The nurses took Nicholas away to get treatments for jaundice. They left us alone in the room, and suggested we get some sleep. It was only hours after we were told about their suspicions of Down syndrome. When we were initially told about it, I remained stone cold, with an “okay, that’s fine” demeanor. I couldn’t let the nurse see my real reaction, right?
That hard exterior was getting harder to uphold with each passing hour.
The nurses who took him advised us to take a nap. They knew how long we had been awake, even though we didn’t. It was the middle of the day, and the curtains were doing nothing to keep out the sun. The nurses put a “do not disturb” sign outside of our door so that we could rest.
When they closed the door, something came over me. We were alone. There was no one to impress, no one to be embarrassed in front of.
The headache I had sticks out in my memory. It was the most painful headache I have ever had, radiating through my eyeballs and down my neck. I laid there with my eyes closed, because the light felt like knives. The only thing more painful than my post-birth wounds were the thoughts running through my head. Nick was laying on the fold-out hospital chair beside me. My back was to him.
I was feeling uncertainty about my soon-to-be husband. What was going through his mind? Was he mad? Sad? Was he mad at me for being sad? Someone who I always counted on and felt like I knew better than anyone was suddenly a mystery to me.
Thoughts were going through my head faster than they ever had before. Who was that child? What are we going to do? Will he need surgery? Will he be able to walk? Talk?
My true feelings finally had a chance to show. I inhaled, and then cried harder than I have ever cried before. I started sobbing uncontrollably, and could hardly breath. “My boy” I whispered under my breath between sobs. “No, no. My baby boy.”
It felt like he had died. I know I have written about this mourning feeling before, but it is the only way I can describe this deep sadness that I felt. It was like the boy that I imagined having was snatched from my body and taken from me, never to be seen again. I guess having them take him for treatments made that feeling more real than ever.
Before I knew it, I heard the crinkle of the overused hospital chair behind me. I felt Nick get into the hospital bed and wrap his body around mine. After you have a baby, you aren’t exactly back to your fighting weight right away. You are about the same size as you were pregnant, except the belly that was once firm with life is now a half empty water balloon. Somehow, though, Nick wrapping his body around mine made me feel tiny, and he was like a protective cover around my shaking frame.
“It’s okay Mary,” he whispered into my ear. “He’s our boy. We got this. It’s okay. He will have a great life. We will be fine.”
All my doubts about my husband washed away in that moment. He wasn’t mad, and I should have known it. This boy that we made is our blood. He is in our pack now. We must be a team. We must be fierce. We must work hard to make sure he has the best possible life. I could feel his determination in that embrace.
He laid there and held me while I cried. Eventually, I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I walked to the bathroom and closed the door. I took a good look at myself in the mirror. The whites of my eyes were completely red from crying. The skin around my eyes was puffy and displaying some red pillow creases. The mascara that I put on from the earlier visits was smudged under my eyes. My hair was in a big knot on my head, and I was wearing a pink nightgown with a blood stain on it. I didn’t know how I got the stain, and I honestly didn’t care.
That was my rock bottom.
That was the death of the old Mary.
It wasn’t my boy who I needed to mourn that day, thank god. It was the woman that I used to be.
Gone was the selfish person who always wanted to make sure everything was as best as it could be. Gone was the person who felt as if she were “untouchable,” and nothing could ever happen to her. Gone was the person who felt like it was bad to let people see when she is sad or angry.
I liked that person, sure, but she couldn’t walk this journey with Nicholas. She didn’t have the emotional capacity. I had to let her go.
The person who I am now is much more equipped to be Nicholas’ mom. I feel as though I have gone through a metamorphosis. Although it was a painful one, I am stronger because of it. There is nothing that can come my way that my family can’t face together.
Almost ten months later, that mourning feeling seems like a distant memory. I have gone through as much change on the inside as you can see Nicholas has on the outside. With each milestone that Nicholas surpasses, I too am growing.
I have learned to slow down, and really enjoy my life. I no longer sweat the small stuff. I no longer fear change. I no longer have a doubt in my mind about my son. He succeeds at his own pace, and I am enjoying every second of it.
Thank you, Nicholas, for making me better, for brightening my days with your smile, and for making me a fierce mommy.