On Monday, June 13, 2015, I was entering my 15th week of pregnancy. I felt wonderful and excited just thinking of our baby growing in my womb. The week prior, my mother and I started to take short walks around the neighborhood before work in the morning. It helped to soothe my morning sickness—which lasted most of the day, ironically and was something we both looked forward to. On this particular Monday morning, I left my phone at home, which I never do, figuring that since my mom had her phone and my husband was home that day, I wouldn’t need mine.
When we got home, I checked my phone and saw that I had a missed call and voicemail from my OB/GYN’s office. Three weeks earlier, I took a prenatal screening test that checks for chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. As I hit “play” on the voicemail, I was reminded that my doctor said she would only call if there were any problems. While I tried to remain calm, I became slightly alarmed when it was my actual doctor who had left the brief message asking me to call her back as soon as possible. Still with my spirits high from our morning walk, I calmed my nerves and called the doctor back. My doctor came to the phone right away, on my first call- which is highly unusual, given she usually very busy.
My doctor told me that our results from the prenatal test were in and that it showed an increased risk of Trisomy 21, associated with Down Syndrome. At first, I was in denial. I grabbed my water bottle- taking a sip and just said “Okay,”, as if she hadn’t just told me this life altering news. My doctor repeated herself again, possibly thinking that I hadn’t understood her correctly and told me that the risk of our baby having Trisomy 21 Down Syndrome was 9 in 10. Coming out of my denial and straight into shock, I sat down and my heart started to pound faster than it ever had. Once she asked me if I was alone, I started to sob uncontrollably.
The prenatal screening test that we took was part of a study at Women and Infants Hospital. We decided to be a part of the test since it would tell us the gender of the baby earlier than usual and it was free. The test is a cell-free fetal DNA (ccffDNA), Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), which works “by analyzing the DNA fragments present in the maternal plasma during pregnancy. Cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) comes from the placenta.” When a mother becomes pregnant, the cells from the baby and placenta start to “mix in” or “float” around in the mother’s blood stream.
After reassuring my doctor that my husband and mother were both with me, I sat down and began to explain to my husband and mother what the doctor had told me. We sat on the couch and discussed and cried, in between speaking with the staff at my OB/GYN’s office, who were setting up an appointment for me with a genetic counselor for that day.
That day went by so slow. It was as if I was in slow motion. It seemed like days before our appointment with the genetic counselor that afternoon. I held out hope that the counselor would somehow give us different news than what we were told earlier. After sitting down with the genetic counselor, she told us that we had “options.” Knowing she meant an abortion and where I am usually quiet, respectful and reserved, I all but yelled at the poor woman and said “NO! The only option ever is to have this baby.” We declined an amniocentesis test, as it has a miscarriage risk and agreed to and scheduled a Level II ultrasound at 20 weeks, which is a noninvasive test that checks for “soft-markers” for Down Syndrome in the baby. The genetic counselor gave us information on Down Syndrome and other educational packets for us to review.
I felt hopeless, afraid and distraught that my baby might have serious medical challenges ahead and guilty for not “terminating” the pregnancy if the baby did have serious health problems. "People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions." (ndss.org)
Gripping my husband’s hand as tight as if I were falling out of the sixth floor window that I was sitting next to, I turned to my mother, who came with us to the meeting and asked her, “Mom, what do we do?” She said in between tears “Pray, we just start praying.”
And pray we did. We spent the rest of the day praying and begging God to give our baby a miracle. While we are not deserving, this beautiful baby that was snuggling in my womb, unaware of what we were experiencing, deserved a miracle.
The genetic counselor assured us that she would be offering her prayers for our baby, too. We left the office and decided to shop for some baby clothes. We did this because we wanted to celebrate the fact that no matter what, we’d be holding our bundle of joy in our arms in a little over five short months. The test also told us the gender of the baby. We’d be holding our baby BOY in our arms, our Joseph, named after my husband’s grandfather and St. Joseph, protector of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
That Monday, July 13, 2015, brought a roller coaster of emotions. Excitement and joy at the thought that we were having a boy and fear and sadness that he may have to face some serious health problems. I alternated between crying and praying for most of the day, mostly crying while praying. That night, I basically passed out in bed while talking with my husband.
Shortly after, my husband, mother and I began to pray the Rosary each day together. We also sent our prayer request to any and all channels that would accept them. I began wearing the Miraculous Medal every day. We asked as many saints as possible for their intercession and I begged God to give my son this great miracle. I remember feeling the strong need to fall to my knees and pray for the majority of my pregnancy. In fact, I still feel that need to this day.
Today, I felt the same urge. But today, as I fell to my knees and prayed in front of my most treasured item—the Blessed Virgin Mary holding Jesus in the portrait titled “Madonna of the Streets”, which belonged to my Nonna—I prayed and thanked God, Jesus and our Blessed Virgin Mary for our beautiful, rambunctious toddler who was napping in his room, recharging for more play and fun when he wakes from his nap. This beautiful boy was born without Down Syndrome.
The miracle is not that our son does not have Down Syndrome, it is that he is alive and healthy.
Today also marks the start of my Consecration to Jesus through Mary, according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort. The Consecration takes 33 days. When I first decided to make the Consecration, I only thought about the date of my actual Consecration, August 15, which is The Feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A few days ago, I realized that the start date was July 13, which until now was stained as a date of sadness and fear. Now, it will be forever remembered as a day of faith, hope and love.
Totus Tuus "I am all yours, and all that is mine is yours, O Virgin, blessed above all."
As always, thank you for taking the time to read about our story and the miracle our baby received.
God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!