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Guest Mama – Valentina

This week I am honored to introduce you to Alexandra.  She is a beautiful mama who reached out to me a few months ago.  Her baby girl Valentina was born with Down Syndrome and unfortunately a lot of other health issues.  Alexandra hasn’t been able to share her story completely yet, until now.  I am so grateful that she trusted me to help bring Valentina’s story to you. 

Not many understand what you feel. Everyone feels something different when they have to say good-bye to their baby. No parent should ever have to bury their child, but sometimes you just have to.

I was very much jealous of the new moms, having their baby’s around the time Valentina was born. It did not seem fair at all. They give birth, they have visitors at the hospital, they go home, they take tremendous amounts of pictures of their newborn. Social media made it worse; you begin to envy them. Then you have to learn how to turn away from it or look at it in a new perspective. I do not remember when I stopped being jealous of others, but it did happen without me even realizing it.

My first time being a mother, was being a mother to a sick child. I believed we both suffered, but I suffered more…because I had to witness what my daughter endured. A baby, a small baby, after one day of being old…has surgery. The next surgery happens forty-eight hours later, an emergency. surgery at that. I remember why that happened. Ugh. The third surgery follows a week after that. Only one week with no surgery, but of course there were obstacles. Your newborn has to be transported to the children’s intensive care from the NICU, because they find blood clots. A few days later…machine becomes faulty, causing your baby’s heart to stop and having to be revived. The scariest phone call at six in the morning ever. I forgot I was recovering from a caesarean. That week goes by, but the beauty of that week, was seeing my baby open her eyes again after so long. Understand she is incubated, and under heavy medication. Fourth EMERGENCY surgery, we were told the chances are very very very slim. I honestly believed that when the doctor left the operating room, she was going to come back with the worst possible news ever, but no! I got another day with my baby. Surgery five comes along to finish up surgery number four work. A few days after that reality sets in. I learned within a one week time span, my daughter being incubated, was her being on life support. If she were to be off it, her heart will slowly stop beating. She was living because of a machine, the machine was assisting her. She was strong through all that though. My daughter did fight very hard, but at the end I felt as if she were fighting for me and her father. Fighting for us to realize that she is meant to be with our God. Those five weeks we had her…her father and I kissed her, hugged her, held her, smelled her, washed her hair, combed her hair, read her books, played her music, told her stories, and always told her we love her. I hardly ever left her side and if I did, I felt guilty.

I had to find a new strength within myself that I never believed I had. In doing so, I felt the dedication and determination to still provide the best I could ever provide to my baby. Even though she was incubated, she had a G-tube in her stomach for her feeds. She was being supplied her nutrients and TPN, but there was an occasion or two she was able to have breastmilk. Those were one of many happy moments. I pumped everyday, up until the very last day I had with my sweet girl. In five weeks I was able to store 498 ounces of breastmilk, which I donated to Mother’s Milk Bank in MA. There were many times I wanted to give up, because i just knew she was not going to have my milk, but I could not find myself ultimately stopping. Pumping, was my hope that my baby will come home. I have endured the horrors of pumping. They promote the beauty of breastmilk, but not the hard work that comes along. Being a milking cow was not easy, but it was my hope.

Five weeks, thirty-seven days of happiness, sadness, and stress. Will I do it all over again? Yes, yes I would. I had my baby in my belly for thirty seven weeks. I saw my baby. I held my baby. I kissed my baby countless amount of times. I learned a lot in those five weeks. My daughter taught me her strength, and I had to be just as strong. I tried not to break down in front of the nurses or doctors, because I simply did not want to be bothered with a social workers. So much occurred in such a short amount of time, I honestly cannot believe I experienced it. I admired my husbands strength too. He was there day and night, and still working his full time job. I know he was exhausted, but he loved his little girl. I know he loved her more than me, he would not admit that of course. My husband and I married AFTER our daughter passed away. We felt we needed to be united as one, and be a strong family. We were told many times, many of those who are put in our situation, do not make it. My husband and I surround ourselves with love, and we made sure our sweet girl knew of it.

We both learned from the beginning we had to be strong and fight. We had to have faith. It is so hard to have faith when you cannot see it, but if you allow to fall back on God, faith will always be there. God never left our side; we may have here and there…but He never left our side. He guided us every single step of the way.

