I see you, walking into the ob-gyn office without a care in the world. At 14 weeks pregnant, you're glowing and feeling happy. 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. After all, you had just had the chromosomal testing less than a week ago, so there was no way the results could be in yet. I hear her say, "Well, she's going to call you," 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 that one break-down 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." That “moment” turns into twenty minutes completely by yourself.
I watch as you desperately try to pull yourself together, but end up sobbing all over again. I see you call your husband over and over again, hating the thought of delivering such awful news over the phone to him, but needing so badly to talk to him. To be anything but alone in this antiseptic room. You just want your mom, your husband, your best friend. You finally get a hold of your husband, and the silence on the other end is deafening. You worry about him driving. You worry about seeing him cry for the first time. You now have so many worries to deal with 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 wish time could just fast forward itself by about six months.
I wish you knew the future, dear self. I wish you knew how much love is about to come your way. I just want to hold you close and whisper in your ear, "This moment will pass. Your grief will disappear." But I let you have your sadness. I let you wallow in self-pity. You need this time. It will be short-lived, and so I let you feel this soul-shattering misery. Friends and family will rally and help you pick up the pieces, and you will spend the rest of your pregnancy putting your exhausted, frightened self 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 and overwhelming love.
He will be the last piece of your healing puzzle. He will make you whole. He will bring your spirit back to life. Sweet Jonathan, with his snuggles and smiles and triumphs, will complete your family. And you, my dear self, will realize your own strength and become everything Jonathan needs you to be. Life will be amazing. Just wait and see.
Danielle Horn, of PA, is a teacher and proud mommy of Brendan, Christopher, and Jonathan. She and her husband, Peter, will celebrate 10 years of marriage in November .
This letter is part of DSDN's October Down Syndrome Awareness Month campaign. We asked our members to write a letter to themselves during the time they received the diagnosis. Do you know a parent with a child under the age of 4 who needs connections and support? Let DSDN help and get started here.