Owen Chase

Diagnosis: Trisomy 21

By Jennifer

Our story began March 31, 2014 when I took a few home pregnancy tests, and they were positive. Besides our wedding day even months before, I couldn't remember a time I was ever happier. As a Pinterest lover, I picked a cute way to surprise my husband, Shane, when he got home! He saw the actual bun I put in our home oven and a positive pregnancy test when he turned around. We were both so happy and surprised that we had conceived our honeymoon baby like we had planned!

I had told my husband that of course everything would be fine, but just in case, let's not tell anyone. We agreed it was kind of nice having exciting, private news that was just ours to share. We did, however, decide to tell our parents weeks later (about 8 weeks pregnant) at our home when we hosted Easter.

We did a photo reveal where my husband's and my family gathered with me for a photo, and Shane took the picture telling everyone to say, "Jenn's pregnant!" Everyone was so happy! My husband and I had been together for seven years and married for seven months. I was 34 at the time, and my husband is 37, so we were ready and so excited. Capturing our family’s excitement made us so happy.

The next day, we had our first ultrasound. The baby’s heartbeat was nice and strong, and I was convinced it was a boy. We left with some cute pics, which we proudly displayed on our fridge. We also listened to a recording of the heartbeat several times.

In the following weeks, I was so sick, vomiting a few times daily and dry heaving all waking hours. It was very tough, but I felt it was worth it. I told myself it just means "he" will be healthy.

On my birthday, at 10 weeks, I went to the hospital to have my blood drawn for a Harmony test. My OB-GYN had been pressuring us to choose one that would rule out any genetic problems early on. I agreed since it came with the gender results, and we planned on revealing the gender to our families in June when we brought them on vacation to the house we got engaged at the year before.

On May 28th, our world began its collapse. While picking up a little boy I take care of from preschool, I got a call from the doctor’s office that our doctor wanted to speak to us regarding results. I begged the woman to tell me since she was making me nervous. I had to keep it together for the sake of driving two children home. She told me the blood test showed with 99% accuracy that our baby had Down Syndrome and that it was a boy. I thought I felt my heart break. I called the mom I nanny for to come home so that I could go home to my husband, who was working from home that day and tell him. We comforted each other but agreed to wait for more information at an NT scan scheduled at a prenatal diagnosis center in our state.

The next day, we had an ultrasound where I saw a very active little baby boy. It made me so happy to see him, and when they said his neck measurement was good and had a nasal bone, we felt relief! We then met with a genetic counselor moments after who told us not to get excited and that lots of Down Syndrome babies have good ultrasounds and that it was only 70% accurate. Feeling crushed again, it was explained that I had a few days before the 13 week cutoff for a CVS. We chose to proceed with the test.

The next day at the CVS, I had a panic attack after hearing they wouldn't numb me and there was a risk of miscarriage. My husband calmed me, and the very kind doctor soothed me. When it was over, I begged god to let our baby be healthy. They told us the FISH results would be in on Monday. We went home for me to rest and patiently wait for Monday. My husband had removed our son’s ultrasound pics from the fridge. I wasn't mad. I understood it was just too difficult for him, but I explained that I needed him to be with us and to surround him with birth announcements and other pics of our friends’ and family’s healthy babies on our fridge.

On Sunday, I went down to my hometown church where I always attended Mass with my parents and knew my childhood priest would be there. After Mass I just sat in the empty church praying quietly that god would please make our baby healthy. Down Syndrome is difficult enough, but the talk of uncertainty of his heart and blood and stomach and mental capacity as well as length of life was just something my husband and I couldn't bear to let him suffer with. We knew if results were positive, we would have to let him go. Release him to god. Would god forgive us? The priest I had known for years prayed with me after the Mass ended, and then I went home.

Monday no results. Tuesday no results. The wait was torture. Wednesday the call came from our genetic counselor. It's positive for Down Syndrome, she said. I have never cried so hard in my life. My husband and I cried together, and through this awful news, we found our already strong bond was even stronger. I kept asking why. Why of all the babies I've rocked and held as a nanny and all our friends’ babies and all the babies we see out in the world, why did this happen to our baby? We blamed ourselves but knew it wasn't anything we did.

The next day was our scheduled vacation. The thought of going overwhelmed me, and I didn't think I could do it. We went anyway. This vacation was supposed to be a family celebration where we revealed the baby’s gender. Now we had to tell our families about our heart breaking choice. We told them, and they all loved us and our baby and understood. Everyone went on to have a good time. I couldn't. I cried in private many times. To think, a week ago I was listening to his heart beat on our home Doppler and talking to him. Now I was going to let him go? I cried heavily every day and was numb when I wasn't crying. My husband became my rock even though he himself was devastated too. I researched and read many message boards online frantically searching and hoping to find people who have had early Amnios or early Level 2 ultrasounds with negative results even though both Harmony and CVS showed Down Syndrome. Sadly, there were none. I prayed for a miracle, but it never came. The final result call came on our last day of vacation and while just my husband and I were in the house alone. Our genetic counselor once again said positive for Down Syndrome. I cried as if I had heard it for the first time.

I truly became numb, but out of love for our baby boy, we decided to have a D&C at 15 weeks.

The morning of the D&C I said a prayer and put the Misoprostol pills in my cheeks as instructed, which would begin the dilation of my cervix. I told my baby I loved him and hoped he would forgive me. Putting the pills in was the first hardest thing I would ever do. The doctor told us that if we wanted to change our mind that it would have to be done before putting the pills in my cheeks--that once they were in, there was no turning back. I cried when I put them in, and we went to the hospital right away. I wanted to be at the hospital should I bleed horribly or anything would happen. I began badly cramping before arriving at the hospital.

The staff at the hospital was great. They could see I was very emotional as well as scared. I never had the guts to ask out of fear of the answer, but I was terrified my baby would feel pain. When they took me back to the OR, my doctor said she would hold my hand until I went to sleep. She did. As I felt myself begin to fall asleep, I said to my baby, I love you and will always remember you. We both went to sleep, but when I awoke, he was gone and in heaven.

I walked in with him and left without him. My heart couldn't possibly have hurt any more. I can't say I regret our decision because we didn't want him to suffer in this life that is already hard enough. However, I wondered how other women who go through this move on. Was this the best decision? I read on many support groups that within three weeks they are pregnant again with their rainbow baby. I also wondered in the coming days why the sun was shining and people out in public were happy. Didn't they know what had just happened? The truth is that life does go on. I kept thinking I'm just not ready.

It has been one week since the D&C, and I cry and grieve heavily every day. Oddly, I have never loved my husband more and am so thankful for him. We went down to the ocean a few days ago where we find our peace and decided to name our baby. He deserved not be nameless. We named him Owen Chase. I will create a memory box with some things I bought before we knew his diagnosis as well as his ultrasound pics and other items. When they asked if we wanted footprints, I didn't think I could handle seeing that, but looking back, I wish we had elected this. Either way, for anyone who gets this diagnosis for their baby or any other similar fate, my heart goes out to you. Making such a heartbreaking choice is the hardest decision ever made, but is truly the most loving. I wanted to be selfish and keep him, but it would be just that--selfish. I admire anyone who has this strength and wish peace for all faced with this. May you know that your baby is now an angel who will never know pain and suffering.


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