I mentioned my husband and I had learned from the beginning to be strong and fight, well that is because we learned while I was still pregnant at twenty-two weeks that our daughter had a heart condition (AV: atrioventricular canal) that required open heart surgery, we also learned that she had Down Syndrome, which is very common for these babies to have a heart defect. I honestly hated myself after. I only say this, because when I learned of the results, I became selfish. I prayed for the doctors medical report to be wrong, and that my baby was going to be healthy. I was scared while being pregnant. The society we live in is so scary, I did not want people to mistreat my girl. I automatically wanted to protect her. I thought me knowing of her having Down Syndrome was going to mentally prepare me, instead it taught me, even while being in denial, that I had to be strong. I had to enjoy my remaining weeks of pregnancy with my baby. I could not let the countless amount of appointments bring me down. It was almost taking a toll on me, that I took control and cancelled so many of them! Of course my OB had to explain the what if’s, but I knew she trusted my instincts.

Just know that we (family and friends who knew what was going on) prayed hard for our girl. Heart remained strong, her having Down Syndrome was not a problem, she was born with a completely different condition that is apparently also “common “ in Down Syndrome babies…imperforate anus…no anal opening. At first I thought it was funny; I tried to have a sense of humor during the difficult times. Her having this condition, caused the many surgeries. At first everything seemed okay, but something else was wrong.
My daughter became septic. When exactly? I do not know.
Her heart remained strong.
Down Syndrome what?
Imperforate anus what?
Hello sepsis…Good bye sepsis.
At the end of it all. There was a miracle. It was not what I wanted exactly, because I wish my baby was here on earth with me.
Her soul was too beautiful for this earth.
She belonged with God.
I felt her soul was no longer here on earth, when she took her last breath in her parents arms.
Yes, my husband and I decided that enough was enough.
My baby was tired, and she fought hard for me, her dad, and herself.
It was time that we all had some peace. It hurt for a very long time, and everything felt like a dream, and sometimes it still does.
What can I say? I am human, you think these things. You question our God, and then you feel guilty for questioning Him; well at least I did.
My God was by my side anyways. He knew what I was going to say or do.
He wrote both our stories.
My daughter’s story is beautifully written.
I will still cry here and there, like I said I am human.
I will always love her. I will always miss her.

I am currently pregnant with her little sister. I was scared at first, but I am also leaning to enjoy this pregnancy day by day.
That is another day for going into details about being pregnant after infancy loss.

Valentina Faith Mejia. My favorite girl.
I will always celebrate you.
I know your presence is around me always.
I love you.

-Alex

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Guest Mama – Bridget’s Story

This week I’d like to introduce you to Megan!  She has the most adorable baby girl who is getting stronger and stronger each day!  I am so glad she was willing to share her story with all of you!

img_5006Our precious girl, Bridget Regan, was born December 5, 2016, but her story began long before that. I was just out of my first trimester when on June 30, 2016, I got a call that would forever change my life. I opted to have NIPT (non-invasive prenatal testing) for no other reason than the test was 100% covered by our insurance. I can promise you that had this test not been covered (it can be quite expensive), I would not have had it done. Without giving it much thought, I figured the test would completely rule me out as a carrier for any kind of disorder or disease; I literally never gave it a thought that my baby may come back with an abnormal test result. Early that June morning, I got the call from my OB that my NIPT testing had come back as high risk for Down syndrome. Even with this news I figured, “oh ok, but what does ‘high risk’ really mean? And I’m sure these test results have false positives all the time…” As the news started to sink in, I scoured the internet for stories of false positives. There were a few, but I quickly realized that the new NIPT testing was far more accurate than the Quad screens of days past. A knot grew in my stomach and in my throat as the reality of what I may be facing quickly hit me like a brick wall. My OB scheduled an appointment for me at a Maternal Fetal clinic to do a full body scan that day.

img_5011I remember the feel of the leather of the couch in the genetic counselor’s office. I remember what she wore, what I wore, the art on the wall, the carpet underneath my shuffling feet, the path down the hall we walked as I felt the tunnel vision closing in on what she was about to tell us. Our baby had a 91% chance of having Down syndrome. She asked us a myriad of questions that no new parent wants to face – did we know anyone with Down syndrome, any history in our families of genetic disorders, and finally the very worst of all – how would we proceed with this pregnancy. Until that question came, I wasn’t listening to all the words she was saying. It’s like I could see the words coming out of her mouth but my heart was in a tailspin of emotion and my mind was trying to catch up with my heart. What did she mean what would we do? This was our precious baby and though the news was heavier than I could have ever imagined, there was no “option” for us. This life was ours to raise and protect to the best of our abilities and not to be discarded based on a preconceived notion of a diagnosis. Our baby is more than worthy.img_5002

Following that conversation, we had a full body scan ultrasound where a heart condition was discovered that all but confirmed the diagnosis. Then a brand new fear crept in as they explained that our baby’s condition was so severe that it would require surgery within six months of life. We’ve been closely followed by cardiology teams since then and Regan is expected to have surgery sometime in March.

