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Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Silver Lining



The past few weeks have been a haze of worry and stress. Brian and I found ourselves going through the motions: wake up, eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat. We tried to smile around others and remain upbeat. We attended weddings and visited with family. We worked late and met friends for dinner. We took walks and went trick-or-treating with Atticus. But we were never truly present for any of these things because of the hypotheticals weighing on our minds. 

You might remember my last post describing our latest doctor’s visit, in which the cardiologist said Quinn’s heart looked good but there was fluid around the lungs. Our OBGYN called later that afternoon to express her concerns and essentially said that we should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Since she’s typically not the gloom and doom type, we took her advice to heart and began to mentally prepare ourselves for further testing and observation, knowing that it could very well end with a worse-case scenario. People were asking us about baby showers and gifts, and my students were anxious to hear all about this little one. I told people what I knew and asked that I be given some time to process our latest information: that Quinn might not make it. That this fluid was serious and, coupled with his Down syndrome, if he did pull through, it could be a long and terrifying process.

I underwent a series of blood tests to check for viruses that could be causing the fluid and calcifications on his liver and stomach, and all came back clear. Then yesterday we went in for our now-weekly ultrasounds to get a better look at the fluid and see if it had spread. The ultrasound tech came in and chatted us up about baby names and older brothers, then showed us pretty good images of Quinn’s face and even the hair on his head (pretty cool how strong these machines can be), but Brian and I were in a fragile state and couldn’t truly enjoy any of it. We couldn’t bear to look at these sweet, adorable features in a child we could lose. The longer she worked, the quieter she became, until we could cut the tension in the room with a knife. The doctor spent what felt like days looking over the images before coming in to talk to us. And that’s when he told us….

…everything looks fine. The fluid is minimal and of little concern. It happens relatively often in babies with Down syndrome and is contained to one side of the lungs and in no way interfering with his heart. The calcifications on his liver and stomach are still present, but have not grown, and therefore are also of little concern. They are also associated with Ds and clear up on their own in time. He’s right on track for growth and seems, for all intents and purposes, to be a healthy, happy little guy who should arrive right on schedule without any medical intervention. We don't even need to go in for weekly ultrasounds anymore; he said he'd see us at the end of the month.

We both broke down into tears. We’re so used to receiving bad news from our doctors that it was hard to believe what this one was trying to tell us. Our son is fine. He will survive. He will be healthy. He will be amazing. And it’s crazy to believe that I ever took him for granted, that I ever thought, even for a brief and fleeting moment, about ending this pregnancy when I received his diagnosis. Now Down syndrome feels like blessing compared to all the other things that could have been. 

Because of Quinn’s diagnosis, I know there will be more scares like this. The medical world will become a constant presence in our lives as a result of Down syndrome, but it’s a sacrifice we’re both willing to make if it means we get to be parents to this little boy. These experiences have brought us to love this child with such ferocity that it sometimes hurts (and in the face of all these health scares, the pain is even more profound). Even though we haven’t met him yet, we feel like we already know him and are surprised by his resilience. He’s clearly as stubborn and determined as the rest of his family. We're on track to meet him in two short months…we can’t wait.