By eleven or so, we were in our hospital room waiting to be reunited with Gus. He was in the nursery undergoing what I assumed to be regular tests. After a little while, I went to check on our little guy. The pediatrician told me that Gus’ body temperature wasn’t quite stable enough yet for him to come down but it shouldn’t be too much longer. I updated Shell and we continued calling and texting our good news to loved ones.
Around one, I was in the middle of writing the last blog when the pediatrician came into our room. I knew immediately that something was wrong by the look in her face. She closed the door. Then she hit us with a sledgehammer. Gus had several characteristics of a baby with Down’s syndrome. They would not know for sure until completion of a certain blood test but they were pretty sure.
I wanted to vomit but I comforted my wife instead. She was angry, hurt, and scared because the doctor was telling us that our beautiful son whom she carried in her belly for nine months and held in her arms for the first time only hours ago was not the baby we thought we were having. Shell engaged the pediatrician challenging her to defend her position. I sat by numbly holding Shell’s hand. Moments passed by in a blur as they spoke. Finally, Shell and I were left alone with our son to think and talk.
When I saw Gus shortly after he was born, I noticed that he had a lot of skin going all the way around his neck – almost like a huge double chin turtleneck. I presumed there was simply a lot of fetal fluid or something. He was only minutes old and still transitioning from the womb to the world. I didn’t say anything so as not to alarm Shell unnecessarily. The doctors didn’t say anything so I had no reason to worry.
When I saw Gus in the nursery for the first time, his neck was still unusual to me. Even though the temperature thing seemed reasonable, I thought they were spending a lot of time with Gus. Then I remembered that I was sleeping before they brought Greta to us for the first time so I tried not to overreact. No need to panic.
When the pediatrician came in to see us, I said inside my head “Don’t say Down’s - don’t say Down’s” over and over until she actually said it. Holy shit, I knew it.
Only two minutes after the pediatrician left us alone, Shell and I were sitting together still dumbfounded when all of a sudden we realize that Gus is turning blue. I ran for a nurse, they grabbed him and started running down the hall, I looked at Shell to see what she wanted me to do. “Go with them!” she yelled bawling. I ran behind the nurses to the nursery. I feared that our son was about to die in front of my eyes. This isn’t possibly happening right now. I want to wake up and start this day over again. Please save my son.
Finally, they gesture to me that he is okay and breathing. I return to Shell and we hold each other.
On July 23, 2010, everything changed for my family and nothing changed for my family. Greta is now a big sister. Our siblings have their first nephew. My parents have their first grandson. Nana has her fifth grandchild. My grandfather has his third great-grandchild! We all loved August Thomas before he even got to the party.
I don’t believe in religion. But I do believe in goodness, karma, and an energy that is greater than all of humankind. Perhaps that is what God means to you. Whatever we call this unknown force, it gave my wife and I a gift in the form of our son.
Gus is our flesh and blood. He is our gorgeous baby boy. He is a Teravainen! He happens to have Down’s syndrome. I refuse to let an extra chromosome define him as a person. And I will strive to be the best father I can possibly be, just as I have since the arrival of our first Baby T in February last year.
Our family and friends have asked what they can do to help and support us. Here is our confident answer. Celebrate Gus’ arrival with us. Congratulations are what we want to hear. High five me. Bro hug me. Drink a toast with me to Gus. Love our son dearly with us just as you love our daughter. We are not sorry that we have a path ahead of us that was different from what we originally expected. When you sign up to be a parent, you inherit all of the unexpected turns and twists that come with that child.
Gus is still in intensive care because he cannot breathe on his own yet. I understand from the doctors that his respiratory issue is unrelated to Down’s. We will know more as the week progresses. Fortunately, his heart appears to be healthy based on all tests conducted to date.
Michelle and I are going home on Tuesday to reunite with Greta and to sleep in our own beds. Gus will be staying at the hospital for the time being. We are disappointed to not be bringing him home with us right away but we know he needs to be a bit stronger before that can happen.
We appreciate all of the kind words and offers of support our loved ones have extended. We will try to be in touch as much as possible but don’t be discouraged if we are a bit slow to respond. For the time being, just say a prayer for Gus that he will be breathing without oxygen soon. That is the only wish we have at this time!