‘Who is this stranger they placed on me? This is absolutely NOT my son.’ I couldn’t look at my husband.’: Mom to son with Down syndrome says ‘I have been so beautifully humbled’

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“I am sitting here, flipping through my journal. I look at the entry and it spells out a prayer from almost two years ago that reads, ‘Be with this sweet boy in my belly. Help him to be healthy and ‘normal’ with no special needs, Lord.’ It goes on to ask for preparation for birth and a little more guidance around what we should name him. The very next entry reads, ‘Baby Boy Cal James Ramage was born 11 days ago on 9/17/18 and You chose to answer my last prayer with a no.’

Let me take you back to these days. I was the mom of two beautiful little girls who were the perfect 2.5 years apart. Our family was so excited to usher in our first little boy! Finally, a little guy to round out our family and to balance out all the glitter and princess dresses with some sports balls and Hotwheels Cars. To the outsider, we really were the ‘perfect little family.’

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

It was the morning of September 17th, 2018. I had just been relieved of massive amounts of pain as a scrumptious little boy was placed on my chest. I looked down to lock eyes with him for the first time. It was in this moment my world stopped spinning. The sounds and chaos of the labor and delivery room disappeared. Oh, how I wish I could say my world went still because my first son and I were experiencing those first beautiful moments of life and connection of mom and baby together, but I would be lying to you. It was heart-stopping panic I was feeling in this moment as I stared into the eyes of the baby on my chest. The can’t-breathe-or-look-at-anyone-else-or-I-will-lose-it type of panic. Though my world had stopped spinning, my mind was spinning at a nauseating rate with thoughts I couldn’t quiet.

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

‘Who is this stranger they just placed on me? This is absolutely not MY son. He looks nothing like his sisters. His coloring is different. His cheeks are saggy. His eyes are almond-shaped. This baby looks like a baby who has… Down syndrome. This canNOT be my baby… I prayed specifically against this. This was not the road my life journey was meant to go down.’

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

I stayed silent because this HAD to be my son. I mean, he came from my body! My husband broke my silence and my world came crashing in on itself. He asked me, ‘Does everything look alright?’ in a voice of obvious concern. It was apparent he was also afraid to voice anything out loud. I could hardly even look at my husband, ‘I don’t know. He looks… He looks like he could have Down syndrome’ is all I could manage to get out. And then the suffocating panic took hold and swallowed us both instantly. I mustered every last ounce of courage and looked at the nurse and asked, ‘Does it look like he could have Down syndrome to you?’ She responded very professionally and kindly and said she could see my concerns but ultimately, the pediatrician would have to look at him. This did not do much to calm the chaos of fear raging inside of me.

We were moved to our recovery room and the lullaby that plays throughout the entire hospital for each new baby was playing for our son. The first two times I heard this, it was such a joy and filled my eyes with the happiest of tears. This time it was filled with pain and confusion and tears of sorrow and dread. We sat in our recovery room, trying to stay strong, to stay above water. It was a struggle to even remember to hold and show this precious new life love and warmth. Honestly, we were scared out of our minds.

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

Though this day was truly such a hard day for us, the Lord’s hand was without a doubt sprinkled all over it. Our nurse walked in to check on us and she was a sweet friend with a familiar face. A familiar face in such a scary and unfamiliar time. Then our primary pediatrician, who we love, walked in. He was literally only filling in for the pediatrician on call for just 2 hours. The two hours we needed him. Thank you, Jesus. We voiced our concerns about possible Down syndrome. He kindly agreed our son did exhibit some characteristics of Down syndrome, but not others. Our son had almond-shaped eyes, low set ears, and a possible gap between his first two toes, but he did not have a single palmar crease in his hands. He said we would need a blood test to confirm a diagnosis and it would be about two weeks before we’d have results.

My stomach dropped completely out of my body. How in the actual world would we handle this unknown for two full weeks? We thanked him and he walked out. He walked back in ten minutes later and said he had found a different test that would have results in 2 to 3 days. Thank you, Jesus, for less of a wait.

