This is by far the longest post I have ever written. I have included headings that hopefully guide you to reading any parts of interest. We had a somewhat life-altering surprise after Everett was born and this is the condensed version we are willing to share.
Anyone who has recently been pregnant is probably familiar with the Arrive study. The gist of the study was that there was less issues if a woman was induced her 39th week of pregnancy than if she went into labor naturally past 40 weeks. Since my pregnancy was so rough, we signed up to be induced the day I turned 39 weeks. Except Everett had other plans.
Monday, August 16th
For my 38th week checkup, it was only my second prenatal appointment going alone since it was Landon’s first day of school. It was also the first appointment I didn’t have my puke bucket in the car. Progress! Anyway, I drove the 50 minutes that morning starting to wonder if I should cancel our induction the following week. I had just had my second iron infusion the week before and was feeling the best I had in years for the past couple days. My midwife checked things out and I was surprised to learn I was 1cm dilated and 70% effaced already. This was great since we wouldn’t be starting from 0 for the induction the following week. I drove home and logged on to work for the rest of the day. I had some spotting that afternoon and some low cramping that evening but I figured that was normal after getting my cervix checked.
We were in the middle of getting our basement ceiling installed. Landon and a few others were over after school working on it. I was working on a tapestry for the nursery and even had them cut a piece of trim for me. Some cramping started when we were sweeping things up later that night but I thought it was best if I kept moving.
Tuesday, August 17th
The next morning, I woke up at 5:40am to some lower pelvic pain. About 8 minutes later I felt the pain again. Guys, this was nothing like anything I had read about contractions! After showering and noticing there was a pattern, I called Labor and Delivery. I felt so ridiculous saying I think I’m having contractions but they don’t feel how they should. Everything I read said it would feel like cramps all through my bump. This was sharp pain much lower than my bump. Any lower and it would have been in my legs! The nurse, who I would talk to 3 different times that day, was so nice and confirmed I was in the early stages of labor.
I logged on to work and every 8 minutes, even on conference calls, I would jump up, lean over my chair with my hands flat on the seat, rise up on my tip-toes and say “firetruck” with a few less letters. Thank goodness for mute. I spent the morning popping Tylenol like it was my job and making phone calls telling people “Yes, I’ll help with that customer’s budget this week – if I am still here.”
After lunch the contractions went down to 20 minutes apart which was a nice break. Around 2:30pm they were every 12 minutes and I was spent. I took a break and laid down, but they started to vary in length, getting as close as 6 minutes apart. I logged back on to work at 3 and saw an email for something that would need to be updated in one system and then require waiting a half hour for the update to move to another program. It was then that I realized I did not have a half hour in me. I sent an email, put my out of office on, and laid back on our bed, jumping up for every contraction.
The worst was when all the guys helping with our basement arrived. I no longer felt comfortable saying firetruck out loud so I switched to mouthing it. I tried sitting on an exercise ball but that didn’t help. At 5:59pm, I had a contraction and 20 minutes later I knew, this baby was coming. At 6:20pm I called Landon upstairs and said we would most likely be leaving for the hospital at 7 (the 5-1-1 rule, if you know, you know). Landon was under the impression that all first-time moms go past their due date so he had not packed a bag at all no matter how many times I asked. My bag wasn’t even completely packed either. Landon took a quick shower, packed, and I tried to pack during the 4 good minutes I had between every contraction. We didn’t leave until 7:30pm.
I was terrified of sitting in the car for the whole drive up to the hospital. How would I lean over on my tiptoes to get through the pain?! When we got to the hospital, I didn’t want to be dropped off and left alone so I made the longest walk from the parking ramp. At this point, my contractions were 2 minutes apart. When we got inside, I had to be convinced to sit in a wheel chair. I really did not like sitting!
In triage, I was 6cm dilated and I must have been 100% effaced because the midwife asked me multiple times if I was sure my water hadn’t broken. Everett’s head was that low, she couldn’t feel the sack!
After what seemed like forever, we finally got a room and the anesthesiologist was on his way. I really thought I wanted to do this without an epidural but that was when I thought contractions felt like severe cramping – not my pelvic bones breaking!
Things slowed down after I received the epidural around 10:30pm. It was stronger on my right than my left and my blood pressure dropped. I had to lay on my right for my blood pressure but then that side would get uncomfortably numb and I would start feeling the contractions on my left. The nurse kept rotating me like a rotisserie chicken. I was given 5 vials of ephedrine to help my blood pressure and they lowered my epidural dosage by half. The plan was to break my water after my blood pressure was stabilized.
Wednesday, August 18th – Everett’s birthday!
At 12:30am, they told us to rest and they would break my water at 2am. We did not rest. The couch for Landon was under a vent and he was freezing. Being a natural night owl jacked up on adrenaline, I wasn’t tired at all. I was 9cm when they broke my water at 2am but Everett was sunny side up so they weren’t in a rush to get things going. I was once again rotated like a rotisserie chicken with one of those peanut balls between my legs.
