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Katherine Grace: A Birth Story

December 15, 2010

I’ve read and related to Kelle Hampton’s birth story of her precious daughter, Nella, so many times now that I feel as though I wrote it.

The emotions, the roller coaster ride – she says it all so beautifully – and it really comforted me in those first few days when we found out about Kate’s diagnosis. And now, almost 6 weeks later, I am at such a place of peace that I don’t even think about Kate having Down Syndrome. She is just Kate. A little snuggle bug who is the most cuddly baby ever. She only cries when she wants to eat or have her diaper changed – and the rest of the time, she’s quite content curled up like a warm baguette on my chest or cradled in my arms. She has a feathery mohawk and deep blue eyes and little rosebud lips that smile while she’s sleeping.

And so, I’ll leave the gut-wrenching emotions (that I absolutely experienced) to Kelle. After all, she captures it so well and her story is so parallel to ours. In this post, I’ll simply share the details that many of you have asked about. And most importantly, I’ll document the arrival of our sweet Katherine Grace.

***

It was a sunny Monday afternoon. I waddled into my OBGYN’s office for my routine 37-week appt, expecting the usual check-up, belly measurement and “How’re you feeling?” conversation.

Dr. Martin had ordered a sonogram (unbeknownst to me) because my belly had measured a bit small at my 36 week appointment. When the sonographer handed me a torn sheet of notebook paper with Kate’s approximate weight – just under 5 lbs – I was surprised.

“Why is she so small?” I asked Dr. Martin when he came into the examination room. After all, my son had been almost 9 lbs when he was born – and we’re not really a petite family. Dr. Martin went on to explain that she’s probably just small or that the placenta isn’t giving her enough nutrients – and if the latter is the case, then we need to get her out as soon as possible. And so, an induction was scheduled.

On a cloudy Wednesday morning, Matt and I arrived with our bags packed to the hospital for an 8 am induction.

I was nervous about the induction. My first born had arrived on his own free will, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard horror stories about Pitocin (the drug they give you to induce labor) – about unbearable contractions and excruciating labors. And since the first was such an easy labor and delivery – almost unheard of easy – I didn’t know what I was in for. But surprisingly, the labor part ended up being even easier. The contractions were moderate, but doable, and the only “complication” ended up being a slight drop in my blood pressure when I got the epidural.

Before we knew it, Kate arrived – with a full head of blonde hair. But the excitement quickly faded to concern. As soon as she was born, I sensed a “mood” in the room. Because they had been concerned about her placenta, Dr. Martin didn’t give her right to me. Instead, he handed her to the delivery nurse who immediately started to examine her under the warmer.

I stared at her little squirmy body, crying and fussy – with that pink newborn skin – and I said, “She’s so beautiful.” I remember Sarah, our wonderful labor nurse, echoing my sentiment, “She is beautiful.”

I asked the delivery nurse checking her out if everything looked OK. She told me everything did. But there was an undertone to her voice. As Dr. Martin cleaned up, I noticed his eyes shifting frequently over to where Kate was getting checked. The nurses whispered. And once they finally handed her to me, bundled like a little glow worm to hold for the first time, Dr. Martin sat down on the side of the bed.

“You know how I told you that one of the reasons she may be small is because of chromosomal abnormalities?”

“Yes…” I responded, hugging my tiny newborn.

“Well, the nurse has noticed some characteristics typical of babies with Down Syndrome. This doesn’t mean that Kate has Down Syndrome, but we’re going to have a pediatrician come look at her.” He said a few other things, too, but I don’t really remember.

And with that, everyone left the room to give us some time with our new girl. This precious moment – the one that you dream about your whole pregnancy – where it seems like heaven and earth meet and all is right in the world – was suddenly filled with grief.

I told Matt that I knew she had Down Syndrome. “I can just tell,” I said. Matt told me not to jump the gun. He said that he didn’t really see it and that Dr. Martin just said it was a precaution. “Let’s not worry until we know for sure,” he said practically. But I knew. And I cried.

The timeline escapes me now, but at some point, they came and got her and took her to the nursery. There, the neo-natologist examined her. In the meantime, Matt and I researched Down Syndrome on our iPhones. What are the characteristics? How is it diagnosed? What does it even mean? We sat in my hospital bed where I had been eating Popsicles and rapping Salt n’ Pepa blissfully through contractions just a couple hours prior.

And before long, a tall, abrupt, middle-aged doctor came into the room. Sarah accompanied him. He greeted us, “Hi Mr. and Mrs. Warner…” He told us his name and title – and then, as quickly as he said hello, he continued, “There’s no good way to say this, so I’m just going to say it. Your daughter has Down Syndrome.”

He went on to tell us what that means – what possible complications she could have because of it (50% have heart problems needing surgery, possible poor hearing and eyesight, he’s only seen one baby since 1987 be able to breastfeed, etc.) He then went on to share what follow-up tests they’ll be doing. Matt nodded and asked questions while I stared, blurry-eyed, counting the seconds until he would leave so I could have a good cry.

And finally, after what seemed to me like an hour of medical textbook speak, he left. And again, we were alone with our little girl who had already made such a profound impact.

The next few hours were a blur – but I do remember a great amount of love and comfort. Kindness poured out from family and friends and unexpected strangers who offered the most perfect words at just the right time. And I immediately knew that most importantly, my little girl would be loved. And not just by us – but by the people who love us. We have such a wonderful support system and that truly carried us through those first hours and days of grieving.

Later that evening, the family came to visit. Granddad was still in town from Adrienne’s wedding and was able to meet his youngest great grandchild.

Our parents met her and held her – and held us.

