When we knew Isabella was on her way, we had already been a family with our then five year-old daughter and our eight year old son. Although we knew that some things were about to change, we felt like we knew how the years to come would turn out to be: Just like with our two kids we would love and support her while watching her grow; we would celebrate her first smile, her first tooth, her first steps, her first words - just like we did with the other two. Our family was like a big cup of ice cream: four scoops of ice cream in different flavors, waiting for a new flavor to join us. But she turned out to be even more different than we expected. Isabella was born with a Trisomy 21, better known as Down syndrome.
Eleven weeks into the pregnancy, we had a thorough ultra sound exam. The gynecologist saw that there was a significantly larger nuchal translucency than one would normally expect at this stage of pregnancy. But the way she pointed that fact out to us, gave us the feeling that the baby was something weird, like an abnormality with what we had to „deal with“. But for the both of us that feeling did not last because we quickly realized she was first and foremost our child. The way she moved, while the doctor tried to get a proper picture of her, reminded us so much of her siblings, that we could not deny the similarity between her and her sister and brother. Seeing this was a big confirmation to us of what we already knew: that we could never reject her as we never could reject any of our other children. Knowing this, letting her live would be the only option and we told the doctor that nothing what the exam may show would affect our decision to carry out the baby whatsoever. Further ultra sound exams showed normal organ development, although the doctor kept telling us about „risks“ for different trisomies. Still, we decided to not do a chromosomal analysis, since any result would not have had any consequences on our decision making anyways.
During this time, one verse of God’s word stuck with us:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJ
With this verse in our hearts, we had peace for the rest of the pregnancy.
One week after her birth, doctors confirmed that Isabella was born with Trisomy 21. We quickly realized that things were a little bit different, and at first, she had difficulties with breastfeeding and gaining weight for the first couple of weeks. A tiny hole in her heart was discovered shortly after her birth but it turned out to be not as bad and does not affect her. Overall, after getting used to the fact that some things may develop a little differently, things have evolved quite smoothly. In fact, ever since she has joined our family, she has been a blessing - way much more than we would consider her condition a burden.
Every day she grows older we are able to see more of her joyful personality - a warm and friendly person full of good cheer. Most of the times she smiles and smiles back to us, not only brightening the day of us parents but also showing her siblings how lighthearted life can be. Her social skills seem to be very fine and alert. She is very attentive and observant and makes us realize that staying in the present and sharing moments is one of the most precious gifts in life. So instead of primarily us loving and carrying her through situations, we are overwhelmed by the way she loves us back.
We would like to encourage women who are pregnant with babies diagnosed with Trisomy 21 to first of all see and accept them as what they are: little precious gifts who want to love and be loved, carrying a „little extra“. Something, that may turn out to be much more of a blessing than a burden, maybe even in ways one could never anticipate. A special task entrusted from God and a special blessing. We hope that women expecting children with trisomy 21 do not hesitate to ask and listen or talk to other people who went through the same situation. Maybe even visit other families who already have a child with Trisomy 21.
Because for us, the new flavor of ice cream did not turn out to be as expected. We waited for another scoop but instead got extra whipped cream and a cherry on top. It was not what we would have asked for, but it is definitely making the whole experience better.