For years I’ve been surrounded by girls — my wife, my two daughters, even my dog. But then we decided to have one more baby . . . and one ultrasound later and I was having a BOY!
A boy to throw the ball with. A boy to take hunting and fishing. And a boy to escape the drama of two, small girls. A boy that would be named after me. A boy to carry on the Brooks’ name. A boy I could cheer on in baseball games, football games, soccer, etc. Maybe he’d even be the next all-star quarterback or baseball player. I had dreamed for so long about having a son. And it was coming true . . . due November 18, 2015!
But when November 18 came, that son and that dream never showed up.
As my son was being delivered I heard the “typical” baby cries after childbirth. Everything was normal. I heard the doctor comment that “he’s so little.” I didn’t care, he was definitely a BOY and I got up to verify it. After cleaning him, the nurse came to show us our little bundle of joy, and said she didn’t like his “tone” and he was “floppy.” She whisked him off to the nursery to check him out.
I was puzzled. I was able carry both of my girls out of the operating room and show them off to family. I had no clue what “tone” or “floppy” meant. But whatever, I mean I was a little concerned, as anyone would be, but nothing screamed out to me that something was wrong.
So I left the operating room and saw my mom and mother-in-law. But my mom’s face was concerned, not joyful. She immediately said, “does he have Down syndrome?” What? No. The thought had never crossed my mind. He was my little MAN! He was just going to do routine check ups at the nursery. (Unbeknownst to me, the nurse stopped to let them see him before heading to the nursery . . . and my mom saw something different with his eyes)
From that point on I was upset. My son did not have anything wrong with him. Why would she say that? I went to the doctor looking for reassurance. I stood by the window of the nursery, but could not hold back my tears. The thought of something being wrong with my son was crushing.
My dream. My boy.
I eventually headed back to the hospital room to check on my wife. I was upset but hopeful……… then there was a knock on the door.
The doctor walked in, a strange look on his face, and said “he has Down syndrome.”
I LOST IT. I was inconsolable. I was yelling and crying. I was angry. I was confused. But most of all, I was scared. My dream did not include Down syndrome. I began thinking of how much harder life was going to be — the added expense, stress and time of having a child with special needs. He was going to live with us forever. I even asked my wife if we should name him something different instead of Beau Spencer Brooks, Jr.
I was no longer having a son to throw the ball with, the son to take hunting and fishing, the son who would be the all-star quarterback… Instead I now had a child that would complicate our lives and make things difficult…..and I felt a tremendous amount of guilt for having those feelings.
The diagnosis was delivered about 10 a.m. and I cried for 10 straight hours. I did not want to see or talk to anyone. No one could comfort me. And I felt guilty — guilty I couldn’t be strong for my wife, guilty for feeling what I was feeling. It was the worst feeling ever.
a friend at the right moment
At some point during the day, I got a message from a friend who has a son with Down syndrome. He told me if I needed to get away and talk to let him know. He sent me a picture of him and his son eating dinner saying “I could not imagine my life without Bubba.”
I met him that night. He looked at me across the table and said, “you have to mourn the loss of the child you thought you were going to have. You have to mourn and grieve that your son will not be the all-star quarterback of the football team. It’s ok to feel guilty. You have to get through those emotions, before you can truly appreciate the gift you’ve been given.”
I realized, in that moment, that I had to grieve before I could love again.
I got back to the hospital around 9:30 p.m. with a different mindset. I was finally able to accept the fact that my son had Down syndrome. I was finally able to touch him and hold him. I was finally able to realize that everything was going to be ok. He was still my son. And I loved him.
Sure there were times when things were tough and overwhelming, and I know that there will be tough times ahead. But I accept the challenge. That “gift” my friend talked about the day my son was born . . . is real. Spencer has brought nothing but joy to our lives. He has brought our family closer. He has made me more compassionate, more understanding, more patient. He made me realize what is really important in life. He inspires me to do great things. He turns my bad days into good days. He gave me a life I never imagined. He has shown me love that I never knew existed. He inspired me to start Upside Downs. I thank God every day for giving me the gift of Spencer and introducing me to the world of Down syndrome.
for my son
So I say to you son, whom I did not touch or hold for the first 12 hours of your life, I am so truly sorry. I’m sorry I let you down. I am sorry that I missed those precious hours with you. I am sorry I did not give you the love and affection that you so needed and deserved. Please forgive me. I never imagined I could feel love like I feel for you.
I promise you that there will be no other person in this world who will fight harder for you than I will. I will be by your side every step of the way. I will never give up. I will not limit you. You will go hunting and fishing with me. You will throw the ball with me. You will play sports. You will accomplish anything that you want. You will be Spencer, not a diagnosis; and you will continue to teach us all that anything is possible with Down syndrome. I LOVE YOU!