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

We had different tests for his heart and hearing and he passed both beautifully. We were just left there to recover from the beautiful trauma of birth just as we had with both of our girls. We hadn’t even told our families and friends he had been born yet because we were at such a loss as to what to even say. How do you convey the joy of new life and love of your son when you are terrified of him? Eventually, we told our families and close friends of our darling unnamed son and expressed our fear he may be showing some symptoms of Down syndrome, but we wouldn’t know right away. Our families came and met him, and our darling precious daughters held their baby brother with such pride and nothing but absolute joy, while all of us adults were swimming in tears of grief. The whole time in the hospital room, I was swinging between ‘This is my son, worthy of love and respect regardless of any test results’ to deep sadness and confusion and honestly, some very, very dark thoughts.

Kristin Jean Photography

My mind was so clouded in fear of uncertainty and loss of what should have been, I couldn’t see straight. I couldn’t think straight. But I had a dear friend come and sit on the end of my hospital bed and let me cry and voice my unforgivable thoughts. (And, you guys, some of them were thoughts a mother should NEVER have to have.) I told her my fears of the future, the what if’s, the why me’s, the how will this affect my girls. One of my biggest concerns at that moment was how in the world could I mother a child with special needs and not let it overshadow our entire lives, therefore, taking away from my daughter’s lives? And when all my fears were sitting in between us on that starchy hospital sheet, my friend (or maybe it was Jesus talking to me through her) looked me deep in the soul and assured me our God doesn’t make mistakes. This baby in her arms we were so graciously given will be more of a blessing than we will know what to do with, and I am mom enough to love two darling girls and a precious boy each in their own ways. This moment was such a valuable moment for me during this journey. One to express the darkest corners of my soul to someone in the flesh and have them look me straight in the eye and tell me I am not an awful person for having such thoughts and they are immediately forgiven.

This unexpected journey will be hard, yes, but will be exactly the journey that is meant for me to become exactly the woman our dear Lord intends for me to become. Among the devastating black of my son’s day of birth, I can look back and see rays of sunshine and sweet, sweet hope trying desperately to peak through.

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

Immediately after our dark days in the hospital, I took to the internet. I tried extremely hard to stay off of Google because I knew it would try to only show me the most devastating aspects of Cal’s diagnosis. What I needed was to see real-life families smiling and living normal lives alongside their family members with Down syndrome. I needed to know my life was NOT over because my son carried an extra chromosome in his DNA. I took to Instagram and found the sweetest corner of the internet. There was picture after picture of young, beautiful, normal-looking families that kept proclaiming the same message. They all kept saying how they had struck the jackpot/won some sort of lottery with their extra chromosome. I kept reading about this amazing club only the Lucky Few get to be a part of. I made precious connections with other mamas ahead of me and behind me on this journey. It was and has been so extremely healing to walk alongside these wonderful strangers that are now dear friends who live miles away from me.

Kristin Jean Photography
Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

Hearing the news our son was indeed diagnosed with Down syndrome will forever be implanted in my mind, but what outshines that moment is the glorious radiance that is my son, Cal James. There isn’t a morning when I walk into his room and am greeted by those perfect, almond-shaped eyes that cause his entire body to smile that I am not immediately melted into a messy puddle of extreme pride and unconditional love for him. It takes over my entire being and I physically can’t help but express sweet words of praise and adoration over him. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

Every now and then, that panicky feeling that was so present in those early days of Cal’s life tries to weasel its way back into my mind, but I am constantly reminded of the perfect and beautiful handiwork of God that Cal is. I no longer fear his diagnosis being the center of our lives. I am blown away by how far from the truth my fear of Cal’s diagnosis taking away from my daughter’s lives was. We have been thrown into the world of different abilities, not by our own choosing, but I have been so blessed and beautifully humbled by it.

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage
Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

Through my son, I am learning now more than ever ALL people, no matter their abilities or chromosome numbers, have worth. Significant worth. They have value. Remarkable value. And deserve to be seen (not stared at) and included fully in this life. I have a deep understanding God did, in fact, hear my prayers about special needs and He knew my life would be so much richer because of them. He chose to bless me with a child who fell into this category by shattering my uneducated fears has been without hesitation the best way He could have chosen to answer those prayers. Thank you, Jesus, for blessing us with Cal and allowing us to win the lottery and join the Lucky Few by our precious Cal joining our family.

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

Friends, if you have been given a Down syndrome diagnosis and you feel devastated, you are NOT alone. You are allowed to grieve. Please do. And though your world may be full of darkness right now, please know it is only temporary and the light of hope will break through the darkness.”

Courtesy of Arieanna Ramage

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Arieanna Ramage from Billings, Montana. 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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