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Down Syndrome Parent to Parent: Noah's Birth Story

Posted by Nancy Spiegel. Written by Jennifer Bronwell.
Jeff and I were newlyweds in our mid to late 30s and we had decided that we wanted to start trying to have a family right away. We were blessed with conception almost immediately. We were working with a midwife, planning home delivery. We had taken Bradley child birthing classes and we had declined genetic prenatal testing. Our beliefs are that we wouldn’t alter the pregnancy. We had done everything “right”-no caffeine, no alcohol, acrylic nails removed, no fast food, tons of prenatal vitamins….

I had been experiencing what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions. One weekend, I experienced more cramping than usual. We had been in constant contact with our midwife who recommended that if symptoms worsened, we may need to go to the hospital to get “checked out.” Since it was the weekend, and I dreaded a trip to the emergency room, we decided to wait and see. Certainly we weren’t looking for signs of labor as I was still in my second trimester. As the discomfort continued, we finally decided to go to the hospital. The emergency room asked me how far along I was and I told them 27 weeks-I was asked to proceed directly to the labor and delivery unit. So we walked upstairs and upon examination, the triage nurse informed me that we were going to have our baby that day.

We met with the neonatologist who described the treatment plan for a newborn whose lungs aren’t fully developed. Everything was happening so quickly. We had arrived at hospital shortly before at 1pm on a Sunday and Noah was born at 2:51pm, 13 weeks early.

Although he was a very healthy weight and height 3 lbs, 15 inches long, his respiratory system was clearly not equipped for life outside of the womb. While the nurses were cleaning me up, my husband stood watching in terror as the neonatologist and nurses resuscitated Noah. I later learned how traumatic that was for him. When we had woken up that morning, the last thing we thought is that we’d be giving birth to our child. So many emotions transpired, joy to know we had a son, sadness that we couldn’t hold him, concern about his breathing, shock about all that had just transpired.

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Down Syndrome Parent To Parent: Good Friday

Posted by Nancy Spiegel. Written by Kerry Ryerson.
A brand new world opened up to me that early spring day in Augusta, Georgia. It was Friday, March 28, 1986 – Good Friday and Sean’s actual due date!!! The dogwood trees were starting to bloom and it was a beautiful day! Sean had been born two weeks early on Friday, March 14. He had been home for one week after having spent his first week of life under the bilirubin lights in the hospital. Every morning of his first week at home I had taken Sean to the hospital to have his heel pricked to check his bilirubin count, followed by a quick trip to the pediatrician, Dr. Hansen. My mom and my 22 month-old daughter Ajda had accompanied me each time.

Today’s schedule was different. We had an appointment to see Dr. Hansen in the afternoon and then get Sean’s blood work done. I was ready to receive the test results that I was certain the Doctor would have by now. The results would verify whether or not Sean had Down syndrome. Being Good Friday, I was overly optimistic that maybe that was a “sign” that the Doctor would have good news!

Dr. Hansen was surprised to see me alone with Sean and he expressed concern that my mom was not with me for this visit. It didn’t take long for me to understand why. He had the results of the chromosome test. Yes, Sean definitely had Down syndrome – Trisomy 21. Dr. Hansen was very kind in his delivery, as much as anyone could have been. I left his office holding Sean tight against my body, wanting to protect him from this diagnosis. I went down the main hall to a short hallway where I dropped to my knees with my sweet, innocent baby and I sobbed with such intense pain that it vibrated throughout my body. I felt completely alone in the world, cradling my baby boy so gently yet so firmly in my arms.

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