We just celebrated Goldie's 3rd birthday. She certainly got the better end of the birthday deal. While she was busy licking icing and tearing open gifts, I began climbing Mt. Transition. Instead of snow, its covered in paperwork. I still haven't reached the top.
Last year, I posted Goldie's birth story, but didn't go into any detail about receiving her diagnosis. This year, I feel better able to talk about it. I can look back and see the best and the worst of myself. I've forgiven myself for the worst and let go of the guilt.
During my pregnancy there was some concern that Goldie wasn't growing well. I measured small for my dates and had to have another ultrasound. This was the 2nd level II ultrasound for that pregnancy. They were able to get some great pictures of her heart that they didn't get the first time. The tech thought she was in the 50% and would be about 7+ pounds. Maybe if she had hung out another 2 weeks, but instead she was only 6lbs 1oz and 18 inches long. Her head circumference was so small it wasn't on the growth chart.
I had the quad screen and it came back negative for an elevated risk of having a baby with DS. At the time, I didn't know it only screens your risk level and is not a definitive test. After working with breastfeeding mothers, I wanted to be able to anticipate any feeding difficulties or know if my baby would need extra attention after birth. We thought this test would meet that need. Turns out it didn't.
During my pregnancy I had a feeling that something wasn't right. I couldn't shake it and just kept telling myself it was anxiety. I spent the better part of my pregnancy in funeral homes, so it made sense to me that I was just being over anxious.
If I close my eyes I can still feel the first time I my skin met Goldie's. She was purple and spongy. The only thought I could form was "Why does my daughter have saggy skin like an elephant?" Out loud I said, "What's wrong with her skin. Doesn't she have enough fat on her? Were my dates wrong? Is she too early?" Down syndrome was the furthest thing from my mind.
The nurses kept reassuring me, telling me her Apgars were 8 & 9.
"Really?" the doctor said.
I stopped asking, distracted by the automated blood pressure cuff cutting off the circulation in my arm. My hand would curl into a ball while everyone just stared. I took it off, threw it on the floor and explained they would have to take my blood pressure the old fashioned way. (I'm not a good patient.) It was about this time our friendly nurse, Ann, clammed up. She wouldn't even look make eye contact with me.
Then it was time for Goldie to meet her sisters. Well, one of them, the other one was having a rough time.
I spent the night hiding Goldie under my nightgown, keeping her warm and hoping I could convince her to nurse. Hospitals in my neck of the woods still don't have rooming in. The nurse's aid came twice to bring Goldie to the nursery. No dice lady. Then a nurse who tried to help Goldie latch on. She asked if Goldie looked like my other babies. Finally, she patted me on the back and left.
Morning came and, again, the wanted Goldie in the nursery. This time the pediatrician was there to do the newborn health assesments.
"Great, I want him to come to my room to see my baby," I said.
"We don't do that."
"Ok. Then come get me and I'll bring her to the nursery."
"But, there's other babies in there. No ones ever asked to do this before."
"Your choices are he can check my baby here or I can bring her there. I don't send my 8 yo to the doctor alone. I'm not sending my newborn."
I let Goldie go to the nursery, so I could get a shower before seeing the doctor. But first I called my husband. That was the first time I cried. I planned on going home that evening, so he wasn't rushing in that morning. The plan was to wait until afternoon, then we could all go home together.
So, he wasn't there when I went to the nursery. Goldie wasn't with the other babies. She wasn't swaddled anymore. I could see a little gold bear on her chest to take her temperature, her stomach was bulging out in the center where the muscles didn't come together.
"I'm glad you asked to be here. Is you husband with you?" the doctor asked.
"I wish he was. Your daughter is showing some of the physical characteristics of Down syndrome."
The words echoed in my head for a few seconds. Then I knew I had to listen very carefully to everything he said because my daughter's health depended on it. The only things I could remember about Down syndrome were that it was an extra chromosome and it was forever.
The doctor and I, mostly I, formed a plan to get some nourishment into Goldie. Then I had to call her daddy. I still feel like crap for giving him such life changing news over the phone.
The next day we got our wish and were able to go home as a family.
It would be a week before we got the results of the bloodwork. A loooong week of crying, swearing, laughing and loving.
Our family pediatrician saw Goldie that day. I requested him that day because he is so compassionate and has a quietness about him that I enjoy. The room was filled with our family of 5, the doctor and at least on medical student.
"The results of the genetic testing came back and they show a triplication of the 21st chromosome."
After converting that to English in my head, I lost it. I bawled. I cried like I have never cried in front of so many people. Including my own children. I wish they hadn't been there. I was still crying when our van pulled out onto the main road. Finally, my husband said something that made me stop.
"You know, she's still our little girl. She's just like any other kid. She's going to take her first steps, say her first words and learn to ride a bike."