I see you, walking into the OBGYN office without a care in the world. At 14 weeks pregnant, you're feeling happy and glowing, despite the constant horrid nausea. I watch you settle into the exam room and see your surprise when a doctor other than the one you were expecting walks in the room. But she seems nice, so you chit chat for a bit while she pulls up your chart. She asks if the geneticist had called you yet, and I hear you say no, without much worry, because you had just had the chromosomal testing less than a week ago, so there was no way the results were in yet. I hear her say, "Well, she's going to call you," with a pointed look, and I watch your whole body go still. I feel your mouth go dry. And you just KNOW.
My heart breaks for you in that moment, dear self, because I know how strong you are, but you don't know that yet. I know that you will handle every moment after your baby's birth with grace (except for a few break downs in the NICU), but you don't know that yet. All you know in that moment is loss. Deep, gut-wrenching loss.
I watch your eyes well up with tears as your mind races, frantically trying to think of all the questions you know you should ask while it simultaneously goes blank. I want to wrap my arms around you as your shoulders begin to shake, unable to hold back the tears anymore. We glare at the doctor together when she tells you that it's still early enough to terminate, and accept the box of tissues she pushes into your hands as she leaves the room, mumbling something under her breath about "giving you a moment to yourself."
I watch you desperately try to pull yourself together, but end up sobbing all over again. I hear you call your husband, hating the thought of delivering news like this over the phone to him, but needing so badly to talk to him. To be anything but alone in this antiseptic room. You manage to tell him the diagnosis, and the silence on the other end of the phone is deafening. You worry about him driving. You worry about seeing him cry for the first time. You now have so many worries that you never thought you'd have. And suddenly, despite the baby inside of you, you feel empty. I see it happen. I feel you go numb. And I just wish time could fast forward itself by about six months.
Because, dear self, you have no idea how much love is coming your way. I want to shake you and tell you that your grieving is so unnecessary. But I let you have your sadness. I let you wallow in self-pity. You need this time. I know it will be short-lived, so I let you feel this soul-shattering misery. Over the next few days, friends and family will come and pick up the pieces, and begin to put your scared, tired heart back together. I know that by the time your baby makes his big debut, your heart will again be full and joyful and ready to welcome him the way he deserves, with gratitude, pride, and overwhelming love.
You don't know it yet, but he will be the last piece of your healing puzzle. He will make you whole again. He will bring your spirit back to life. Sweet Jonathan, with his snuggles and smiles and successes, will complete your family. And you, my dear self, will realize your own mama-bear strength and quickly become everything Jonathan needs you to be. Life will be amazing. Life will be just as it was always meant to be. Just wait and see.
Dear Self was written by Danielle Horn. Danielle is a board member and chair of our new parent committee. She is a mother to three beautiful boys one of whom has Down syndrome. Her family is active members of the center and we are grateful for their support.