Lillian and I are planners by nature, so after we married we already knew we wanted at least two children. We thought having multiples would be fun and the siblings would benefit each other, so when our daughter, Christina, was seven, we got pregnant.
Lillian’s appointments with her regular Ob/Gyn were perfectly normal and we couldn’t wait to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. We scheduled an appointment with the high-risk Ob/Gyn and brought Christina along for the gender reveal. I remember everyone laughing and talking as the doctor and nurse studied the ultrasound monitor.
Suddenly, they fell silent and grew more focused. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I felt…something.
They wanted to refer us to a cardiologist for a second opinion because “there are some things that we’re seeing here that we want to get checked out.” That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.
Our visit to the cardiologist happened quickly; it was one of the most difficult days of my life. I’ll never forget her walking in after the examination, telling us our baby’s heart had defects and she may have Down syndrome. The whole scene was surreal, and in that moment, I knew the doctor couldn’t be talking to us. She wasn’t talking about our baby; she was talking about someone else’s child. I kept telling Lillian, “She’s not talking to us. She can’t be talking to us.”
I struggled to comprehend what the doctor was saying, but at the same time, I was bombarded with questions. What will my baby’s life be like? What will my family’s lives be like? Will she make it through surgery? I knew Lillian was struggling with these same questions, so we made a pact. We’d allow each other to cope with our emotions however we chose. Whether it was tears, or anger, there was no judgement. It was the best thing we could have done for ourselves.
For the first year of her life, Catherine struggled to survive. The worry and stress took an emotional toil and after another visit to the PICU, our doctor told us thatCatherine was very sick and to go home and rest. I don’t know why we decided to leave that night, but we did.
Lillian and I went home and talked though the worst-case scenario. Then we turned it over to God. Whatever He had in store for her and for us, we couldn’t manage it, we couldn’t control it, so we put it in His hands. Catherine made it through the night and that was like a turning point. Every day she made progress, little by little.
Today, Catherine is an unfiltered, lovable, sassy twelve-year-old daddy’s girl and I can’t imagine my life without her. I’m so glad we had her. I’m glad for the challenges. I think we’re all better for it. I know some people could have made another choice, but it wasn’t our life. It was her life to live. And as her parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure we give her the opportunities to make the most she can out of it.
It’s a family affair. Visit us next week as Catherine’s sister, Christina shares her story.