Click here to read the latest entry in this series on my brother (below is the first entry).
The Nester has put out the challenge to blog each day in October…and I have accepted; with a touch of trepidation. For the next 31 days I am going to post about someone very near and dear to my heart, my brother Brian. As you can see my brother has Down Syndrome, but, there is so much more to him than that. I can’t imagine my life without him. This month I am going to do my best to help you get to know my brother. He is someone you need to know. You will be blessed in knowing him.
I am the oldest of four children; my brother was born two and half years later (my sister was born two and a half years after my brother, followed by my youngest sister two and half years later- are you seeing a pattern here)? Today I am going to share part of my Mom’s story of birthing her son. I am indebted to her for sharing these precious details with me and for allowing me to tell this story.
The first thing you need to know is a little context. My brother was born in May of 1979, only four years after Public Law 94-142 was passed (The Education of All Handicapped Children Act), which ensured a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities (info. via Seattle Community Network). When my mom was told my brother had Down Syndrome she did not know what it was at first. My mom had such vivid memories of the “warehousing” of people with disabilities when her class visited the State Home and Training School in her high school years. It made her sad, uneasy, not sure how to relate. Also, even in 1979 one didn’t see people with disabilities out in the community like we do now. But, I get ahead of myself…let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start.
“About midnight on May 23rd contractions began which would bring to a conclusion 9 months (plus 2 weeks) of pregnancy and would herald the beginning of a whole new dimension to our lives.”
About six hours after contractions had started my parents checked into the local hospital. My mom was hooked up to a fetal monitor but the contradictions slowed to a near standstill (at home that had been 5 minutes apart and 60 seconds in length). Now they were about 10 minutes apart and weaker in intensity. Eventually, the contractions increased, ushering in painful back labor as well. My dad rushed to my mom’s side every time she began her breathing techniques (deep breaths, rhythmically propelling her closer to delivery). She stared at a tiny spot on the wall above the curtains, thinking of any hymns or verses about Jesus.
“I stayed at 5cm for what seemed like most of my life, but then about 2:15pm things began to happen…I felt an overwhelming urge to push…When we got to the delivery room, the two attending nurses asked me to slide to the table- only sheer determination allowed to do this- Mt. Everest couldn’t be that hard to climb! When the baby was out we all said- ‘It’s a boy!’ I said, ‘Praise the Lord!’ Dr. C laid him- little Brian- on my abdomen and my husband cut the cord.”
While the nurses were attending to Brian after delivery my mom saw a note being passed from one nurse to the other and held up for the doctor to read. My mom then held my brother, he was red and blue with splotches on his skin. Brian was 9 pounds 4 ounces; no wonder my mom (who is quite petite and stands at 5 feel 3 inches) had been so uncomfortable the last two weeks of her pregnancy.
On the way to my mom’s new birthing room she saw a friend of her mother’s (who had a daughter who was retarded– this was the accepted term at the time). Then, while going by the nursery, my mom saw their pastor and his wife standing with my Dad. My mom said, “Right now it seems like nothing- but it was something!” I am sure she was referring to her lengthy and difficult labor in a clever way…yet, something was about to be brought to light that would change so much of “normal” life.
As my mom got settled into her new room she felt elated and full of life.
“About 6:00 in the evening, my little baby was finally brought to me. He was still slightly bluish and blotchy but he looked beautiful to me. I remarked to the nurses that he looked so much like our little girl when she was born. I noticed the nurses didn’t respond other than looking at each other strangely.”
After visitors had left, my mom, dad and brother spent time together in the room. My dad mentioned that my mom should ask the doctor about Brian’s bluish color. Later that evening my mom walked down to the nursery to tell Brian good-night. She was surprised to see the doctor there hovering over my brother. When he was done examining him my mom asked if “our baby” was all right.
He led my mom into an unoccupied room.
He said his color was not a concern, but he was quite sure of his diagnosis.
Brian had Down Syndrome.
“I had heard of that but didn’t know what it was. Then he said “mongoloid”…then I knew what he meant- like the daughter of my mom’s friend. The doctor went on to tell me details of the condition- they are very happy people, wide ranging levels of retardation, could be reasonably self-sufficient, learn manual skills.”
He said Brian’s physical condition was good as often these babies were born premature. He might have heart or gastrointestinal problems but the doctor said they should take one step at a time and not worry about what could possibly happen.
The tears came quietly and deep emotions surfaced for my mom.
“I told the doctor that I knew this had happened for a reason and that we would learn much through this.”
My mom called my dad and he came right away. The doctor told my dad the news and my parents embraced and cried. They prayed to be strong and for guidance. My mom remembers thanking Jesus for “this high calling” they had received.
Since I was only 2 and a half when Brian was born, I don’t think I remember life before he was born. Having a brother with special needs has always been my reality. There are such rich joys (some of which I will share during this series) and some tough challenges too. But, as my Mom said, and foreshadowed, “this happened for a reason and we would learn much through this.”
Deep Breaths: Has something difficult happened to you? Something that you weren’t expecting? How has God used this in your life to….draw you closer to Him, grow you into a stronger and better person?
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (emphasis mine, NIV version).
P.S. A big thanks to Alle for designing this awesome button for this series; you saved me hours of frustration by doing this for me!