Cause for Ap­plause

Com­ing to terms with a harsh re­al­ity dur­ing preg­nancy leads to un­par­al­leled joy

Our Canada - - News - By Maria Jor­dan Mackeigan, Ed­mon­ton

Imagine lone­li­ness so se­vere, so dark, so gloomy that the walls close in on you with­out respite. Such was my feel­ing the day I learned that our sec­ond daugh­ter was des­tined to be born into this world fac­ing ma­jor challenges.

Only mo­ments be­fore, I had been so ex­cited, felt so com­plete and oh so amazed at life and the op­por­tu­nity to bring an­other new baby into this world. Even though my hus­band and soul­mate, Greg, and our first daugh­ter, Ana Maria, were both with me at the ap­point­ment, an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing of iso­la­tion over­came me when the doc­tor broke the news. We had ar­rived at our highly an­tic­i­pated sec­ond ul­tra­sound, ea­ger for an­other chance to look at our baby, to hear the drum­ming beauty of this pre­cious lit­tle one’s heart­beat—and we couldn’t wait to see her sweet pro­file. But in­stead of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the an­tic­i­pated joy, I be­came mes­mer­ized by the words spilling from my doc­tor’s mouth. Like puzzle pieces tossed into the air, I just couldn’t seem to catch them all and put them to­gether in a mean­ing­ful way. The room was spin­ning, and I felt my­self reach­ing for those tiny tid­bits of in­for­ma­tion that would soon make up our new re­al­ity.

“Your baby has a heart de­fect,” broke through the grow­ing haze in my mind, “which is most likely as­so­ci­ated with Down syn­drome.”

I im­me­di­ately be­gan to imagine the worst: Is the de­fect cur­able? How long will she sur­vive? What will life be like for her? Will I lose the baby if I trip or fall? Should I be con­fined to bed? Will I even be able to raise a child with Down syn­drome?”

I felt a re­spon­si­bil­ity so in­cred­i­ble it was al­most un­bear­able. You know that feel­ing you get as a new par­ent— es­pe­cially as a new mom—when you are handed your baby for the first time, and you’re over­whelmed by the un­der­stand­ing that you are re­spon­si­ble for the safety and up­bring- ing of this help­less lit­tle new per­son? For me, that feel­ing was mul­ti­plied times in­fin­ity as I was told my baby had a bro­ken heart and a then-to-me mys­te­ri­ous syn­drome that would for­ever set her apart from oth­ers. How could I pro­tect her, keep her safe and whole, and, most im­por­tantly, keep her alive and well?

The months that fol­lowed were filled with tears, fear and worry. Try as I might, each day seemed to bring negative feel­ings into my world; the fear of the un­known kept creep­ing up wher­ever I went, what­ever I did. Most days I would call my mom from a dark place within my heart, look­ing for so­lace. My mom would re­mind me to trust in God. We would talk, some­times pray, and I would plead for a healthy baby. When Greg would come home, I would in­vari­ably ask him, “Why?” but, of course, he didn’t have an an­swer. He too would tell me not to lose

hope, to have faith.

One day I stum­bled upon an old friend on so­cial me­dia, and he told me about his daugh­ter who was “liv­ing the beauty of Down syn­drome.” This ran­dom con­nec­tion with some­one from my past, who was liv­ing through a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence, was ex­actly what I needed at that very mo­ment. His amaz­ing wife phoned me, and as we spoke, I be­gan to fully re­al­ize that my fam­ily and I were not alone fac­ing the un­known.

Through­out all of my per­sonal an­guish, my love for the sweet an­gel grow­ing within me hadn’t di­min­ished. In fact, it had grown tremen­dously, to the point where my heart was ex­plod­ing with un­end­ing love for my soon-to-be-born child.

And so the tears be­gan to dry up, and the lone­li­ness turned into ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion as the spe­cial day drew near. A cou­ple of weeks be­fore her due date, Jor­dan Grace de­cided to join us! Ev­ery­thing was in­deed per­fect— in­clud­ing our new baby girl. Though her heart would need mend­ing, she was truly an­gelic and, to us, per­fect!

Six months later, Jor­dan Grace’s heart was opened up and re­paired by an amaz­ing sur­gi­cal team. Much to our relief, she came through with fly­ing colours... and the rest of us sur­vived the or­deal pretty well, too. And now here I am—the hap­pi­est, most proud mother to be found, with two mar­vel­lous daugh­ters who have grown to be in­sep­a­ra­ble dur­ing the first three years of Jor­dan Grace’s life to date.

The truth is that I’ve never felt more com­plete, more thank­ful, more blessed, and more sur­rounded by love than I do at this very mo­ment in time. Ac­tu­ally, through­out the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence, I was never alone: Jor­dan Grace was al­ways with me, in me, car­ry­ing me through the preg­nancy, guid­ing me with her very be­ing. Our hearts beat­ing in tan­dem, we were al­ways to­gether as one.

Above: Maria with her hus­band Greg, daugh­ter Ana Maria—and yet-tobe-born Jor­dan Grace. At right, Ana Maria and Jor­dan Grace with the book they in­spired.

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