Last December, we hosted the annual DSAGT Holiday Party. One of the most special moments of that day was welcoming a brand new family to celebrate the holidays with us. Helena, Derek and Sawyer Eddings joined us at the party and were immediately embraced by our other DSAGT families with open arms.
Helena and Derek are incredibly gifted photographers, and have been capturing stunning images of their journey ever since Sawyer was born in November 2015. They are also talented writers, and the combination of their photographing and writing abilities has led them to launch a blog where they can not only chronicle their stories and memories, but also share them with others. Their first posts were revealed on a great date: 3.21.16, on World Down Syndrome Day. We invite you to follow them as they share "This Whimsical Life" by continuing to visit their BLOG.
Special moments in life forever imprint on our hearts.
You know, those moments that forever change you. My moment was the day I gave birth. I knew in that moment that I was alive. Joy, beauty and pain flooded me at the same time.
My husband Derek and I got married on 9.17.11. We enjoyed four years of “dink-ing” it (dual income no kids) while we traveled and created so many memories together. We volunteered, we made new friends and formed new hobbies.
After four years of marriage, our friends and families were eager for us to have a baby. We decided to keep our efforts of trying to get pregnant a secret. I assumed that we would become pregnant instantly but that was not the case. After 8 months of negative results I finally saw two pink lines.
We wanted to wait a while before sharing the news with our family. That idea lasted a whole 24 hours.
My pregnancy was perfect in every way. I was at my best pregnant and I had never felt so strong and confident. I was very in touch with my body, so much in fact, that I knew Sawyer was a healthy boy. Derek and I shared a passion for a holistic approach to my pregnancy. I ate mostly organic foods, incorporated daily workouts into our hectic lives and stayed away from all chemicals. Nothing but the best for MY baby
We are firm believers that pregnancy and birth are beautiful and natural processes, and I trusted my body’s ability to grow life. Therefore, we decided to opt out of all testing and ultrasounds.
At 2:30 am on November 23rd, my water broke. We both jumped out of bed and celebrated. Today was the day we had been preparing for. I had dreamt about this day not only my entire pregnancy, but my whole life. I was going to be a MOM!
Instead of rushing to the hospital, Derek loaded the car and I spent a little while painting my nails and getting “cute.” To this day we joke about our calm demeanor and the nail painting that I felt necessary. After an hour or so it was off to the all natural suite to get this little baby out!
(one last picture before we left for the hospital)
I was not afraid to give birth. I was excited, I was prepared and I was ready.
At 7:59 am, with Derek and my sister-in-law Jackie at my side, I made one final push. With that push, I pulled my new baby to my chest. I looked and screamed “it’s a boy”. I, we, had done it! Our lives would never be the same…
We didn’t invite many people to the hospital. We just wanted to spend time with our little family. The first night in the hospital, I stayed awake and just stared at Sawyer. The light came in through the windows and I could see his sweet little features. Ahh, love is such a strong emotion.
IS THIS BABY PERFECT?
That morning, I started taking pictures with of Sawyer. I noticed his eyes appeared to have a bit of an almond shape. The thought left my mind as quickly as it entered. Later that day I asked Derek if he noticed the same about Sawyer’s eyes. With him being a teacher, I figured he would know what I was hinting about. He just thought that he looked like any other baby and didn’t think twice about my comment.
Soon after a nurse came to take Sawyer for standard newborn tests. When they brought him back to the room we asked how everything went. “He is perfect” she said. I thought that I must be crazy thinking he had something wrong with him. He IS perfect
We were only in the hospital for a little over 24 hours and we were ready to be discharged. I felt great and neither of us enjoyed the feeling of entrapment that a hospital room offered. Derek started taking our bags down to the car when the nurse came in and told us that Sawyer needed to see the pediatrician. The thought came back into my head. “Okay, if there is something “wrong” with him, this would have to be the moment they tell me, right?” But at the same time I thought, “why would they have waited so long to tell us?” I decided we needed to go with Sawyer while the pediatrician examined him.
She looked over his little body and I could see the deep contemplation on her face. She was not looking at Sawyer, she was looking through him. My heart raced and I was preparing myself for life altering news. Mean while, Derek was oblivious and had NO idea. No one in our family suspected anything. No nursing staff or midwives had said a word. The doctor looked at us as said “he looks wonderful, everything sounds and appears healthy but he does have some traits of Downs Syndrome”. I immediately responded aloud “I already knew that.” But in my mind I was saying “ give me my baby, we are running for the woods and leave us alone”.
Neither Derek or I said another word. She went on to describe these traits, but we heard nothing. Frankly, I am not even sure either of us made eye contact or acknowledged that she was in the room. In that moment we felt nothing… Empty…Like our souls left our bodies and we were left with nothing. There we stood; ready to take our “perfect” baby home and they told us that our baby was “broken.’ We did NOT sign up for this.
Why did they wait until we were loading our car to tell us such news?
Did they not know? Was this standard procedure? Clearly this was a mistake. Could it really be? Derek pushed Sawyer back to the room as I trailed behind knowing that life would never be the same. We sat in our room, with Sawyer still in the mobile bassinet and experienced a plethora of emotions. A similar roller coaster one would expect during grief.
We were not provided any information or support from the hospital. It was as if they told us, he is perfect but his blue eyes will turn green. As if the news they gave us was routine news. It was not routine, it was life altering. We were so confused.
Less than an hour later, with no consultation from nurses, doctors or social workers, the three of us walked out of the hospital. Derek carried Sawyer, I walked beside and a nurse followed us down. The elevator ride was silent. The walk was silent. The glow we had expected to have, the glow that all first time parents have exiting the hospital was vacant. Sawyer was fastened in and off we went.
I sat in the front seat next to Derek. Looking back, we do not remember the ride, or even how we made it home. Not going through the toll gates, not hopping on the expressway, or pulling into the driveway… nothing. We sat in silence. I instantly felt guilty. I loved Sawyer but I didn’t want to sit next to him. I wanted to be with Derek. I wanted to hold Derek. I didn’t want to hold Sawyer. Our hearts were broken and we needed a minute to process. What do we tell our friends and family? How will they respond? We got home and walked in the house… again… silence. Derek and I grabbed each other and started crying. We sat down on the bed and said, “From this moment forward, we must be honest with how we are feeling,. The good, bad and ugly thoughts”. We can not hide our feelings. We need each other more than ever. This is our journey and honesty is the only way for us to be what Sawyer needs. We talked about our feelings for what had to have been hours. We talked about what this meant and how we were going to handle it. In that moment I fell even more in love with my husband. He showed strength and love in a time when I needed it more then any moment in my life. How could the most beautiful day in my life also carry such pain? And yet how could this pain turn into stronger love? I ran a marathon and turned around and questioned my own success.
The next 24 hours we mourned the loss of the child we were expecting. We mourned the loss of the dreams we dreamt for Sawyer. Those first 24 hours were painful. There were so many emotions. There were so many questions. We didn’t know where to begin. There was one thing we did know. We knew we had a very special relationship and together we were a powerful team. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we realized that Sawyer needed strong parents and we were made for this. In a moment of immense sadness, this overwhelming feeling of empowerment emerged. This is the moment we started healing.
The day of Sawyer’s birth was beyond magical but the day I learned he had Downs Syndrome was the day I physically saw love and felt it running through my veins. The day we learned we had a special child became the most magical day of our lives. My husband and I created this “perfect” child and we were gifted with a journey we didn’t plan for, but we knew our love would be our strength.
This is our story.
This is where the story of our beautiful son, Sawyer Michael, begins.