One Year


"You should wake up," my mother informed me.  I don't know how deeply I had been asleep as I hadn't had a decent sleep in over a week.  Every night our sleep was repeatedly interrupted as nurses checked numbers and therapists suctioned Clara's nasal passages and throat every two to three hours.  Most nights Clara lived in fear of the next person who would enter our room to declare war on her nose.  I remember wishing desperately that I could help her understand they were trying to help her as she cried and fought with her entire body.  Sometimes I had to be the person to hold her down.  I wanted to scream at them to stop, but logic told me to allow them get her better.

That evening Mom had offered to sleep in the chair next to Clara's bed so I could get a more peaceful sleep.  That was the idea, but it didn't pan out so well. I sluggishly lifted myself from the comfort of the couch on the other side of the room as my eyes adjusted to the low light and blurry figures. I wasn't wearing my contacts.

It was 4 am and the room was filled with medical staff: doctors, resident doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists.  I remained calm as they worked and watched over Clara, discussing options and ideas.  I knew she was struggling with her oxygen levels.

The room was mostly silent as everyone watched the oxygen monitor.  The number dropped dramatically each time she fell into a deep slumber.  The main doctor, who had settled into one of our chairs as he studied the situation, asked me if I was seeing something maybe they had overlooked.  He was desperate for clues that would lead to an answer.  Why was she getting worse?  I was overcome with a feeling of dread.
A panic was building up inside of me.  Was I going to lose my baby?  Were these doctors giving up?

It was about two hours later, after Clara had been transferred to the PICU that I finally let it out as I looked at my surroundings and realized my family was being torn apart.  Lxkas couldn't stay with us in PICU.  I had to stay with Clara and I was afraid I was losing her.  After a short but needed cry I got a hold of myself and we trudged on--for two more weeks.

We had only been a little over a week in to what would become a three and a half week stay.   I was afraid we were going to celebrate her first birthday there, but 5 days prior she had finally been off oxygen for over 24 hours and she got to come home.  Never have I felt a greater relief than the day we walked out the front doors of that hospital with Clara in my arms.

This journey with her lungs isn't over.  We have follow up tests with the pulmonary specialist.  Unanswered questions linger.

I find myself wondering about her oxygen levels when she breaths loud.  I find myself living in fear that she may go back.  These days we live with a lot of demons, but we also live with gratitude because everyone is back home.  We are together.

I knew before she was born she would keep me on my toes.  I even wrote it here.
Happy 1st birthday, Clara.  We'll keep fighting and we'll keep winning.



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January Blog Hop


Down syndrome Blogs


Since I haven't participated in a blog hop in a while, and being that I am tied down to the hospital and I have some time on my hands, it seemed a good time to jump back in.  This month Meriah is requesting a truth, a tip and a photo.

I have a truth to share that no parent of a child with Down syndrome wants to come face to face with.  It is true that our children are more susceptible to severe respiratory infections, including pneumonia.  I am witness to this fact because we have been battling pneumonia, RSV and mycoplasma for over two weeks in the Children's Hospital.  Because I'm not a clinician I probably shouldn't even attempt to explain in laymen's terms why this is, but, remembering every child is different, even our children with Ds, it could have to do with the anatomical structure of the trachea and esophagus. or it could stem from a suppressed immune system that can be the result of a variety of factors.  If you understand medical terminology you can read more here:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074212/

So, my tip is related to this truth.  If you find your little one in the hospital with a severe respiratory infection my best advice to you is to be patient.  You will probably be there a while.  While children without disabilities may be looking at a quick in and out when they find themselves in a similar condition, a child with Down syndrome is going to heal slowly, and some days it may not look like you've made any progress.  It can be frustrating.  Find people you trust to watch your child during the day if you work, and to give you breaks during the evening so you can run home and take care of other responsibilities.  But just take it a day at a time.  Pushing doctors for answers isn't going to make anything happen any quicker.  Patience.

The last 2+ weeks have been good practice in patience for me.  So, here we are.  Still.  But, having just come out of PICU, she is definitely better.



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Yes, we are.


