Things Audrey has taught me…

It’s funny when you realise how much you can learn from a life experience. Funny because it seems like such a cheesy cliche, but hey ho…

Audrey has taught me many things by coming into our lives. I guess number 1 would be that I am stronger than I thought I was and can handle more than expected.

If someone had said “You will have a baby with DS”, I would have said “No way, I couldn’t cope!” But the reality is, life throws something unexpected at you, but you just get on with it and cope.

I knew I had a pretty great husband, but Audrey came into our lives and I realised I have an amazing husband. I never really understood the phrase “He’s my rock” until Ted became my rock. From the moment the doctors said “emergency c-section” Ted was everything I needed. He was calm and strong and by my side the whole time. Whilst our minds were filled with confusion and worry over Audrey’s DS, he quite simply said “I just love her” and was there for her from the very beginning. He stayed strong when our world was turned upside down and I it suddenly dawned on me… This is what it’s like to have a “rock”!

She’s also made me realise that perfection isn’t what you think it is… I guess perfection is much like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. She is perfection to us because your baby always will be, no matter what. Ted and I actually discussed before she was born; “Do you think we’ll know if our baby is ugly?” and although I’m pretty confident anyone would agree Audrey is a beauty… I don’t think anyone would ever think their baby was ugly, even if it looked like a potato to everyone else.

The beauty of your baby is unlike anything else in the world and I feel like I know that even more so because the Down’s Syndrome that was all I could see when I first looked at her face, is now something I can barely see. When I look at her now I wonder if other people can tell… when I look at her now I just see our beautiful Audrey.

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World Down Syndrome Awareness Day

A year ago this day would have passed by unnoticed… I was pregnant but didn’t know that Audrey was going to have that little something special.

In fact I still remember those early feelings of worry and embarrassment when we had Audrey… I dreaded people knowing I had a Down’s syndrome baby. And now I spend all my time showing her off! Building up an Instagram following… Clocking up those Facebook likes… Wanting people to see, not just how lovely she is, but how ok we are as a family… More than ok, we are happy! Our baby is wonderful.

So on world Down’s syndrome Awareness Day I am pleased to be part of such a great community and to be able to join in, showing the world that the extra chromosome hasn’t taken anything away from our family, hasn’t ruined anything and isn’t anything to be ashamed of.

I still have plenty of worries about Audrey’s future, but she gives us reason to feel positive everyday and we’ll just focus on positivity because as my mum once said describing my husband Ted… It’s good to have a “zest for life” and I can already see Audrey has inherited that zest!

Getting home

Audrey was in the baby unit for 3 weeks, as I type that now it sounds like no time at all, but back in July 2013 it felt like forever.

I was in hospital for 6 nights after the c-section, shuffling up from floor 12 to floor 14 to breastfeed Audrey. We then spent a week or so commuting in on the bus to our “part-time” baby. It was definitely not the start we imagined.

Audrey was allowed home with oxygen, so she had to wear a cannula and be plugged into a machine in our hallway or to a travel canister whilst out and about.

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It felt like such a huge burden to have that tube on her face… Especially as the weeks passed and the sleep studies showed she still needed it. But again, I can look back now and feel relieved that we only had to deal with it for 6 months, such a short space of time in the scheme of things. There’s still a chance she will need it again in the future, but for now we are so happy to have her free of tubes and plasters!

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Audrey’s story begins…

The story of Audrey begins sometime in the 1990s when Mummy (Vix) and Daddy (Ted) first met… but let’s fast forward to 2006… Vix and Ted get together… fast forward to 2012… Vix and Ted get married… then November 2012… when a stick finally confirmed a baby on the way…

From that moment we were in love with our baby and planning his/her future. The holidays we would take, the music we’d dance too, the games we’d play… then the adult child; college, university, their profession, their wedding, the grandchildren… pregnancy was all about the excitement of what was to come!

Being pregnant was pretty fun for me, the cravings were ice cream, yoghurt, milkshakes, coconut… the baby was a real kicker which was a lovely way to stay connected and feel reassured. We took hypnobirthing classes and I had wonderful naps to the relaxation CD. Aside from a little bleeding early on, regular heartburn and some swollen feet, it was a pretty easy pregnancy and I found the whole experience enjoyable.

