Coraline was born in the spring of 2016, but her story begins much earlier. Coraline has a typical big brother who is four years older than her. When he was two years old, I gave birth to Coraline’s older sister, Olivia. Olivia had been diagnosed with full trisomy 13 before sixteen weeks gestation. Our specialist did not give us any hope for her life. She had several complications, a couple of which resolved in the womb. However, she was born with some severe brain and heart issues, which ultimately led to her passing shortly after birth.
I remember waiting the six months that my OB recommended after a cesarean birth to think about having another child. The desire to have more children and to give our son a sibling to grow up with was still strong in my heart, along with the guilt/grief of feeling that I did not advocate for Olivia’s life like I should have. I became pregnant at the beginning of 2015, but it ended in a miscarriage before twelve weeks. A few months later we were pregnant again, and I remember praying for God to give me another chance to advocate for my child’s life — even if that meant having another child with trisomy.
Sixteen weeks into the pregnancy we did the typical blood work, and it came back as our baby having a high chance of having Down syndrome. I was disappointed in hearing the news, as I felt like I was “due” a normal, typical pregnancy and baby, but at the same time I was happy that it was a more common trisomy (21) as opposed to what we had experienced before. We saw our specialist again, whom I remember telling us during an in-depth ultrasound that our baby just had short arm and leg bones — no other markers — and he had no reason to believe that she had Downs syndrome based on the ultrasound alone. We were thrilled with her health and thought our baby might just take after one of her grandmothers, ha! At that appointment I had additional, more accurate blood work done, which a few days later confirmed a Down syndrome diagnosis.
I took the news in stride. I was happy that we would get to “keep” this baby girl. My husband, however, was heartbroken. Among his many thoughts was the idea of having a child that we would have to take care of for the rest of our lives (something he/we came to realize is not necessarily true). In those first few days after the news, God gave him a peace as he envisioned his daughter running up to him one day saying, “Daddy!” It was then that he starting seeing Coraline as his baby girl instead just of a diagnosis.
During the remainder of my pregnancy I was able to connect with several amazing support groups online, including our local Down syndrome group. As her due date approached, I was so anxious and ready to hold our little girl. We finally met Coraline face to face in April of 2016. We ended up bringing her home after she spent eleven days in the NICU due to pulmonary hypertension and needing oxygen. Coraline is now 2.5 years old, and in that short time Coraline has taught us so many things. She’s full of SO much joy and love, and it is impossible to resist that joy from spilling over into your own heart! Her older brother even seems to be more loving now.
While it may take Coraline a little longer to reach certain milestones, it makes it that much sweeter when she does get there. She’s a high five giver, music lover, and dancing queen. She understands so much more than people may give her credit. She is just like her typical peers in many ways, but her speech is not quite there; however, if you know sign language, you can understand her needs (most of the time, ha). We love watching Coraline learn new things and grow. I can’t wait to see what she wants to be when she grows up. One of the best pieces of advice I got before she was born was to treat her just like my typical child — expect greatness!