiving project, I realized that I still had this incredible group and that there HAD to be a writer or two in there...I was not disappointed.
Please welcome the incredibly gifted, Ricci.
"I Surrender All
I thought I was living a surrendered life, until I actually had to surrender it.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007-
"I've been craving so many sweets lately," I hear myself say as I pack my plate for a second time at my weekly Bible study. The words penetrate the air around me and I immediately think, "Could I be pregnant?" No, certainly not, we are taking precautions, I silently assure myself.
The lingering thought pursues until I pull into the pharmacy. As I stare at the pregnancy tests, I think, I never thought I'd be buying one of these again. When I get home, I wave to my family and rush into the bathroom. Each time I have taken this life changing test, I see the results instantly. This time is not different. I gasp! There it is; a second line, a new life, my fourth child. Holding the test and my breath, I walk outside to find my husband and three kids catching lightening bugs. My kids dance around me grasping into the sweet summer air for the twinkling lights as I walk over to my husband
"How was your study?" he asks. Without saying a word, I simply hold up the answer.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007~
Still in a state of disbelief, I sit in my doctor's waiting room. My mind wanders to the birth of my first child, a beautiful girl, Remington Lark.
I relive the moment that she opens her eyes and looks at me for the first time. I trace the outline of her big, plump lips, her pink chubby cheeks, and her tiny pointed ears. Tiny pointed ears! I have given birth to a fairy. Wonder envelopes me like a warm wind. "Thank you, Lord" I whisper. A still small voice whispers back "Welcome to the magical journey of motherhood."
Twenty two months later, Savyn Lindy, another baby girl, joins the family. With a name as unique as she is, this world is now a better place. Her heart is as big as her smile. She radiates, captivates, and frustrates, in her own savvy way!
When I find out that I'm pregnant with my third child, I make it clear, I want a boy! As soon as he is born, my husband shouts, "It's a boy!" I feel instant joy as I reach for my first son, Brandon Michael. He is here, and my family is complete.
There is something so pure, so enchanting about the love of a child. So why do I feel so conflicted about having another one? Before I can rationalize this feeling, the nurse opens the door.
"Ricci?" She calls out and suddenly I'm back to the here and now. As I wait for the doctor in my "oh so chic" paper robe, the thoughts flood in. How is another baby going to fit into our lives? I have just started my own business, when will I have time for another baby? I've had three children in five years, nursing each one for a year. Wait a minute, the math doesn't even add up.
Interrupting my thoughts, the doctor knocks and opens the door. After my exam, he says, "You seem to be about 7-8 weeks along, but I'd like for you to schedule an ultrasound."
"Why? Is there something wrong?" I ask.
"No it's just to get an accurate due date," he assures me. I nod, all the while thinking, Can you just check again? Are you absolutely sure I am pregnant?
I turn to leave and the nurse hands me the complimentary black nylon baby bag. "Congratulations!" she beams. "I already have three of these, I think, I don't need another one. Bothered and bewildered, I make my way home. I am officially a mother of four.
Monday, August 6, 2007-
Today, I turn thirty-seven and I am having another baby. Feelings of welcome anticipation are slowly replacing the shock and disbelief I've been carrying around with me. I make it a daily habit to surrender my life to God's will, so I know this baby is His plan for our life. It has to be His idea, because it certainly isn't mine.
Later in the day, this email finds me, "God doesn't choose the qualified, He qualifies the chosen." I write it down and stare at the words. I didn't decide to have another child, God chose me to. This truth settles over me and the beginning feelings of excitement emerge.
One day later, I wake up one year older and centuries wiser.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007-
The weight has lifted, the fog has cleared and I breeze into the doctor's office for my first ultrasound. The technician and I make small talk as she glides the handle over my stomach. She tells me I am measuring 12 weeks and 4 days. As she continues, the look on her face begins to change.
"Are you going to have the NT testing?" she casually asks. She explains that all women over thirty-five are offered a lest that measures the fluid at the base of the babies' neck to help determine the probability of a chromosomal abnormality.
