Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ultrasound Memory from Jennifer Byard

I found out about my second pregnancy through a friend’s dream. I was skeptical at first. We’d only been trying for three months with this baby, and our first son took three years to conceive. But five pregnancy tests don’t lie, and I was thrilled to be pregnant with number two.

Just like with my first, I immediately starting thinking about the future…would this baby look like me? Could I love another baby as much as my first? Would this baby be a boy or girl?

My husband John and I were talking about the baby’s sex as the tech started our 18-week ultrasound. We wanted her to write down the sex of the baby and put it in an envelope for us to open at lunch. As she scanned, the room seemed really quiet. After a few minutes, she told us she had something that she needed the doctor to look at. I immediately knew in my heart what she had seen.

John and I sat quietly in that room waiting for the doctor, adrenaline pumping and praying that the tech was just inexperienced, maybe having a bad day. The specialist came in for a look, and his face confirmed my fears. He asked us to get dressed and wait outside his office. The tech came out and handed us an envelope…the baby’s sex. I remember thinking how insignificant this was. We opened the envelope while we waited. “Boy”.

The doctor called us in his office to discuss what he had seen. He had called our obstetrician’s office to get the results of our recent triple marker test. Before he said the words, I remember thinking “my baby boy has Down Syndrome”. When the words finally came, there was a tone of excitement in his voice. I knew that as a neonatal specialist, this was a “find” for him. A victory for him to catch a birth defect in-utero, and our life was changed forever in that same second.

Although it took a week to confirm the diagnosis by amniocentesis, my grief started immediately. I could already feel the baby moving in my body, and the baby that had felt so familiar immediately felt foreign to me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that it was same baby that had been there the day before. I was 33 years old. Didn’t older women have babies with Down syndrome? What did I do to make this happen? I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that I had lost. Mostly I feared the unknown. I feared the future with a child who would never be able to live on his own, would never marry or have children, and who would always be different.

When the amnio comes back with a diagnosis of Down syndrome, you are ushered into a room with a genetic counselor. In this room you’re told the worst-case scenarios and given options. I was so thankful for our faith at the moment. Fear can cause you to do things you wouldn’t normally consider. We knew that for whatever reason, this baby was still our son.

The next five months were a roller coaster for us. Children with Down syndrome are at much higher risk of dying in utero, so I went to the hospital weekly for stress tests and ultrasounds. My husband and I grieved differently. Beyond the feelings of sadness and loss, there’s also anger…both at the circumstance and the way that others respond. When your baby has a birth defect it’s hard to hear other’s version of the “up-side”. It was hard for my husband. After the first few weeks, despite the sadness, I was able to start feeling bonded to my baby again. John had to deal with the guilt of feeling disconnected and at times not wanting the baby to be born.

At 35 weeks, I went in one morning for the usual testing, and found out that our baby was having trouble. We met with the doctor and made the hard decision to deliver him early, rather than risk the last few weeks. After an amnio to check that his lungs were developed, we arrived back at the hospital that evening to deliver our son. Five months after our ultrasound, having moved from grief to understanding and acceptance, we joyfully welcomed our son into the world on February 4th, 2005.

We named him Ben, “son of the right hand of God”. His tiny ears, his adorable little nose, his precious little hands, all created just for our family. He is our middle child, surrounded by brothers on both sides. Above all we’ve learned that the things in life that you would never ask for are the most joyful things of all. Our life is better because of Ben.

From Jennifer Byard of My Three Sons Design.
Drawing by Betsy Watson as seen on sfgirlbybay.


Note from Design Mom: for the duration of my pregnancy, I'll be posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. You can find them all by clicking here. I'd love to hear your story or memory or advice, feel free to submit it to


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Blogger The Dragonfly said...

What a beautiful boy your Ben is. And what a beautiful telling of your gaining understanding through his birth.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 10:44:00 AM EST  
Blogger Design Mom said...

Jennifer - I think many of us have attended an ultrasound with apprehension. I love how you describe your response. I felt like I was right there with you.

Ben is beautiful. And I LOVE the name.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:16:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Nancy O said...

This beautiful story of Ben just made my ENTIRE day! Thank You.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger mrs boo radley said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and your beautiful son.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:34:00 PM EST  
Blogger muth said...

I too have a beautiful boy with small ears, small hands, slanted eyes, and the biggest heart in the world. He is the tail end of many siblings, and he has made us all better people. Thank you for sharing your story! Our Parker is now 12. You'll have so much fun during Ben's school years!! Good luck to you----he'll bless so many lives along the way!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 1:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kiasa said...

What a sweet, heart warming story.

I'm learning that I'll either have to quit reading Design Mom on Wednesdays or accept that tears flowing down my cheeks will be my weekly ritual. I'm not usually so emotional!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 1:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger JBS said...

I have a daughter who will need my help for the rest of her life. She had a normal 12 months. What happened afterward echoes your description of the Dr.'s office.

Genetic counselors should be required to eat a cupcake 30 minutes before talking to any family.

And it is amazing how much mourning can take place for things that were supposed to be but aren't. She is our keystone now, and we can't imagine our life differently. Thanks for toasting the godsends in our lives!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 1:48:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kate said...

Your description of the grief you felt rang so very true. Thank you so much for sharing your story and sharing your beautiful son with us.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 2:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nellie said...

The world is a better place because of your Ben and countless others who teach us to be better, kinder and more understanding of differences. Thank you for your lovely story -- I'm sure it will just keep getting better and better.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 2:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger jack, lucy and finn said...

what a beautiful story. thank you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 2:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger The Imperfect Christian said...

If you haven't done so, please sign up for The T21 Traveling Afghan Project.

What a beautiful post!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 4:18:00 PM EST  
Anonymous zh. said...

My son was born on Feb 8, 2005 :) He has a chromosomal disorder too. I love him very much. Your story was very moving to me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 8:09:00 PM EST  
Blogger RT said...

What a beautiful story. Ben is precious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 10:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger Silvy said...

such a beautiful story...

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 4:52:00 AM EST  
Blogger Ruffentine said...

Ahhh Benners (: Beautifully told my friend, still wiping away the tears.

Friday, January 15, 2010 at 12:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger jan said...

He is beautiful and looks so happy, i love this story, thanks for sharing.

Monday, January 18, 2010 at 3:11:00 AM EST  
Anonymous amy said...

wow.... this story brings back memories for me..... thank you so much for sharing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 8:57:00 PM EST  

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