I spent my 30th birthday trying to figure out the best way to combat horrible, horrible acid reflux. Charlotte wasn't due for another three weeks, and I didn't know if I could make it. I have a history of horrible pregnancies, and this was my third one in five years. I took the advice of a friend, and decided to take a swig of Apple cider vinegar; supposedly it is the best natural remedy for heartburn. I wouldn't know though, because I wasn't able to swallow it. Surrounded by my aunt, mom, and brother, laughter filled the kitchen as I spit it right back out into the sink. That stuff was worse than any cheap alcoholic shot I had consumed in my college days.
Thankfully, Charlotte had other plans. I didn't have to continue to endure that awful acid reflux, because later that evening, after a birthday celebration at a local restaurant, contractions started, and I knew that even though she wasn't due for 3 more weeks, my girl had other plans. I spent most of the night logging contractions using an app on my phone while letting Mike sleep; after all Charlotte was our third child, and I had learned my lesson with the other two. Men need more sleep then women, otherwise they are useless. I woke him up around five, and Missy came over to stay with the older kids and install the carseat (I wasn't exactly prepared, this baby was coming early!). Off we went to the hospital.
I won't bore you with the details that followed that morning. It definitely wasn't the best birth experience I have had. My OB had switched hospitals that she delivered at when I was 33 weeks pregnant, and I wasn't impressed by this new one. Nurses were dismissive of any concerns I had, anesthesiologist was useless (thank you for numbing only my left leg, very helpful), and the entire experience was incredibly chaotic. I try to block those memories out of my head and concentrate the only thing that made that crazy day worth it: Charlotte. Charlotte Kenlyn Cornell was born at 4:05 on June 9th. She had a head of dark hair, big round eyes, and was a hefty 7 pounds 4 ounces (big for 3 weeks early!). I was in love.
For the first 24 hours of Charlotte's life, things were as expected. I longed to get out of that hospital, take my baby home, and start our life as a family of five. My OB asked me if I was sure I wanted to go home after just one night, in which I answered with a "most definitely." She discharged me, and we waited for the pediatrician to do the same for Charlotte. We waited, and waited, and waited.
The pediatrician (whom we had never met, since we were at a different hospital, our pediatrician didn't have rights there), returned after her office hours were over, pretty late in the evening the day after Charlotte was born. She started by talking to us about Charlotte's syndactyly (fused fingers and toes) which a nurse had noticed earlier in the day. Thinking back, at the time, I was pretty upset. My baby had to have surgery to have her fingers separated? The thought was enough to push any hormonal, recovering mom to tears.
However, what came next was something I never saw coming. The pediatrician said "Does Charlotte look like anyone in your family?" At point, I knew something was wrong, and my senses all seemed to leave me. The next few minutes were a blur. After no response, she quickly told us she thought Charlotte had Down syndrome, and went through all her features that seemed to show that. She left us to digest the news, and said she would come back to answer questions.
I remember feeling like the walls of that damn hospital were closing in on me. I stared at Charlotte, whom ten minutes before, looked like a perfect newborn baby, and now all I saw was Down syndrome. The nurse came to take her to the nursery to draw blood for a karyotype, in order to confirm the pediatrician's suspicions.
45 minutes passed. Mike and I sat in silence, not really knowing what to say or feel. All I knew is we needed to get out of there. Finally, Mike stood up and said he was going to find her; 45 minutes to draw blood? Ridiculous. We found her in the nursery, surrounded by three nurses who had tried, unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to draw blood. She had multiple stick marks in her arms, feet, even her head. We told them that was enough and we would do the blood test another day.
Down syndrome. Our daughter had Down syndrome. How was that possible? I turned 30 the day before, I was too young to have a baby with Down syndrome, right?! Why us? Why Charlotte?
What came next were days of grieving. Lots and lots of tears and pain. However, once again, I tend not to focus on those days, because now, 18 months later, those days are a distant memory. When Charlotte is older and asks about the day she was born, I want to remember all of the glorious feelings I felt. Because truly, I was blessed, I just didn't know it at the time.
Charlotte is one amazing little girl, who teaches me so many things daily. She is here for a reason, and I discover more of that reason all the time.
Thank you for taking the time to share in her journey. We appreciate your support.