"I guess I'll have it done," I answer. "Why, do you see something?" I could tell by her hesitation that she does.
At my prompting, she admits, "I am a little concerned with the neck."
"A little concerned with the neck?" I shriek. She tried to assure me that everything is probably fine.
Probably fine, and concerned with the neck are words that you do not want to hear at an ultrasound.
Monday, August 20, 2007-
One week after the neck comment, I have another ultrasound. I search the nurse's face for any sign that something is wrong. I turn to look at the screen and see my baby waving.
My eyes well up, I blink and think, stop this, don't cry. Everything is probably fine, I assure myself, again. I don't even notice that the doctor has come in and is standing by my bed.
He introduces himself and tells me, "It's the nuchal translucency fluid that we are measuring." I try to concentrate on what he is saying, but my eyes dart from him to the tiny image on the screen.
Finally he says, "We like to see the fluid levels under two, and your baby is measuring at five. This I hear.
"What does that mean?" I ask. I'm not even sure what he says, but I can read it in their faces, something is wrong with my baby. He tells me about CVS testing where he can withdraw some of the fluid from the placenta and check for any chromosomal abnormalities.
I want to scream at him, I'm not even supposed to be pregnant! I ask to call my husband and as soon as I hear his voice, the emotions start pouring out. "Something is wrong with our baby," I whimper. In between sobs, I tell him that the fluid levels are too high and the doctor is suggesting a CVS test. My husband tries to calm me and suggests we both come in to meet with the doctor.
While I am attempting to schedule a time for the next day, the nurse hands me an ultrasound picture. I glance down at the small figure waving. There are two little words printed on it...Hi, Mom. I can't hold back the tears.
"Come in around 11:00 am." the receptionist tells me. I glance in her eyes and see the first (of what would become so many) sympathetic look.
Everything looks the the same, but somehow my world is different. As I drove home, my heart is racing and the what if's begin to consume me. Suddenly, something catches my eye. A big hawk swoops across the front of my car and lands in a nearby tree.
I slow down to see him and a scripture rises up to save me.
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
I pull over and repeat the words aloud,"Be still and know that I am God." I lower my head and the small voice whispers, "Be still, my daughter, and know that I am here." I glance up at the hawk, sitting so majestically, so still, in the top of the tree. I breathe. And then, I smile. God, the hawk, and I have won the first battle.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007-
My husband and I drive to meet with the doctor and I can only stare out the window. It's a hot, sticky day and my mood is as damp as the air. Sitting in the waiting room, I casually flip through the Atlanta Home Magazine trying to keep my mind off the upcoming conversation. I picture myself living in this cool, downtown loft when the nurse opens the door.
She nods our way, "The doctor will see you now." Another nurse calling me back to reality. She guides us into a small room with one round table and three chairs. The doctor comes in and shuts the door. He motions for us to sit down and starts to talk about our baby. I feel nauseous. After hearing the words like lethal chromosomal abnormality we decide to have the CVS testing. The procedure itself is not that bad. And it's not that good either.
WE are told the preliminary results could come back in 48 hours and the doctor would give us a call. On the way home, I don't see any hawks, I don't hear any little voice and begin to feel defeated.
Over the next couple of days, I Google words like cystic hygroma and increased nuchal and translucency fluid. I read about trisomy 13, 18, and 21 (which is the technical name for Down Syndrome). I go to message boards and read stories about women, waiting like me, to find out the results of some procedure.
Tuesday, August 23, 2007-
After what seems like two years instead of two days, the nurse calls.
"Unfortunately, there aren't enough cells to get the rapid results so it will take a couple of weeks before we know anything."
"I'm so sorry," she says, and I can hear the sympathy smile through the phone. After I hang up, I wonder aloud, "What are you preparing me for, Lord, and why do you need more time?"