Our sweet Regan has now been in our lives for exactly two months and suddenly I couldn’t imagine a world without her. She is gaining weight like a champ and her sweet disposition makes me so proud to call her mine.

img_5050Throughout this journey, I’ve had the pleasure of following other mommas and families of these precious children with Down syndrome. What started as a scary diagnosis opened a window into some of the most supportive and compassionate people I’ve (virtually) met. These first few months with Regan have been such a joy but certainly not without their difficulties. I imagine Regan’s future will be the same: filled with happiness and some stumbling blocks, but I can’t wait to see what it holds for us. The fear of the unknown is washed away when I look into her precious blue eyes and know she’s already changed my heart forever, and I know she’ll change the rest of the world’s hearts too.

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Guest Mama – Mikey’s Story

I’d like to introduce you to Laura.  She is a beautiful mama I have had the honor to befriend through our Instagram Community.  Her little boy Mikey is just a few months older than Jana and is the cutesiest thing 🙂  I’ve asked her to share her story with all of you.  I hope to feature a new mama every week or so.  I’m so proud of the DS community friendships I’ve developed and know that these mama’s have a lot to share!! pics-from-jakes-phone-058

I found out I was pregnant with Mikey in the beginning of July, 2014. My husband and I were excited! We already had names picked out for either gender. My Dr offered to do genetic testing, but I declined it. We had a twenty week scan to find out the gender of our first baby. Our fingers were crossed for a boy. We really wanted our first baby to be a boy. The tech put the results in an envelope. We found out our baby was a boy a few days later at a gender reveal party. We were so excited!!!

We went to the birthing center on March 28, 2015 to have our baby boy. I was so nervous and excited! 17 hours later at 11:59 pm, Michael James Snyder entered the world! I was so happy and exhausted. All I could do was stare at him! He was perfect and he looked exactly like his daddy!
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The next morning the pediatrician came in to do an examination on him. When she completed the exam, she told us that Michael had Down Syndrome. She didn’t offer any information or assign us a social worker. She just walked out. I put on a pretty brave face, but I felt shattered. My husband was solid as a rock, but I was a hot mess! It wasn’t because he had a disability, I was just very scared. I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea that what terrified me at the moment would turn out to be the biggest blessing and our greatest adventure!

Michael has some developmental delays and some health issues, but he has a wonderful team of doctors and therapists that help us to help him reach his goals. Those are things we do to help keep him healthy and to reach his full potential. img_4575

Michael is such a pure joy to be around! He has shown us what true love is. He has such determination and grit! He works hard every day to do things that his other baby friends can do without a problem, but he always does it with a smile on his face! He’s taught us so much.

We recently had another baby. Michael adores his new baby sister! He showers her with hugs and kisses, brings her a toy or her binky when she’s sad, and steals her formula if I set it down where he can get it. He tries to crawl in her swing or bouncer with her to cuddle, then he’ll steal her blanket when I’m not looking. They smile at each other one minute, then make each other cry the next. He’s a typical big brother. I can see already that they will have a strong bond. I can also see them getting into a lot of trouble together. Hey, someone has to keep mamma on her toes, right?
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There are many days that go by that I wonder “What if?” What if I would have known about his diagnosis before he was born? What if I would have known what I know now after he was born and we received his diagnosis? Would I still have spent the first few months crying at some point each day? Would I have been so afraid? Honestly, I don’t know. I believe that God does everything for a reason. I can’t go back and wonder “What if?” When I know that through all of this we have become stronger. My relationship with my husband is stronger, my relationship with God is stronger and I’ve developed amazing friendships with so many families in the Down Syndrome community.
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I think the most important thing I would tell any parent that has received a Down Syndrome diagnosis is: Process those emotions and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be scared. It’s even okay to be a little angry. At some point all of those powerful and overwhelming emotions will turn into an incredibly strong love for your child. Support, encourage and nurture your baby! It takes a special person to raise such a unique individual! Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!