The Ride of My Life

When you ride a rollercoaster for the first time you feel a surge of emotions that grab, terrify, and haunt you all at once – well, at least at the start. But once you get over that first drop, that first mind bending, gut wrenching drop, you suddenly realize that your life isn’t over. And not only is your life not over, it’s also exciting anticipating what else is around the corner.  When the adrenaline takes over, the fear of the impending disaster dissipates.

That’s what pregnancy was for me. I had the initial fear seeing the digital test flash “pregnant.” That fear wasn’t because it wasn’t planned – technically, we did plan. We got married, bought the nice house in a subdivision, and had a fantastic waiting period of five years so that we could explore married life without kids. The fear was the feeling of “oh no, what have we done?!”

And I wasn’t the only one who felt it! My husband had that look on his face when I showed him the test. He didn’t jump around with joy or even smile; he just looked at me with an expression of confusion and worry that settled somewhere closer to acceptance. You would have thought we were two fifteen year olds still in high school with no life achievements. But what mattered most wasn’t our initial reaction. What mattered was the journey we were embarking on together as husband and wife. The excitement hit us quickly enough, along with the extreme nausea and vomiting that plagued me for months.

My husband always wanted a beautiful baby girl. That was his desire from the start. I don’t have to explain how happy he was when the ultrasound tech told us what we were having. We decided to have a nice small and intimate reveal party, just for the grandparents. We got the idea to get cute pink build-a-bears to give to the prospective grandmothers and we revealed our daughter’s name along with the due date. It was exciting and wonderful.

But life always has a drop waiting around the corner. It never fails: impending doom lurks, waiting for its next victim. It wouldn’t be a journey if it didn’t have obstacles. So that is what I first thought when my OB/GYN called me to come to the office exactly one week after the reveal party. But I could have never prepared myself for the words “positive for Down syndrome.” I kept thinking, how could this be? My husband and I were both still in our twenties and healthy, with no family history of anything more than diabetes. This couldn’t happen to us! I stared at my husband, and he had the look of suffocation, as if the room had been stripped of oxygen. We rushed home to do research, to ease our minds into believing that the prenatal test was inaccurate or wrong. We even grasped at the straw of someone in a lab mixing my blood with someone else’s. Our parents reassured us that it was a faulty test, it happened all the time in the eighties and early nineties. My husband held fast to thoughts of positivity, but I ventured into the realm of realism very early because I knew that life always gives you something that you perceive to be unfair and unbearable. That drop was unbearable.

The twist and turns came in the next few months with the fantastic ultrasound test that showed no signs of Down syndrome at all on our little one. But of course, me being the president of the realm of realistic notions, I couldn’t allow myself to be too relieved. But could anyone really blame me? I mean if my child was to be born with Down syndrome, wouldn’t I, as her mother, need to be there for her? If the doctor pulled her from my womb and the true visualization of her features set in, and she bore obvious signs of that extra chromosome, I would still reach for my child and hold her tighter than a mother bear.

My husband and parents could step out of the room and regain their composures, while going through the stages of grief all the way to acceptance and unconditional love. But me, being momma, I needed to go through that ahead of time, so when my baby girl was handed to me the only thing she would feel was my undying and unwavering love for her.

I did the only thing I could do: I prayed. Not to take away any disabilities or deformities. How could I? How could I be so presumptuous to ask God to make my life any easier than the next person’s? No one has it easy. No, instead I prayed for a healthy beautiful baby girl. And I spent hours telling God “thank you.” I was grateful that I could conceive, and that I had a great husband who also would love our daughter unconditionally. I was thankful for the roof over my head and the qualities that my loving parents instilled in me, because during my pregnancy there was barely a week that went by without hearing about a woman killing or abandoning the baby she didn’t want. I was thankful to have compassion and natural human affection. I spent hours crying and speaking my peace with God, knowing that no matter how different she might be, my daughter was a direct gift from Him and I knew that I only wanted what was best for my child, which is to be better than me. That is what all parents truly want.

When the delivery was over, so was that ride of loops and drops. Because when they handed me my little girl all I saw were her perfections, no flaws. And my husband thanked me for bringing our child into the world. Even now, two years later he still thanks me, and I still thank God because he answered my prayers.

This entire ordeal taught me many lessons about life and our ability to make it harder than it needs to be. Sometimes we ourselves are the disasters we try so hard to avoid. It’s our thinking and our mindset that end up getting the best of us and turning something that can be conquered into a mountain of pain. I learned that you don’t have to be a saint to put trust in a higher power to guide you. I could have allowed the fear of the unknown to destroy me, to cause me to become so paralyzed that I lost my ability to avert a disaster. We all have that ability, regardless of what life sends our way. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but also what we perceive as a catastrophe is ultimately left up to our own interpretations.  

Now I am on a new rollercoaster ride. New twists, turns, and drops, each one filled with thoughts of fear and despair. But this ride is called motherhood. Every day I am forced to reset my thinking and my viewpoint on things. I remind myself that it is my choice as to whether something is a mountain or a molehill. Do I choose to wallow in negative thoughts of impending doom or do I look for the way out of the tunnel, the light that is always at the end? Because when I look at my life over the past couple of years, every disaster that has come my way has made my family and me stronger and more versatile. And every blessing that has come our way is received with gratitude and graciousness.

Do I see everything through rose colored glasses now? Not in the least. I was and will always be a realist. Seeing life for what it is will constantly require an endless readjusting of our minds. The truth is, we never truly stop riding the rollercoaster. We can only hope to learn how to enjoy it as much as possible. If we don’t, we are doomed to see every event as something to cower in front of. You don’t get to know when it is coming, and you don’t get to know what it will be, but you do get to choose how it will affect your life: mountain or molehill? I choose to see the twists and turns of my pregnancy as the blessing they always have been. My daughter has no real health issues or problems, no heart defects and no developmental delays. She is healthy and beautiful, with a smile that will bring the world to its knees. All that I truly wanted was for my baby girl to be healthy and smart. She is beyond everything I could have dreamed possible. When I look into her eyes, I am aware that she may have difficult days ahead, but she will have many happy ones, and on her worst day she is still better than I am.

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