“I was walking into work when I got the call. ‘You have a 1 in 150 chance of giving birth to a baby with trisomy 21 otherwise known as Down syndrome,’ Tri-what? Did she just say Down syndrome? I spent the rest of the day in a fog, unable to focus on the tasks at hand, trying my hardest to hold back the tears.
Thinking back, I’ve had friends with Down syndrome since middle school, throughout high school, and even in the church, so I knew what it felt like to experience their contagious joy. I spent 3 years in high school as a student-aid for my sign language teachers in his special education classroom, helping with all kinds of activities and fundraising for field trips. I knew every time I walked into that classroom, I’d leave happy and most likely still smiling from everyone shouting goodbye to me. I had already felt that love, I had seen the beauty. It wasn’t something new to me or something I had only seen from a distance.
With that said, I never had the chance to ask myself, ‘Why me?’ I knew EXACTLY why me from the moment I hung up the phone that day. Some people don’t like it when others say ‘it happened for a reason’ because not all moms can handle it. In fact, according to the CDC, over 75% of women around the world feel like they can’t deal with it. Many babies are given up for adoption because their parents aren’t mentally or financially capable of taking care of them. But for me? I feel like I have been preparing for this my entire life. I grew up babysitting my four nieces and nephews. I’ve had extra special friendships since middle school and throughout high school. I also took American Sign Language for three years, and I’ve worked as an ABA therapist for kids with Autism for the last couple of years. This is what the universe had been preparing me for all these years. I see that now, but it was still hard to mourn the idea of the baby I had been dreaming of.
I must admit we were crushed when we first got that call. I was only 22 years old. We were first-time parents and we feared she would have some of the health problems that typically come along with that extra chromosome. We also thought she might not be able to learn everything we wanted to teach her (which couldn’t be further from the truth). I would be driving to and from work crying, just thinking about her little fragile body needing me 24/7. I didn’t want to go back to work because I thought I’d always have to be by her side. I wish we hadn’t found out until she was born so we could have enjoyed the remainder of the pregnancy without all that added stress.
I feel guilty now when I remember how scared I used to be. Mainly because it wasn’t anything new to me… and I was still afraid. Afraid of the unknown behind the words ‘Down syndrome.’ We followed up with a geneticist who offered us the NIPT test, which gives a more accurate (but not 100%) reading. The blood test back with the chance of over 50% she would be born with DS. During the last couple of months of my pregnancy, we tried not to give it too much thought. I guess foolishly we thought, ‘Maybe if we ignore it, it might go away.’ Even though we knew the odds were over 50%… even though, every time I closed my eyes, I saw a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome.
And then, the day came. I was at exactly 38 weeks. We went into the hospital at 3 a.m. because of some bleeding I noticed when I got up to use the restroom. To make matters worse, she was still breech. She was born via c-section at 6:45 a.m. that same morning, no complications. Our prayers had been answered. We had a healthy, beautiful baby girl with an extra chromosome.
While she had healthy medical reports, the next couple of months were hard because she wasn’t latching when trying to nurse, and she also had a very hard time drinking from the bottle. I made a few appointments with different lactation consultants and shared my whole story with one of the personnel I felt most comfortable talking with. There was some sort of eerie feeling in the room. She said I gave her ‘the chills,’ then she commented she felt I was meant to be an advocate for Viviana and the DS community. And that was exactly what I needed to hear. At that moment, I felt as if a wave of peace washed over me, like a confirmation everything was going just the way it was supposed to.
Thankfully, right around two months, just as I was ready to give up breastfeeding, I received some words of encouragement from a loving friend. I gave it another shot that same night and to my surprise, she latched and fed for 20 minutes straight! Finally, all that hard work, pumping every 2 hours, it had all paid off!
Here we are now at 10 months, still breastfeeding, and life has been pretty smooth (despite COVID-19). Aside from her therapy appointments, which have been great, Vivi is pretty much living the life of a normal baby girl. She’s on track with her DS milestones, has a high attention span and problem-solving skills, but most of all, she is super curious and determined.
If I could go back in time, the only thing I would ever change would be my attitude. I’d embrace it, research ALL about it, join all the groups, and announce her arrival from the rooftops. LOUD and PROUD! She deserves that and so much more.
Our little world changer.
My name is Nathaly, this is my boyfriend Daniel, and we are the PROUD parents of Viviana Amor Arredondo.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nathaly Rodriguez from San Diego, CA. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘The nurse handed my daughter back. I instantly noticed her teeny tiny ears. ‘Do you think she has IT?’ I looked at my husband in fear.’: Mom of 3 births baby with down syndrome, ‘She is the most amazing human being I’ve ever met’
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