Like any expectant parent, the pending arrival of our soon to be determined second child and first son was a time of great excitement!
Our philosophy for both pregnancies has been the same, "how many surprises in life do you get now days?!" So as such we opted not to find out the sex of either pregnancy. We embraced pregnancy as a time to dream what a little brother or sister would be like for Emmy, along with many other things like "I wonder what he'll look like if he's a boy?".
Little did we know that both questions would be answered in such haste late January 2017. Just thirty minutes after arriving at the hospital my wife brought our beautiful baby boy Leo Patrick into the world, delivered with such speed and gusto that our obstetrician had barely had time to arrive at the hospital, let alone scrub in before he was delivered.
After the initial excitement and punching the air (figuratively speaking) of course, the midwives placed Leo on my wife's chest for roughly ten minutes and then told us that his oxygen levels were a little low so they were just going to take him into the nursing unit to monitor him and place him on some oxygen. 'No problems' we thought, 'it's better to be safe than sorry but he has ten fingers and ten toes so all is well' were our initial thoughts.
This time gave my wife time to recover, my sister in law (who was supposed to be the birthing partner) a chance to calm my wife who was going into shock due to the speed of the labour, and me a chance to make some obligatory phone calls to family and close friends confirming the news that we had had a son.
The next few hours were a little bit of a blur to be honest, by the time you speak to everyone, get messages, talk to the midwives, reminisce about the labour, make sure your wife is okay and have a quiet moment to reflect on what the next few weeks with a second child is going to be like you just lose track of time...
So at 10:50pm when our paediatrician walked in my initial thoughts were "wow he's doing some late hours today", unbeknown as to the gravity of the information that he was about to deliver to us.
After some initial small talk about our daughter Emmy, 'Dr Feelgood' as we affectionately refer to him transitioned from normal pitched voice to quiet voice, NEVER a good sign!
He began running us through some initial concerns around Leo's oxygenated blood levels. No problems were our initial responses, but when he delivered the news that these are typically issues that can point to cardiac issues, namely a hole in his heart, we immediately began to realise that this was more than random luck that 'Dr Feelgood' was in the hospital at 10:50pm on a Monday night.
As if receiving the news that your newborn has a potential heart issue wasn't a big enough shock, he also outlined to us that Leo has numerous features that are commonly associated with Down syndrome. Insert heart in mouth feel here!
What?! How?! Why wasn't this picked up?! These were the first thoughts and questions that left our mouths! The utter shock of the news that our paediatrician had just delivered to us left us in such utter shock that we simply had no other way to express ourselves.
After running through some of the very technical details of Down syndrome (looking back we're so thankful that Dr Feelgood is an over-communicator), he offered to take us into the Special Care Unit where Leo was being monitored for his oxygen levels so we could be shown some of the typical features he was referring to.
Still in shock at this point, and I guess looking for what in hindsight were very naive reasons to think that he was wrong, we had all but had these doubts removed within five minutes of seeing our little man. The typical features that include the upturned almond shaped eyes, shortness in the neck, singular crease across the palms, larger nose bridge (the list goes on) were all present, and whilst many of these characteristics are present in our siblings, any doubt in our minds that out little man was born with Down syndrome were quickly removed.
My wife and I returned to our room at what we're guessing was around midnight in what now resembles something of a haze and what would be classified as shock, but the overlying concern was Leo's heart! Naomi being born with a hole in her heart provided us both with some respite from the "what could be?".
My wife was provided a sedative, I passed out through exhaustion and shock, we woke at 3:30am and begun talking...and didn't stop. To this day, we both believe that this is one of the main factors that have allowed us to cope with the reality of the situation.
So what was next? Where did we start? Who do we speak to? How do we tell our family & friends? What and when do we tell our family and friends?
All questions that go through your mind, all the while coping with a heart issue that hadn't been diagnosed yet. So what did we do? We focused on the main issue, his heart! Get that right and the rest will fall into place we thought, who knew, at the time, just how right we'd be.