My son Theo is just over 2 months old. However, I thought I would also backtrack to some moments from when I was pregnant as I feel it helps paint a better picture of his beginning.
I found out I was pregnant on April 1st 2015, yes April Fools Day! It also happened to be the day after I’d bought my brand new little Adam, which in no way whatsoever could ever act as a big enough family car. You could definitely say it was not the best timing. At the time I was studying full time in University and working between 40-50 hours a week to support myself. My initial reaction about the situation was that I had no time to raise a child. Within a few days I had learned to accept it and I realized what’s done, is done. I then waited anxiously for the first 12-14 weeks to be over so that I could get the ‘all clear’ and enjoy the rest of my pregnancy.
My 12 week scan; dating scan, revealed I was actually 14 weeks pregnant. I remember looking at the screen and seeing him wriggling like a little worm. It made me laugh so much which really frustrated the rather grumpy lady performing the ultrasound. She was rather unpleasant for want of a better word as with my laughing and the babies wriggling she found it hard to get a correct idea of how old he was. Up until this scan I believed he was going to be a girl, but as soon as I saw him on the screen I knew he was going to be a little boy.
I got offered the routine blood tests to be screened for everything including genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome. I said to the women taking my blood test that I didn’t mind having bloods done to see if I was at high risk of the baby having a genetic condition. I made sure to make it clear that I did not want the all invasive amnioscentisis. It was at this point she turned around and said there’s no point having the screening bloods done if you won’t have the amnio because if you come back high risk we will force you to have one… So I declined the test. For all genetic conditions. The babies father wasn’t present at this appointment and no I am not going to name him. I can say that after the appointment when I let him know that I had declined the screening he was less than impressed. He basically said how I had to have the test because if it came back positive or high risk he wanted me to end the pregnancy. He said something along the lines of saying how he did not want a child that was ‘retarded.’
Before I knew it my 20 week anomaly scan was around the corner and just a few days before it I was admitted to hospital on the gynaceology ward with severe tonsilitis, dehydration, a water infection and lack of fetal movement. It was at this moment I thought I was going to lose my little baby and suffer a miscarriage. That night in hospital the babies father ignored me, I would later find out in a few months time that same weekend he was actually staying at his ex-fiance’s fathers house. That night was the first night I heard the babies heart beat and I was petrified that as the doctor put the dopler on my stomach there would he no heartbeart, yet there it was whopping away.
I stayed in hospital right up until the night before my anomaly scan where I was then discharged. At my 20 week scan they checked all the babies vital organs and made sure that everything looked ‘normal’ and assured me he was growing properly. At this in depth scan they can also pick up key markers for Down Syndrome so I wasn’t concerned there was even a possibility of the baby having the condition. During the scan the baby was in an awkward position and wouldn’t move, it took nearly a good 2 hours of trying to scan him and me hobbling around to get him to move before I was given the thumbs up. The important thing was that half way through my pregnancy I was still not in the danger zone.
In the weeks running up to my baby shower and towards the end of my pregnancy I was still always was convinced something was wrong, however I could never put my finger on it. My midwife would however constantly reassure me after every ante-natal session that everything was fine, despite the fact my stomach growth was a month behind. The week of my baby shower I booked a 4D scan this one would recheck all the babies vital organs. This was just so I could get try to get peace of mind and stop uneccessarily worring. At this point in the pregnancy me and the babies father were on excellent terms. The day after my baby shower I had a phone call from him and his exact words were “I’ve been lying to you.” This was completely out of the blue and after asking him to explain properly he told me how he wanted to marry and be with his ex-fiance. Up until now I had also not visited his parents, even though I was nearly 7 months pregnant. I was not concerned as I had been texting what I thought was his mother’s number, off of his phone trying to organise seeing them very soon etc… However at the time sadly his mothers brother was terminally ill with cancer, so I was keeping my distance and respecting their space. So I thought. I later found out that although his uncle was terminally ill he had been using it as an excuse to keep me away from his parents. He had never actually informed his parents that he was having a baby and the number I had been texting was actually somebody elses not his mothers. So at 27 weeks pregnant I turned up at their door and announced I was pregnant.
