Welcome back, everyone! I have said this before, and I will say it again- this project has really been such a wonderful experience for me. I have loved meeting some new families and hearing other's stories. It is my desire that we have helped spread awareness that every life is beautiful- even when that life happens to come with an extra chromosome. Here is the last story for this year's Down Syndrome Awareness Month. I hope you enjoy this beautiful story about Matthew, told by his amazing mom, Liz.
I have always wanted to be a mom. My earliest memory is stuffing a doll up my shirt to mimic breastfeeding. What mothering involved was unclear to me, but I knew it included a great deal of love so that was good enough for me.
Getting pregnant took longer than I expected, but on Christmas morning 2011 I had a positive pregnancy test and was elated. I loved being pregnant. I felt fantastic and was completely enamored with my body's ability to grow another human being.
Fast forward to a misty Sunday morning in August 2012. After laboring through the night, Dr. Leeman of UNMH guided me as I wiggled and pushed our son into the world. A flood of endorphins surged through me. I was exhausted and overjoyed. As I cradled our son in my arms, I stared at him and felt and intense recognition that he was mine. We named him Matthew, our gift from God.
After delivery, the hustle and bustle of the room continued to spin around us and soon gained a rhythm. I remember the nurses kept wanting to take Matthew from my arms. I knew it was necessary but I had no desire to let him go. Eventually, I released him with strict orders to my husband to stay with him.
In time, we were reunited and wheeled to the Mother Baby Unit. I expected we would rest, recover and return home in short order to start our life as a family. We had asked for all of Matthew’s care to be given in our recovery room, but were told due to staffing that he would need to be seen in the newborn nursery. Once tucked in bed, I remember thinking I’ll close my eyes for a short bit before they bring Matthew back from the nursery. I must have fallen asleep.
When I opened my eyes, there were two doctors sitting beside my bed. Though their faces were kindly, I didn’t recognize either one of them. “We think your baby may have Down syndrome.” All of their words before and after that sentence were static and the word “may” felt like it was written in marque letters that filled the room.
Seven years later, Matthew is a rambunctious, fun-loving little boy who does indeed have Down syndrome. Reflecting back on receiving Matthew’s diagnosis, I’ve thought a lot about the word “may”. Hours and days after delivery, I clung to that word as an anchor. I worried what health conditions Matthew would have and how others would treat him because of his diagnosis. More than anything, I feared the unknown.
What I have come to learn is mothering is all about the unknown. Whether your child has 46 or 47 chromosomes, mothering is demanding, unrelenting, deeply rewarding and full of unknowns. Though there have been many times I missed the mark as to what mothering involved, I have been right about one thing. No matter the number of chromosomes your child has, mothering includes a great deal of love and that is good enough for me.
Thank you, Forster family, for sharing your beautiful story! I can't wait to see you soon!!