Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kendall Mason Geer

It's been 15 months since I posted. It's time I give it another go. Our life has changed. We are now a party of five instead of a family of four. This little guy has joined our team.
On Thursday morning, June 4, 2015, at 12:26 am, Kendall Mason Geer made his entrance into our world. At 20 inches long, he was 6 pounds and 7 ounces of beautiful, healthy baby. He is our beautiful, healthy baby who has been blessed with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome in every single strand of his DNA. Kendall was born with Trisomy 21.
We were prepared and we were excited. Let me tell you how it began. The beginning of our journey. The journey of our life as Geer, Party of 5. On December 9, 2014 I was 12 weeks pregnant. We were scheduled to have an ultrasound at UNC. They asked if we wanted to do a first trimester screening. I don't remember doing that with Deuce but when they said it was non-invasive and just through ultrasound I thought, why not? I was so excited to make the ultrasound last longer so I could stare at his black and white image on the TV. I had no idea what this screening test even checked for but I didn't care. I wasn't concerned. Then when the ultrasound tech took the measurement of fluid behind the baby's neck, I knew it. I knew something was wrong. Her measurement said something like 5.6. That little teeny number popped up on the screen before she saved the image and moved onto the next thing. She said nothing and kept on screening. All that was going through my mind was that the fluid is supposed to measure between 1 and 3. Five-something was way over the threshold for normal. What it meant, I had no clue. But it wasn't right.
The technician finished getting all of the images she needed and then she left to share them with the doctor. As soon as the door shut I looked at Ed and said something is wrong. He thought I was crazy. The untrained human eye can't read ultrasound images for the most part, unless you're a seasoned mommy veteran or it's an obvious body part. Heck, my mom thought Kendall's leg was his manhood and made a comment that she just knew Ed was proud. But I knew it. I knew something was wrong with my baby. A few minutes later, a wonderful, soft spoken doctor, Dr. Stamilo, came in and shared the news. Our baby had a cystic hygroma, which was the excess fluid. There was a 50% chance that the baby had some form of Trisomy, a 35% chance of major heart defects and a 15% chance that everything was normal. I stared straight at him as I took in all of this information and let the tears roll down my face. I didn't even know what to think. I just nodded my head and said okay. We met with a genetics counselor who gave us too much information for my brain at that moment and she told us about a fairly new blood test that would tell us with 98.6% accuracy what the exact condition would be. We consented and I was sent down to the lab for a blood draw. We left the hospital and I couldn't talk. I didn't know what to say.
I was crying. I was mad. I was hurt. I was sad. And mostly, I was confused. I wanted to comfort Ed but I was too busy crying to try to help him. When he's sad he doesn't really show it. And when I'm sad he does his best to find the positive. He can see the light when there is only a tiny sliver and me, I crawl up and hide in the darkest of darkness. We had to wait 2 weeks for the results of the blood test. 2 agonizing weeks. We had been told there was a 50% chance of Trisomy 13, 18 or 21. I googled the different Trisomy types and tried to see the positives. I tried to imagine what my life would be like if my baby was born with one of these. I couldn't imagine it. And I couldn't find happiness within it. I was in a fog for those 2 weeks. Two weeks later, December 23rd, we received the call. We were in the kitchen. I was cooking for Christmas. Deuce was in the living room playing. And she said it. There appears to be an extra 21st chromosome. There was a 98.6% chance our baby was going to have Down syndrome. I didn't cry (not until I saw my mom anyway). I just stared at Ed. I thanked the nurse. And I hung up. In that split second, with those few words, my life as I new it changed. 
I still had 6 months of pregnancy left. 6 months of preparation. Mental preparation. I didn't have any testing done with Deuce and my justification was because I was not going to terminate the pregnancy for any reason. Why stress myself out? What I didn't think about was the mental preparation that is required when special needs is involved. This time, I had 6 months to mentally prepare myself for what lied ahead. And for that I am now thankful. I spent my entire Christmas break from work reading about Down syndrome. I learned so much. I learned about challenges but also about how much more enriching my life would become. And then I mentally wore myself out. I didn't want to read about it anymore. I didn't want to talk about it anymore. So, what? When I became a mother I fell hard. As all mothers do, I learned to love hard and fierce. Why would this time be any different? It wouldn't and I knew it. I still had a responsibility to nurture and love this baby growing inside me, No matter the physical or intellectual differences. And then I became okay. Really, truly, okay. Don't get me wrong, I've cried and struggled mentally and emotionally at times but I am still okay. When he was born and the diagnosis was confirmed, I smiled. He was meant for me. I need him in my life. I need him to teach me how to be more compassionate. I need him to teach me how to be more carefree. I need him to teach me more about me.
As for the story of his birth, well it was quick and traumatic. For me anyway. Wednesday, June 3rd, I worked a full day. Looking back, I think I had 2 mild contractions throughout the day. One was in a meeting where I closed my eyes long enough for my boss to ask me if I was okay. But I was still 3 weeks out from my due date so I chalked it up to him just moving around. When I got home Ed wanted to meet his mom for dinner. I told him to take Deuce and leave me at home because I just wasn't feeling well. I decided to wash a load of baby clothes and wash the car seat (it had been in the attic for 4 years) and cook myself dinner. I started having contractions and they were random, sporadic, weak and sometimes intense. I didn't know what was going on. I hadn't packed my bag or finished preparing for my leave at work. We had just moved back home to Chapel Hill the weekend before so I still had tons of unpacking to do. After constant interrogation from Ed, I finally agreed to go to the hospital to get checked. We called his mom to come sit with Deuce (who was incredibly upset from seeing me struggling through contractions and then having to be left behind while I went to the hospital) and we left for UNC at about 10:40pm. I told Ed not to call my mom or sister because I didn't want to wake them up and have them come to the hosptial if it was a false alarm. Ed was going to drop me off at the entrance to the Women's Hospital but I am kind of stubborn so I told him I could walk. I had to stop twice for contractions. By the time we got checked in to labor & delivery and I changed into a gown the on-call doctor checked me and told me I was already at 7cm. I looked at Ed and said call my mom! They immediately moved me to a delivery room and the contractions were back to back. There was no break. By the time I got into the delivery room I was 10 cm and feeling a strong need to push. It was like nothing I have ever felt before. There was no time for an epidural so I felt every ounce of pain.
Because of the Trisomy 21 prognosis, I was a high risk pregnancy. The delivery room was full of staff. An entire team of NICU nurses, a fetal-maternal high risk team, the regular fetal-maternal team, anesthesiologists (although I'm not sure why since I didn't get anything), labor and delivery nurses, etc. It felt like the huge room was crammed full of people and I could hardly even see Ed. It all happened so fast. I remember one time opening my eyes long enough to find him and his eyes were huge. I could see how nervous and scared he was. Holy hell, it hurt so bad. And I can tolerate a lot of pain. Knowing that is what I believe made Ed a little scared. And the team appeared frantic. In hindsight it was probably just because it happened so fast but in the moment it seemed like something was going wrong. Very wrong. I remember the sweet high risk OB telling me that Kendall's oxygen levels had dropped rapidly and I had to get him out or I was going to have another c-section. I pushed with everything I had until they told me his head was out. One more push was all I needed and there he was. Laying on my chest, looking up at me. With his beautiful eyes. I felt like She-Hulk. And just as fast as the pain had come, it was all gone. It was all worth it. And I was in love all over again. So here, we are. 11 weeks in to our new adventure. And loving every second of it.

"Sometimes our lives have to be completely shaken up, changed & rearranged to relocate us to the place we're meant to be."

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