Bridget's Light

The Beginning

"Fate smiled and destiny laughed as she came to my cradle 'know this child will be able'
~ laughed as she came to my mother 'know this child will not suffer'
~laughed as my body she lifted 'know this child will be gifted'
~ with love, with patience and with faith she'll make her way"


-from the song Wonder by Natalie Merchant


Finding out

 
I found out I was pregnant with our fifth child on Christmas Eve, 2005.  Although I couldn't explain it, I had a sense that something was different this time.

 The pregnancy progressed typically.  As usual, I was sick for the first 4 1/2 months, and the baby kept me up at night with lots of activity.  All signs indicated that I was carrying another healthy baby. 

I was due August 31st, but my water broke early on a Sunday morning in the third week of July.  With trepidation, I woke Chris to get ready to head to the hospital.  I was going to meet our new daughter with Down syndrome.  We declined the triple screen, so I didn’t officially know, but I knew. 

About a week before Bridget was born, I had a dream that my water would break and that my baby had Down syndrome.  I knew to trust my instincts.

We had rushed to the hospital anticipating a quick delivery since I was in labor such a short time with all the other kids.  My labor, however, was slow and steady, and Bridget arrived over 12 hours after we got to the hospital. 

“We think your baby displays characteristics typical of a baby with Down syndrome,”  I remember the OB saying.  My eyes filled with tears, and I was nodding my head in agreement, smiling slightly at my husband.  “I told you.”  He quietly said, "I know.  Can you handle this?"

"Yes," I said, "Can you?"

"Yes," he answered as quickly.  We both knew there was no looking back, and we would need to figure out how to tell the kids and extended family.  

Chris was holding Bridget.  He whispered to her, "We've got you, sweetie"...
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Loving Bridget

Bridget needed surgery, and was taken to Children's Hospital not long after she was born.  I spent that first night confused, sad, and without Bridget.  It was an overwhelming 24 hours, for sure.  But, as we walked up to Bridget's bed in the NICU at Children's, Chris and I looked at each other and smiled.  It must have occurred to us at the same time.  The little nose and chin, the shape of the face, the hairline, the shoulders.  Yep, she’s one of ours.  She is part of our family and she’s perfect just the way she is.

A sense of peace and calm came over me as I realized that Bridget is not a mistake, or an anomaly.  She is the way she was meant to be, and she was placed in our lives on purpose.  

We were well aware of the challenges that might face us, but focused our attention and energies on loving our beautiful baby girl and getting her well enough to come home.  I remember those tough first 24 hours, but I have not looked back.
I didn’t want to know when we would need to have her hearing or vision checked, or what type of therapies she may need.  I just needed to know that she was my baby, and to accept her for herself.  She needed to be loved and cuddled and fed just like any other baby.  I realized that in time I would have to research and network and advocate for her the best that I could (medical needs, education, etc.), but all that could wait.  For now, I had the sweetest, most beautiful baby in my arms.  And, she needed me...



Perfect                                                                      

Being experienced parents of four children already, Chris and I felt we were well equipped to handle a new baby.  We anticipated a typical child, and received an unexpected gift in Bridget, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth.

Bridget was also born six weeks early and in need of surgery to correct an abdominal wall defect.  Right after she was born, I felt anxiety about what was ahead for Bridget and for the rest of us.  I wondered if things would ever seem “normal” again.  I was concerned about her health, among other things.  The first day after she was born was tough, and my heart was heavy at times.  I alternated between joy and despair, sometimes within the same minute.  I felt both empowered and helpless.  I tried to come to grips with my new reality as the mother of a special needs child and four other children who needed me not to sink into a dark, quiet place.

I knew I was going to be profoundly affected by this new little life, and I knew deep inside that the overall impact would be immensely positive.  But, a life with Down syndrome was uncharted territory--vast, weighty and scary.  What was happening to our world?  Would I always be worried about Bridget?  How would the other kids be affected?  Would we settle into a comfortable life and routine, or would things seem foreign forever?   The responsibility of it all was completely terrifying. 

As soon as I spent time with Bridget, though, the clouds parted and the fear and uncertainty of those first 24 hours gave way to an overwhelming sense of peace and calm.  Chris and I both felt it, and we immediately began adjusting to—and accepting—our new reality.

 

When I look at my daughter, all I see is perfection.

The beginning was so wrong, in so many ways—like leaving the hospital without our baby, receiving consolation instead of congratulations, and being told of all the ways our new baby was “imperfect” as soon as she entered the world.  I wish we would have known then how great it would all be now.

There is something so right about Bridget as Bridget.  Before she was born, I had my own notion of what the words “Down syndrome” meant.  The tough thing is that you don’t get the full picture until you are lucky enough to be around someone with DS.  Bridget’s uniqueness, her individual spark, is what makes her remarkable—Down syndrome or not.  When I look at my daughter, all I see is perfection. 