The last few months of my pregnancy were a very dark time. Theo’s dad had promised his ex-fiance that he would never have involvement with me or the baby again, even to sort out things such as maintenance. She agreed to take him back on these grounds. During this time he moved away unbeknown, changed jobs and his number and all contact was broken. He had also made me cancel my house contract and I had no where to live and was desperately trying to find somewhere I could call home. He never came to our 4D scan, that once again picked no markers or indicaters up and once again I was given that famous ‘all clear.’ He never came to see the scan as he had jetted off to Portugal with his now girlfriend. I haven’t heard from him since. I’ve never even had the chance to explain to her that I wasn’t a ‘one night stand’ and that he’s still lying to her till this day. More fool her.
Throughout the less enjoyable months of my pregnancy people told me to remember that I would get a beautiful little baby at the end of it all and that his father would be the one missing out. Luckily I am a head strong person and am financially stable with a brilliant support network. To help me stay excited through the last few weeks I ended up binge shopping numerous amounts of different baby items, to this day I do not regret it. At the time it made me feel more connected to my little baby.
The week I went into labour I was supposed to have another scan because of the poor growth of my stomach. My midwife never did book me in for that scan. I do wonder if that scan would have finally revealed the truth about how special my little bear was going to be. I also wonder about the outcome, if I had done the blood tests. It doesn’t matter. It would never have changed the outcome. That night in work I was in slow labour and didn’t realise it. I had just hit 37 weeks pregnant and we were all joking about me possibly being in labour oblivious to the sheer reality of it all.
That night I picked up my hospital bag from my old address before going home to bed and at 3:00am I woke up and knew that this was it. I got to the hospital at 4:30am and by 7:00am I was in full blown established labour. No one, not even the midwives believed I would have the baby that day, they were convinced it would be the following day or perhaps that night. I knew he was certainly coming way before that. After a pain relief free birth Theo was born at 9:13am on Friday 13th November, 8 minutes after my waters had broken. They had even started running the waters for the pool 5 minutes before he came. Clearly I didn’t make the water birth I had so desperately wanted.
The first thing I muttered as he screamed out was “I can’t believe he’s mine, it’s so weird.” Call it mothers instinct but the moment they gave him to me weighing a tiny 5lb8.5oz I knew something wasn’t right. After cutting the cord myself and cuddling into him his head for a start, felt like it was going to flop off, sort of like soggy bread. He also didn’t really look like my baby just yet. They did his baby checks and everything came back ok and his muscle tone was apparently ‘very good.’
I didn’t get long to embrace him as a ‘normal’ baby. As 5 hours after his birth the midwife came and took him off me to check him over. When she came back I assumed the worst, was he going to die? Was he both a boy and a girl? Did he have cancer? I know it sounds ridiculous but I was too naive to even consider that it was Down Syndrome. The nurse asked all but my family to leave the room and blurted out “have you noticed your baby looks different Yasmin?” I replied with a simple, confused no. He didn’t really look like my baby, but what did she mean different? She went onto say that she thought my baby had Down Syndrome. All I could say was a relaxed, right, ok. As soon as she said it I just sort of accepted it. I have never had a negative outlook on the condition and by not originally wanting or accepting the screening I knew that I was willing to accept my baby any which way. Why? Because he’s my baby.
Before I knew it they had him on a giant stretcher all bundled up in the middle. There were even talks of airlifting us to another hospital. Luckily we ended up in an ambulance. Throughout the journey I cried, seeing him on the stretcher is what set me into an hysteric of tears. As the sirens blazed I cried more as he didn’t stir, thinking perhaps he was deaf. I just really wanted him to be ok. I knew he had Down Syndrome without it needing to be confirmed, I just wanted him to be healthy. I needed it. When we arrived over the course of our stay at the hospital his eyesight and hearing were checked and they were both ok. I was most concerned about his heart. We could work ways around anything else. As his heart had been completely fine at my anomoly scan and throughout my labour and my antenatal sessions as well as his baby checks I thought he would still be fine. It wasn’t. He was diagnosed with full Atrial Ventricular Septum Defect of the heart as well as a narrowing of the artery and a duct that hadn’t closed. This absolutely broke my heart and I felt like it was my fault, that I hadn’t ‘grown’ him properly. I was warned to watch for symptoms of heart failure when I went home and hearing this sent my world spiralling out of control. As weeks have passed I’ve learnt to look after him without being so concerned, but as his heart surgery creeps closer I still can’t get that piece of mind I have been yearning for yet.
This is the very beginning of ‘Theo’s Diary’© and I love him more than anything in the world. He is absolutely amazing and I have been given the gift of life and the most amazing, stubborn little fighter. This blog is to help spread awareness about Down Syndrome and challenge all its negative stereotypes. I hope it will help educate others and help people in the same sort of situation as me and my perfect little bear.