It was the beginning of month five when I felt it. Something was wrong. I described it as SO MUCH pain in my back, but really, there is no physical description of what I felt. What I felt was despair.
A military wife, I went to the base hospital, where nurses ran tests. The heartbeat in the ultrasound gave me some relief, but the whispers of the nurse, followed by whispers of doctors with serious faces, took the relief away. My intuition was right. Something was wrong.
Without too much of an explanation, I was put on bed rest. Temporarily at first. I reported back to the doctor each week for tests; this my only exile from the loneliness of my bed. Meanwhile, my husband was out of the country on military assignment. I was alone.
After a few weeks, the doctors shared some devastating news. My daughter wasn’t growing. The steroid shots began. At the end of each weekly visit I was handed a different little pamphlet: facts about Down Syndrome… what to expect when giving birth to a baby in distress…
I was told I may die during delivery.
I was told she may die during delivery.
She may be a dwarf.
She may have Down Syndrome.
The despair grew.
I called my husband in those moments of despair. Most of the time I wouldn’t reach him. When I did, nothing he said was good enough. Our relationship struggling under the weight of my despair. Nothing anyone said was good enough (except maybe Oprah). I was so scared. And, if I’m honest, a part of me died in that bed; my marriage began to crumble in that bed. I felt so alone.
But a troubled childhood and constant feelings of abandonment throughout my life made this nothing new. Alone was something I knew well. And, through it I had learned one thing. I could count on one person. Me.
So I chose to believe. I chose hope. I chose love. I chose to trust ME.
And with all evidence pointing elsewhere, I believed my daughter would be fine. I believed I would be fine. I believed we deserved each other. I loved her so strongly I was sure my strength would transfer to her.
When I arrived at my 38 week appointment, I felt triumphant. Months had passed with the threat of emergency delivery looming over me, and now we had reached a point where we could discuss scheduled, induced, controlled labor. They repeated the same tests, a measurement of the growth in the length of her bones from week-to-week, and determined she was approximately 2.5-3 pounds. Was this good news or bad news?
I chose hope.
Delivery day came and labor was induced. It came on weakly. Contractions were regular, but not powerful enough. Labor lasted an excruciating 30 hours... a punctuation mark on an already long journey.
Every mother holds their breath for that split second when their child enters the world, waiting to hear that first cry. I held mine a few seconds longer, waiting to hear her Apgar score, weight and length.
Weight- 6 lb. 2 oz.
Length- 20 3/4 inches.
She was perfect.
I exhaled and realized that I was still here too. No one had died. The emergency had passed.
The doctors couldn’t explain it, but I could: love wins.
In every scenario, love deflates fear. Belief ends despair. Hope has its greatest power in the moments it is hard to find, but keep digging.
It’s in there.