Monday 22nd July, 5 days past our due date, I was still very relaxed and convinced the baby would eventually be induced. It was ‘royal baby day’ (Kate was in labour) and there were a few texts and messages asking me if I’d had any twinges and of course I told everyone there was no way we’d get our silver penny… not an inkling of labour in sight…
It was crazy hot and I walked into town in a long summer dress to pick up supplies (pineapple to bring on labour, my favourite iced spiced buns from M&S…). I bought new socks for Ted so he could finally throw out odd and hole-ridden ones. I was mildly concerned that baby hadn’t been as active as normal, but decided I was probably over-reacting. I had lunch. Still no kicks. I read online how to encourage movement… drank some ice water, ate some chocolate. No kicks. I watched some Gossip Girl, tried to relax… but all I could think was “I do not remember this baby kicking today”. By now it was about 3pm and I decided the relaxation CD (for hypnobirthing) was my best bet… baby always kicked just as I was trying to relax/fall asleep! The CD finished, I woke up and yet again… no kicks. Between telling myself the baby probably kicked at some point without me noticing and crying because I was sure that couldn’t have happened… it got to 5pm and I called my husband. Of course he was calm and told me I should call the hospital and see if my friend Becs was free to go with me, he would make his way there asap…
Even with the tears and the worrying, I still expected to be checked over, told all was fine and be sent home, I remember Becs and I were in a taxi just after 6pm, we were taken into a room on the labour ward triage and two midwives rigged me up to the monitor… the baby’s heart beat was there! Hurrah! All my concerns fell away…Then the midwife said there were dips and that the baby was possibly reacting to some braxton hicks (tightenings), but it was also possible the cord was being affected and I was asked to lie on my side facing the wall. I felt silly as Becs was sat in a chair and I couldn’t see her. I kept waving at her and saying “thanks for coming!” – still thinking it was no big deal. A doctor came in and calmly explained that the baby was in distress and they would be checking to see if I was in labour and would try to break my waters… Just as this news was delivered Ted arrived expecting a scene of “all ok, go home”, but finding instead our baby was going to be on the way one way or another that evening! Once it was apparent I wasn’t in labour, I was told they would like to proceed to emergency c-section and I’m proud to say my husband asked for a minute alone with me to discuss this decision. He knew c-section was something I dreaded. I cried, filled with panic and that stupid feeling that a non-natural birth was a failure… We asked the doctor if we had any other option… We didn’t. And so I just went with it, if the baby is in distress and needs to get out, then so be it. I still feel so strange that at 6pm I was in a taxi with my bump and by 7pm I was being prepped for surgery.

Our baby was born at 7.51pm – it was all so quick. Baby was delivered and I heard no cries which was the first alarm bell. Ted told me it was a girl and I welled up a little as I was so convinced we were having a boy. He was first to hold her, she was wrapped in a towel and I could just see her eyes peeking out – I knew then she had DS. I kept asking Ted to show her to me – I couldn’t see enough of her face…
I said “She looks like a little monkey!” And they prepped for skin on skin… She was laid on my chest. I could see her clearly now and I just thought “this baby has Down’s Syndrome”. So I quietly said it to Ted. I remember hearing him say “Er excuse me, but my wife thinks the baby has Down’s Syndrome…” And they took him to the side to explain the signs were there, but they couldn’t confirm either way without a test.

It was like an out of body experience, I was removing myself from the situation, from the baby, “this baby has Down’s Syndrome…” as if they’d given me the wrong baby. She was rushed to the baby unit, I was taken into the recovery room. We were apart for hours. I can’t say how many, it’s a bit of a blur, but when I was wheeled up to visit her I still felt so confused and so numb.

And so like many who have a baby with DS, a joyous occasion was filled with confusion, worry and upset. If only we’d known… But you could never get someone at that stage to understand that no matter what, you will love your baby. Your baby will be perfect to you, no matter what health issues or differences to typical babies he/she may have.

24 hours after our beautiful Audrey Emily was born, I was taken up to the unit to breastfeed her. This was a moment that made me truly realise I had a baby and I needed to be there for her. I honestly believe that 50% (maybe even more) of the weirdness was due to the c-section, it wasn’t all Down’s Syndrome “upset”, but regardless, at that moment I felt much more connected to our little Audrey.

Something you can never expect to know… A baby with DS is still a baby. Still a joy, still your baby to be loved. There is a lot to take on board (health worries, a different path…), but aside from that, the baby will reward you with the same love and smiles you’d get from a “typical” baby.

More to come, can’t believe I’ve finally written the “birth story”, it’s taken 7 and a half months… But Audrey does keep me occupied!

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