I have a daughter with Down’s Syndrome. I would like for this to be a space for you to share your own experiences with Down’s Syndrome. You can share stories on this page using the “Comment” box below. Also, my posts about Down’s Syndrome are on this page and I invite you to read them and make your own comments. Just click the paging icon above my header image and click “Dear Down’s” to see all my posts. Or click this link: https://nanmykel.com/category/dear down’s/
Nan’s Early Experience
He used to shop alone at the old A & P at the intersection of Clairemont and North Decatur Road, in Atlanta. His features were those of an old man, and yet someone said he was in his teens. A tentative smile constantly hovered on his face, and he would strike up friendly conversations with total strangers like me.
I went out of my way to avoid him because retarded people made me uncomfortable, and because I couldn’t understand him and did not know how to reply to his enthusiastic questions and comments. I had learned little from my earlier acquaintance with the mongoloid daughter of my boss. I was always a little appalled and disconcerted by Ruthie’s boisterous retarded energy. I observed that parents could love such children, but I was always most comfortable when there was a great deal of distance between us.
As a perpetual student of psychology, I still felt most comfortable with neurotics and even psychotics. I’d choose to spend my time with a psychotic over a retarded individual any day.
Certain unfortunate women, for whatever reasons, have children with “something wrong” with them. “Is the baby all right?” is the most fervent question of many new mothers, and “It’s a perfect baby” the sweetest answer. Other women never doubt the successful delivery of a perfect baby. Like me, I had birthed three perfect babies, and my third had been a “conscious cooperative childbirth.”
I carried a full courseload in graduate school that winter, plus a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. My fourth baby was scheduled for the Christmas vacation, and as a modern liberated woman I had arranged to piggyback my baby and to have it tended during classes by various students. I had also arranged with my obstetrician to let us go home the next morning, ikf everything was okay. And of course it would be. Amniocentesis, if it existed then, wasn’t common and I wouldn’t have had it anyway. I was a young 35 when my baby was scheduled for delivery.
Earlier that fall, while we relaxed in a neighborhood park, we observed a mother and father having a glorious time with a small boy who could not walk. With help he was sliding down the sliding board, with squeals of delight. The joy on the faces of his parents was remarkable. As the mother passed us, she said as an aside, “He was born handicapped.” I respected those young parents for their character. They certainly were stronger than I would have been.
My, I was big and uncomfortable that Christmas. Finally, on December 28, 1971, I went into labor. We had memorized Husband-Coached Childbirth, and Northside Hospital was liberal in allowing father privileges. By this time I knew some things they didn’t teach to nurses, such as how painful lying on the back in labor can be. This was my second ccc, and the first my husband had actually been allowed to coach.The labor and the various stages went like clockwork. In the delivery room finally, I knew to keep my hands on the bars, and to “push” when so instructed. Everything went like the books said. At p.m. Amanda Maria Mykel made her grand entrance into the world.
The doctor and nurses suctioned her and appeared to be checking her out thoroughly. I was going to joke, “Has she got the right number of fingers and toes?” but resisted. I’m like that, usually trying to keep my smart mouth shut so I can’t so easily put my foot in it.
As agreed upon, they gave me my baby to hold while still in the delivery room, with my husband. She was a good-sized baby girl of 8 pounds, with bright red hair. When holding her to me the doctor had said, “You’re entitled at least to hold her, after being such a good trooper.” I was still holding Amanda when a student nurse poked her head in and asked to see her. If I thought it strange for a student to lack experience with newborn babies, I dismissed the thought. Amanda looked perfect to me, just like my others.
I was wheeled to my room, thankful that I had not received general anesthesia and looking forward to going home with my baby in the morning. I knew they would not be bringing her for a feeding until the morning, and I happily went to sleep, anticipating the new day.
I woke to excruciating pain. I had left my contact lens in far beyond the recommended timespan in order to view Amanda’s arrival through the mirror, and the pain in my eyes was all but overwhelming. I spoke to the nurse, and she went to inquire about treatment for my eyes.
During the night I had gotten a new roommate, who was euphoric about her infant daughter. “I waited until I was 38 to have my first, and the doctor says she’s absolutely perfect,” she said. “I’m so lucky.” She was talkative, and in the pain from my eyes I had to mentally tune her out.
I was waiting for Amanda. My husband had gone to work and was coming later in the morning to pick us up. I called my sister but interrupted the conversation. “I’ll call you back. The doctor just came in.”
TO BE CONTINUED