I don’t have answers to all the questions I had when Bridget was first born, but I don’t feel like I need to know at this point.  The answers will become clear in time. 

I do know that we have completely adjusted to adding a new member to our family and that Down syndrome isn’t something to fear.  Bridget is just as she was meant to be, and she was placed in our lives on purpose.  That purpose will keep revealing itself over time, like a gift that slowly unfolds.  For now, we are living a happy life and enjoying all that Bridget brings to our family.

Whatever future circumstances we find ourselves in—and whatever Bridget is happy doing and capable of doing—will be fine.

At a year old, Bridget is healthy and thriving.  She gives (effort and love) freely and unabashedly.  She is joy and happiness and all good things.  When I look at her, I see purity, courage and strength. 

To me, she is simply beautiful.  She is perfect.

 

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If you are looking for the words to tell others about your new baby...you have my permission to personalize or customize this letter and to use the words & ideas as you see
fit.

 This is the picture & letter that went out with Bridget's birth announcements:

 

                                

                B R I D G E T

                           Strong, Resolute, Saint

 

Dear Family and Friends,

For those of you who do not already know the events of the last several weeks, I thought I should explain…

My water broke early in the morning on July 23 at just over 34 weeks into my fifth pregnancy.  
We anticipated a quick delivery, and hurried to the hospital, but my labor (which was slow and steady) lasted most of the day.  Just before 6 p.m., Bridget was born.  Our beautiful little girl was pink, crying, moving vigorously and breathing completely on her own.

As soon as she was born, though, we recognized that Bridget had an enlarged area by her umbilical cord.  We learned right away that she would need surgery to correct the omphalocele (in her case, a small section of the small intestine was outside her abdomen and had to be placed back inside), and that she would be transported to Children’s Hospital later that night.  In addition to the abdominal issue, we were told that Bridget displayed other characteristics typical of a baby with Down syndrome.

We did not know any of this before she was born.  The anxiety and worry about Bridget’s surgery and overall health were really tough at first and we went through the range of thoughts and emotions while adjusting to--and accepting--our new reality.  As soon as we got to spend time with Bridget, though, the clouds parted.  Chris and I looked at each other and smiled.  She’s one of us…and she’s a perfect addition to our family.  

Please don’t be sad for us.  We are not sad or disappointed.   We hope you will feel the same as we do--we’re happy and proud! 

Bridget is a sweet baby and her name suits her perfectly.   She's filled with quiet determination.  She is so pure, and so strong (body and spirit)--she is amazing.

Bridget recovered quickly from her surgery and spent several weeks working on feeding (a common issue in preemies and babies with Down syndrome).  She exceeded the doctor’s expectations at every turn and touched us all with her sweet disposition and her vigor at the same time.  She came home after one month in the hospital to much fanfare and we are enjoying her immensely.   She is doing everything babies do at this point (mainly eating, sleeping and pooping--sometimes all at once!).  She's about 6 1/2 pounds now, and eats like a champion.  She loves her siblings and seems so happy to be at home.  

We look forward to sharing Bridget with all of you as she grows.

Love,

 

Lisa & Chris

 

 

I wrote letters to each of my children when I brought them home from the hospital.  Since it says so much about getting to know her and our first few weeks together, I'm sharing my letter to Bridget:


Dear Bridget,

You are one month old today, and we are preparing to leave Children’s Hospital tomorrow.  We are all so excited!

You arrived early and needed surgery, so we have not been able to bring you home yet.  We have everything ready, though, and will be so happy when our family is finally all together.  You were part of the group long before you were born—and it’s been hard not having you at home…you belong with us.

You amaze me.  For such a tiny thing, you have already shown us so much about who you are.  Your strong will and determination, strength of spirit and sweet disposition have touched us all.

You've made it through a lot already and have shown that you will meet a challenge head-on and give everything you have to achieve a goal.  You give--effort and love--freely.

You and mommy have been quite a team these past few weeks at the hospital.  Someday, I'll tell you all about how hard we worked together on getting you to eat by mouth. 

You are leading the charge.  I am just translating, and believing in you.  Together, we are already beating the odds.

I can't begin to describe how much you mean to me.  I can tell you that I could not love you more than I do--and that I could not be more certain that you were meant especially for our family.  I feel so lucky to be part of your life.

Sweet, sweet girl, you make me smile.  I promise to always take care of you, love you and enjoy you.  I'll match your strength and determination and will love learning and growing right along with you. 

I can't wait to learn all about you.  I wonder what will interest you, what you'll find funny, and what will make you happy.  I look forward to all the beautiful surprises that lie ahead. 

I'll love you forever and ever,

Mommy

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