The next two weeks are surreal. It is also a time of pure magic. God uses this time to assure me that His love and His plans are unshakable, undeniable, and unbelievable. During the waiting time, I start reading a book by Beth Moore. She writes about a little girl from her church that has Down Syndrome. I have also stared reading Beth's Bible study based on the life of King David. On the first page, the following words are printed just for me,
"Do no look at the appearance or height. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
I notice children in the store, at the park, and in restaurants, who have Down Syndrome. One morning as I am looking through books, a scripture falls out and lands at my feet. It's Matthew 11:25 (NIV).
"At that time Jesus said, I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and revealed them to little children."
Another scripture immediately pops into my mind.
"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke 18:17 (NIV)
I remember reading an article referring to people with Down Syndrome as "forever child-like." Not such a bad thing, I decide. Children believe with all their hearts and love with all their souls.
My three children bring wonder, radiance, and joy into my life over and over again. Wonder, Radiance, and Joy. These three words remind me of God. And these three words remind me of my children. As I kiss each one of them goodnight, I say a prayer of thanks. I continue to wait for the call. But I truly know that I am not waiting alone.
Thursday, September 6, 2007-
The phone rings a little after 5pm.
"We received your test results," the doctor says. I breathe in as he continues, "Your baby is positive for Trisomy 21." I want to say that I already know and it's okay. But instead, I exhale.
The doctor continues and my thoughts settle on one simple question.
"Do you the sex of the baby?"
"Yes," he pauses,"the baby is female."
As I hang up the phone, I can't help but smile. It's a girl.
Later that night, I think of all the signs God sent me in preparation for this baby. As I'm about to go to sleep, I remember something my Aunt Carolyn told me a few days before.
"I feel that the Lord spoke to me and said that the baby will be fine. Just have hope." HOPE.
Again, a scripture pops into my mind. And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
This will be her name, I decide. Love. Bree Love. I run my hands over my stomach and allow myself, for the first time, to connect with this beautiful baby growing within me. Welcome, my Bree Love," I whisper, "I love you."
Friday, September 7, 2007-
I'm relaxing in my sunroom when my eyes fall on a small plate hanging on the wall. It's a picture of a little girl with angel wings. I gaze at her and think about my new baby.
My angel baby, I say aloud as I rub my stomach. I take the plate off the wall and sit in my rocking chair. I turn the plate over and read, for the first time, the inscription on the back. "Angel of Hope" My aunt's words rush over me, "Just have hope." I smile from the inside, I'm having hope.
Sunday, September 9, 2007-
Before I am out of bed, I come up with every reason not to go to church. Practically everyone know that we are expecting, but no one knows our recent diagnosis. I want some alone time, to think, to read, to walk, to laugh, to cry, to pray. The small voice whispers, Go to church, you need to go to church. Reluctantly, I get in the shower.
Before the sermon begins, our pastor introduces someone and she walks to the stage. She talks about becoming a member and the reasons why she feels our church is so special.
"You see, our youngest daughter has Down Syndrome." She tells of many blessings her daughter has brought into her life. My tear ducts explode.
Is there a spotlight on my head, I wonder? We just found out so I know no one else knows. "I know," the voice whispers and once again God is talking right to me. And I am listening.
On the ride home, I notice my friend, the hawk, circling high in the sky. I watch the graceful movements, close my eyes, and fly with it.
The rest of my pregnancy is rather uneventful. I have monthly ultra sounds to check for heart problems, blockages, proper growth, etc. Each visit brings good news and she is developing great. At one of my visits, the doctor shares some startling statistics with me.
"Ninety percent of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome choose to terminate." he says. I stare back at him, trying to wrap my mind around this fact.
"Ninety percent?" I ask. "As in 90?"
"Yes," he answers, "Ninety percent."
This number stuns me, saddens me, and haunts me. Over the next several months, I read books like Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck, Angel Unaware, by Dale Evans Rogers, and Angel Behind the Rocking Chair, by Pam Vredevelt.
