Friday, September 11, 2015

Roller Coaster Ride of a Year

When I was a kid I really enjoyed a video game called Roller Coaster Tycoon, a simulation game where you designed and managed your own theme park. My favorite part was designing the roller coasters to be as exciting and intense as I could. The more loops and corckscrews, the better, though I never understood why the guests in my park would jump in fright and say ‘This ride looks too intense for me!’.

After the last year, especially the past three months, I think I understand now, and I wouldn't mind a gentler ride.

Matt and I were thrilled and somewhat terrified to find out we would be having a child, but I really wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to hate being pregnant. Seriously, I knew it was going to be rough, but I was not prepared for three months of heartburn at the end there. So, despite all the horror stories about labor I had heard, I was pretty excited when my contractions started. Thirty-three hours later when Owen was finally born, Matt and I were exhausted, but happy to greet our son. 5 lbs, 7 oz, 18 inches long.

Only a few hours later when the pediatrician came in to check on Owen, we were told that it looked like he had Down Syndrome, and were going to run some blood tests as well as take him down to check his heart. This felt like being hit by a truck onto some train tracks where we were promptly run over by a freight train. We had not even considered the possibility that anything like this could happen. Every ultrasound I had during the pregnancy told us how healthy the baby looked.

We had barely had time to recover from this when my parents arrived to meet Owen, then the nurses came to take him for his heart tests. Matt went with Owen, and we only expected them to be gone for an hour or so.
The nurses taking Owen away

During the test, Owen’s oxygen levels kept dropping, and they admitted him into the NICU, where he spent the next six days.

That time was a blur of poor sleep and intense stress. Owen wasn’t breastfeeding well, Matt had stopped eating unless reminded, while I wanted to eat everything in sight. The hospital let us stay in an extra room for free while Owen was in the NICU, and my mom provisioned us up, and every three hours we were going down to see our baby, after which I would pump and we would try to catch a nap between visitors. It was during this time, of course, that we got confirmation of Owen’s diagnosis, and had to start coming to terms with the fact that our son has Down Syndrome.

We both of course made the mistake of google, and became instantly overwhelmed with everything. I can say with a certainty that those 6 days were the worst, most insane, most intensely difficult days of my life. Luckily, Owen is a champ, and wanted out of the hospital as much as we did, and we were able to bring him home healthy and adorable.

He’s continued to do amazing, and is growing and learning new things every day. I love my son so much; watching him and Matt make faces at each other is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. I am extremely lucky to have Matt by my side through all of this. He’s been there for me to cry on his shoulder when I’m overwhelmed or depressed, just like I’ve been there for him. It’s going to be an interesting journey raising Owen. The only thing I know for certain is the future is going to be different than what I imagined it would be like when I was pregnant, but it will be its own kind of awesome. I try to keep it at that thought. If I think too far ahead, I start imagining all of the maybes and possibilities that could happen, and I lose track of what’s important. Owen may have Down syndrome, but like any other child on the planet he is going to grow and develop at his own pace, and my job is to help him to do just that. I don't think the ride will get any less crazy, but I hope that I can learn to enjoy it better.

Photo taken by my sister, Sarah Hatch