And then came my sweet, blue-eyed boy. He looked at his new sister with great love. And then became equally excited by all the new “toys” in the room – the cabinets, the chairs, the fun bed that moves when you push it’s buttons. He was a great reminder that life goes on – even when the world seems to stop for a bit.

And we ate a Sonic grilled cheese together.

At some point, the family left.

Matt, Kate and I sat in the dim room – and I could barely keep my eyes open. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I was told in the middle of the night that Kate was going to visit the NICU. Common for small babies, she had a bit of jaundice and was having trouble maintaining her temperature. And so, I slept.

The next day, we visited our little one in her temporary home away from home.

We became friends with the NICU nurses. Brought outfits for her to wear. And started bonding with our new daughter, despite the cords that were constantly attached to her. Being so small, she wasn’t strong enough to eat on her own, so we had to bide our time until she could grow stronger and go without the feeding tubes.

Almost three weeks later – and 1 lb heavier – she was released to come home. Just a day before her due date.

***

And here we sit. She is curled up on my chest, sleeping soundly – my own personal space heater. As I write about the grief and sadness we experienced, it’s amazing to realize how quickly that fades away. By connecting with other families who have experienced similar things – and just by getting to know Kate – we’ve learned that our situation is far from one to grieve about. In fact, many would say we are lucky. We are certainly just starting this journey – and I’m sure there will be challenging days, as there are with every child, in every family.

But we live for today. And today, we are enjoying our little snuggle bug – who is already doing great things in this world.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2011 2:29 pm

    She is beautiful! I am praising God with you for this new life — and for the fact that she was born to wonderful, caring parents like yourselves.

    This might be a shot in the dark, but I think you would be very encouraged by the story of little Verity, who was born last spring with DS. You can find the story (and hopefully lots of encouragement) here: http://theblessingofverity.com/

    God bless your family!

  2. January 12, 2011 2:36 pm

    What a beautiful birth story – and full of emotion that has left me with tears in my eyes. Though I’ve met Matt at the CNMC twice, I have not met you. You four are such a beautiful family and Kate is absolutely precious. I have no doubt that you and Matt will meet any challenges with God’s strength and grace at your side and the support, love, and prayers of all who know you. Congratulations again on the birth of your beautiful baby girl.

  3. January 12, 2011 3:10 pm

    What a beautiful story of a beautiful little girl and family. God has blessed you, and I am sure she is blessed to have you as her parents. God is Love.

  4. Irene permalink
    January 12, 2011 3:39 pm

    congratulations with a beautiful girl! šŸ™‚
    as an older sibling, I would like to offer an advice – to let your first know you love them both equally. because younger child usually needs more care from the parents, and sometimes older one may feel kind of less important.
    thank you for the post and wish you strength and God’s guidance in dealing with all the challenges.

  5. hyldad permalink
    January 12, 2011 3:57 pm

    She is beautiful, and a gift from God. My 10 year old grandson, while not a down’s baby, is quite challenged. We don’t know why. He is wonderful, joyful to be with, happy. I love and pray for him every day. He is on a lot of medication, again I don’t know why, but when he is with me and my husband he is such a joy. God bless you and I will keep you all in my prayers

  6. January 12, 2011 4:15 pm

    Congratulations on being trusted to receive such a gift! I’ve heard that God smiles through children with Downs. šŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing.

  7. January 12, 2011 5:41 pm

    A beautiful story, a gorgeous baby and a wonderful blessing. THank you for sharing your joy.

  8. haley permalink
    January 12, 2011 8:51 pm

    I worked with your mom for a few years and shared her enjoyment with the idea of becoming a grandma….I love your blog and love the way you so eloquently put emotions into words. Both of your children are beautiful and I am inspired to look at my own child and not focus on things I fear she will become, rather celebrate who she is. Thank you for that lesson.

  9. Barb Mag permalink
    January 14, 2011 2:10 pm

    Lovely Lauren, really enjoyed your story of kate’s birth, hope its not too long before we see you all again and meet our darling great neice and gorgeous great nephew, love aunty Barb (NZ) xxxx

  10. January 19, 2011 9:39 am

    Congratulations-you’ve been blessed!
    I have two siblings with down syndrome, my sister who was born on my 10th birthday, and a brother adopted about five years later.
    We can’t imagine life without them. They are perfect, just like your beautiful baby girl!

  11. Lori permalink
    January 19, 2011 8:08 pm

    Congratulations on the birth of your sweet baby girl! You ARE lucky! I’m glad I happened upon your blog tonight. Great story!

  12. Suzanne Ribbe permalink
    January 20, 2011 11:27 am

    I really loved your grace full sharing about your birth. Your baby girl and your family are truly beautiful. I was so touched how you loved her through the tubes etc. I never thought or imagined what would happen if I gave birth and the baby would be ” whisked away”…evaluated. I just wonder if it is compassionate or timely for the caring doctors to “matriculate” the information and deliver the diagnosis at a time when heaven meets earth. At a time when a mom just receives her miracle. Gosh.

  13. January 30, 2011 3:54 pm

    I found your blog from your twitter follow today. I’ve read Kelle’s story several times, and I’m glad you didn’t hesitate to tell your story too, even if she did do such a good job. Each story will be different, and you can offer something to your readers too.

    Love to you and the little miracle.

  14. April 16, 2011 9:17 pm

    *SIGH* Beautiful story. I can’t even tell you how much peace stories like yours give me. I have a great “fear” of the unknown (I’m sure many of us do!!) but I think reading stories like yours confirm that all life is beautiful, no matter the differences šŸ™‚

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