Why on earth would I want a baby at my age?

Leticia Velasquez & Chrissy

I had the best job of my life working as an adjunct English Professor at the local community college. My girls, 4 and 8, were proud of their growing independence; they dressed themselves, fed themselves, bathed themselves. LIfe was easy.
We were happily homeschooling,  enjoying long walks on the beach to collect shells, and sketch the seagulls, taking spontaneous field trips to local historic sights, and generally enjoying our freedom. Yet, when I attended a conference that summer, I longingly watched a translucent-skinned newborn nuzzling her mother’s neck, and was bitten by the baby bug.
I took the pregnancy test back to the pharmacist, unwilling to trust my own experience. Six times the pink line had appeared in my life. Six pregnancies, three of which ended in miscarriage and mourning. “Yes”, he said, “you’re pregnant”.
My husband was in shock. I was in heaven.
I relished the memories which came flooding back when I pulled on my old maternity clothes. I found new ‘older mother’ pregnancy books to pore over in bed. I took out the bins of baby clothes ahead of time, arranging them lovingly in an antique dresser I repainted, and shopped my local baby shop for a new stroller.
I told everyone I knew, and rested my hands conspicuously on my rounded belly in public. I loved the fact that, this time, I was safely carrying a baby to term. But it was not to last. In my second trimester,  I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and frequent doctor visits filled my calendar. I learned to test my blood sugars and inject insulin. I watched my diet and counted the days till I gave birth and could enjoy an ice cream sundae. I didn’t worry about my baby’s health, I just made sure my body did its job to care for her.
At eight months, my biophysical profile revealed that my little Christina was in distress, so the doctor decided to induce labor.
Though disappointed that I would probably never experience a natural labor, with two inductions already,  I was excited to give birth. My dad drove me to the hospital.
Francisco joined me and was there for the c-section and the bad news. The pediatrician suspected that Christina had Down syndrome. Strangely, I was not surprised. An inner voice had spoken to me halfway through my pregnancy. I was in church, when I heard the words,  “you’re having a baby with Down syndrome. I want you to accept her as a gift from my hand.” I said “yes” then I cried and denied, and tried to forget my spiritual insight. But the divine voice had been prophetic.
Our entire world had been turned on its head. I knew mothers of special needs children, they were patient, I was Italian.
They liked to join support groups, I already had friends, thank you. They went to meetings. I hated meetings.
I spent two months  nursing my quiet new baby, then gave a Baptism party for 100 people. My friends cooked the meal, I simply served it. I don’t remember if the house was clean, there were so many guests crammed into it, I couldn’t tell.  We were surrounded by love and support. Christina slept like a tiny angel in her handmade white gown.
Soon, Early Intervention came into my life and brought new friends. Lovely professional women to help my frail but determined little baby, only 5 pounds at birth, learn to roll over, to sit up, and climb the stairs. Today, my older daughters remain inspired by them and have decided to work in health care.
I began to attend support group meetings. I grew in patience as each milestone took more time and effort for my little one. I began to find joy in events which we barely noticed with Gabbi or Bella, like the first time Christina managed to pick up a Cheerio in a pincer grasp. I left my job at the college, and we moved to a state with inclusive education so Christina could begin Kindergarten.
In 2006 I quietly began to blog over frustration with the outdated negative stereotypes of Down syndrome on the web. I wanted to give hope to mothers overwhelmed with the diagnosis which frightens so many. I interviewed scientists and learned about advances in cognitive research and the bright future ahead for those with Trisomy 21. Posts became articles, and I found myself doing exactly the work I dreamed of in high school; freelance writing. I knew back then, that I had some work to do before becoming a writer. Writers need maturity, and a story to tell. Now I had Christina’s story.
My writing has led to advocacy. Advocacy has led me to Hollywood, New York, and Washington. This winter, I will publish a book with 30 stories like ours of crisis turned blessing. Telling Christina’s story in print, on radio, podcasts, and television has surpassed any heady dreams I had in  adolescence.
Thanks to having a special needs daughter in mid-life, I have completely thwarted my mid-life crisis.
Leticia Velasquez
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