Between 3am and 5am, I think I had 5 different nurses, midwives, and doctors feeling for Everett’s ears before they decided he was rotated. I did a few pushes around 3:20am but did not push again until after 4:30am. While pushing, I also vomited which the nurse and midwife referred to as “free pushes.” I threw up so much during my pregnancy so that didn’t faze me but I really liked that this vomiting was productive! Our beautiful Everett was born at 5:02am, on my grandmother’s birthday. He was 5lbs, 12oz and 19 inches long.
They placed him on my chest and we laid like that for an hour. He had his fingers wrapped around my thumb. I couldn’t really see his face while we were doing skin to skin but when I briefly saw it before that I remember thinking his eyes were different than I expected. I chalked it up to him just going through the trauma of being born and didn’t think about it again until the pediatrician came to see us.
The moment everything changed
There was a baby boom happening so it took us until 10am to get a recovery room. Landon and I ordered breakfast in the delivery room and took turns holding Everett while the other ate. We were so exhausted at this point – having been up over 24 hours. It was such a relief to get settled into our recovery room.
The next few hours flew by. We were introduced to all the staff that was on shift. I was regularly getting my “massage” (again, if you know, you know). And we just held and fed our little boy.
The pediatrician came in and introduced himself. He took a look at Everett and a few moments later approached Landon and me. He asked us if we were familiar with Trisomy 21, or more commonly known as Down syndrome. Everett had a few soft markers that he wanted to test for. They took him to the nursery to draw blood for a 24-hour test and a more accurate one that would take a week or two for results.
I have read enough after-birth diagnosis stories to know that there is no shame in the fear we felt at this moment. We called our moms and cried. The pure joy of giving birth and enjoying our beautiful baby was robbed at that moment. We still were absolutely over-the-moon in love with Everett, but there were so many what-ifs. The birth announcement we were planning for our son was postponed until we had the results.
Our wait ended up taking closer to 45 hours. Landon had a harder time during the wait. I couldn’t pray one way or another. I just knew Everett was meant to be mine. If I wished for anything, it would potentially mean he wouldn’t be the exact baby in my arms. I didn’t want a different baby. I only wanted him.
Friday, August 20th – Confirmation
Everett failed his car seat test at 1:30am Friday so I was told when the nurse brought him back that we would be staying a third night. They ended up taking him back to test late Friday morning instead of afternoon and he passed so there was still a possibility to go home that day. We were sleep deprived and he was still struggling to eat so we weren’t feeling very ready for that. We also were so anxious waiting for the test results.
Everett hadn’t been back from the car seat test very long when it was time for him to eat. We were changing his diaper to wake him up before every feed. I was just undoing his swaddle when the pediatrician walked in with the test results.
Everett had 3 copies of every cell they tested in his 21st chromosome. The longer test later confirmed Trisomy 21, the most common type of Down syndrome (there are three).
Landon and I sat on the bed and held each other and cried. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone and I don’t remember what the doctor said after that. Landon started asking questions about early intervention and making a “dream team” for Everett. As much as I wanted to escape reality, my baby needed to eat and I put all my focus on taking care of him.
The rest of the afternoon was a whirlwind. They took Everett for some testing; I don’t remember for what. While he was gone, we called our moms, showered, and ordered some food. Everett came back and they did an EKG in our room. Fifty percent of babies with Down syndrome have heart issues so this was important. Our food came the same time a physical therapist came for us to talk to. While we talked to him, the geneticist was waiting outside our door to talk to us. Sometime in between they took Everett for an echocardiogram. He was so cold when he came back, the nurse and I were trying to add more layers to him. At the same time, the geneticist was still there, a midwife was trying to discharge me, and the pediatric cardiologist was trying to tell us the results of the echocardiogram and EKG. It was just before 5pm on a Friday and it was nuts!
Everett’s testing showed that he had a hole in the bottom of his heart that closed before birth. He had another small hole on the top but not big enough to need open heart surgery. It will be looked at again when he is 2 years old. We are incredibly blessed that his heart is so healthy!
I was discharged but given Everett’s diagnosis, he was allowed to stay one more night and we could stay with him in our same room. He started eating a little better that night and we were so much more ready and confident to take him home Saturday after finally getting closure. Emotionally, there was no way I could have handled going home Friday night after the day we had.
He slept most of the way home and my parents arrived shortly after we did. They stayed until Wednesday and were a huge help. By then, we were really comfortable in our roles as Mom and Dad and were adjusting to little sleep pretty well.
One final note
Please understand that our tears and fears over Everett’s diagnosis doesn’t mean we love him any less than if he had 46 chromosomes. This baby has brought us so much joy since day 1. The things that keep me up at night have everything to do with us living in a world that is not inclusive and many, many people do not think he is worthy of life. He is just as worthy as anyone reading this. Everett is so loved and we will give him the best life, as any parent would any child. 💙