These women all tell of incredible experiences. Words like joy, peaceful, kind, generous, and loving are used to describe their children. A calling is put on my heart to share my story with the world. I'm not filled with fear, anxiety, or doubt, but rather with faith, hope, and love. And, when the what-ifs begin. And, when the what-ifs bgin to circle in my mind, I simply close my eyes and take flight. I rise above the fear and gracefully glide through it.
Saturday, February 2, 2008-
Entering my ninth month, I re-read Laurie Beth Jones' brilliant book, The Four Elements of Success.
She writes, "I believe that the four four elements are fascinating reflections of the different characteristics of God." I agree. She explains four different personality types of wind, water, earth and fire. Based on her descriptions, my children fit perfectly into these elemental personalities.
You see, I have my wind, my Remi. She fills me with such wonder. (Remember, she is a fairy!)
I have my fire, my Savyn. She is so passionate, she ignites those around her.
I have my water, my Brandon. He refreshes me with his joyful nature and his eyes are as blue as the sea. I think I am complete.
Only God knows I still need the most important element. The ground element, and the only one that contains all three. Earth. My Bree Love. I know she will anchor my family and bring us to a simple wisdom as pure as a walk in the woods. "A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)
Thursday, February 14, 2008-
My due date is still two weeks away, but Bree Love begins her descent today. It's the day the world celebrates love. This is perfect timing. My contractions are steady but not too strong so I rest and try to enjoy the day with my family. I know the time is coming soon, but I really want one more night at home. I'll call the doctor in the morning, I decide and get ready for bed. The night is still hushed and magical. I want to feel this moment so I open the window and breathe the air. It's crisp and cool, unlike that hot August day not so long ago. I think about our journey to get to this day and how much God has taught me, already, through this precious child.
What do I know for sure? God is with me. Whatever I am facing, I will rely on the abundant power of prayer. It's the only source of power.
I have the power to change my thoughts. What if...everything is okay? What if...I just close my eyes and ask for guidence, help, strength, patience? What if he answers? Trust me, he will.
I never really sleep, but I rest. I rest in the the knowing that God loves me and all I really have to do is love this child. And, this I can do. I confidently curl up around a pillow and whisper, We can do this, Bree Love. No doubt about it, we can do this."
Friday, February 15, 2008
I arrive at my doctors fully expecting to be sent to the hospital.
"It's time," he verifies.
I rush home to meet my husband. We hug our children with promises of a new baby to love when we return.
On the ride to the hospital, the contractions are closer and stronger. The cool breeze rushes through the half-open window to soothe and comfort me once again. We arrive at the hospital and settle into our room. The next several hours labor on and then, just like that, she is here.
When I hold her for the first time, I tingle. I brush my finger alond her cheek and she looks into my eyes for the first time, there are no words, only love. Rejoicing love.
Saturday, February 19, 2008-
Outside, the night sky begins to brighten as sunlight tries to peek out from increasing rainclouds.
A knock startles the quiet space, "Hi, can I come in?" the nurse asks.
"Sure," I whisper. Holding a clipboard, she walks over to Bree, who is peacefully sleeping in her bassinet.
"She's beautiful," she praises and I wonder if she knows. I glance down at the clipboard and see Bree Love, girl, Down Syndrome.
Words on a page, I think, defining my child, changing the way people treat her.
"Yes, she is beautiful and magical, too." I declare. Our conversation turns more personal as she asks about Bree. She pulls a chair as I relive the last nine months.
"I expected to come in and find a sick baby and a sad mother," she confesses. "But she's not sick and you're not sad."
"No, she's healthy and I'm very happy."
Before she leaves, she thanks me for sharing our story. I can tell that it moved her in a profound way.
I snuggle close with Bree and whisper in her tiny ears, "See that, Sweatheart, not even a day old and already teaching this world a thing or two." My head falls into the pillow as the rain begins to softly pelt the window. Just before my mind drifts away, the small voice whispers....
"It is well with my soul." And it is."