"You're still here?"
I can't count the times I've heard that question this week.  
It was a week ago Friday when I decided that Clara might need a little help in her journey to feeling well.  I had picked her up from daycare and the workers there had reported to me that she had been lethargic most of the day and wasn't taking her bottles.  
At the urgent care they saw us right away.  Everything happened so quickly, and before I knew it we were riding by ambulance across the street to the hospital.  "She just needs a little help," I thought.  "This will be one night."
Here we are, our 9th night here.  Because she is connected to oxygen she doesn't look as sick as she is.  She doesn't look like she has pneumonia.  She doesn't look like a child who's health would rapidly decline if she was taken home this very moment.  But she is sick with pneumonia and it would be dangerous for us to leave.
She plays, she eats, she takes her bottles--but she only does these things because of the extra oxygen being provided by tubing connected to her sweet little nose.  The amount of oxygen she needs varies drastically from day to day.
The doctors are baffled.  The nurses wonder why this child is still here, and they are the ones that know us and see us after their days off and ask, "You're still here?"  I jokingly reply that we sold the house because we live here now.
I don't remember what it feels like to have a home; to be able to wander from room to room; to have privacy.  
I hold tears back.  I am overwhelmed with worry.  I pray.  
She has to get better.

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That's me in the corner


Parenting, especially single parenting, will always bring challenges.  Just today I needed to take a bathroom break but Clara wouldn't let me put her down without wailing, snotting and releasing the flood gates.  As Lxkas did when he was smaller, she joined me during this most private of private times.

But at the same time I learn a lot through parenting.  It brings me tons of happiness and I've strengthened my ability to be patient.  If you are an inpatient person, spend an hour with a two-year-old.

But most recently, through my children I am finding my way back to God.  That might seem like an odd statement, but let me explain.

Had I not had Clara come into my world, I would still be working a job I had disliked for many years but that brought me lots of financial stability.  Upon learning about Clara's extra chromosome I made a tough and risky decision to leave that position, knowing I would never go back.

Because of recent events I discovered a new career in social work, and it was at that job recently I was talking with a co-worker about church.  I can't remember what led us to this conversation, but I made the careless statement that I couldn't afford to attend church, a reference to the expected tithing and pretentious members.

She quickly set out to set me straight.  She began by explaining that I would be welcomed with love into her church because of my situation (I'm basically poor); that I was one of the fortunate ones who would automatically be welcomed into His kingdom.  Over the course of several minutes I listened to her intently.  I was seated and she was standing in my cubicle staring over me as she spoke.  In her pink shirt contrasting with her dark skin she had become soft and angelic.  I had never noticed before, but she was, at that moment, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  She spoke about her relationship with God, and how she set aside extra minutes every morning to spend time with him.  She had no money, but somehow after bringing God into her life she had never done without.

Her witness to me was unexpectedly chilling and haunted me the following days.  It was the following week, at the local Down Syndrome Association Christmas party that I found myself witnessing another witness.

I arrived late and nearly all the tables were full.  I found a spot for Lxkas and I with another family that I had met at prior meetings.  It was a bit chaotic as it was just attempting to wrangle two babes.  One of the catering associates, a server, I think, walked up to our table and asked if she could hold Clara.  I allowed it because it helped with the moment.

She was young, maybe a mere 20 years old.  She was thinking about going to college.  I was surprised when she began opening up to me about how this night had changed her life.  She had recently found her way back to God after battling addiction.  She had been seeking a career path and now believed working with children with disabilities was God was calling on her to do.  She looked at Clara and kept talking about how beautiful she was and she wanted to be a part of this.  I was almost in tears before Lxkas interrupted telling me he needed to go potty.  I was touched by her story but thankful to my rotten for saving me from tears.

And then it was that rotten that made it all finally sink in.  It was the weekend and I was cleaning, or doing some home chore.  I can't remember, but I was busy and I had walked into the kitchen when I heard Lxkas behind me saying, "God is great, God is good."  I turned around and looked at him.  His eyes were closed and his hands were clasped in prayer in front of his face.  "What the...?" I thought.  And then he finished, "and now we eat our food.  Amen."  I was a bit relieved to realize that this was a prayer he had learned at daycare, rather than that God had somehow possessed him, but with the two previous witnesses and now this in a matter of two weeks, it was apparent.  God was calling me back.

A couple of days ago my sister told me her New Years resolution and asked me for mine.  I never make resolutions, and I told her.  But then I realized that actually I did have one.  I said, "Wait.  Actually, I do have one.  This year I'm bringing God back into my life."

I don't know what my future relationship with Him looks like, exactly, but I know what I don't want it to look like.  I don't want to be one of those who is looking to condemn everyone who isn't worshiping Him the way I think they should worship Him.  I don't want to tell people what they need to do to go to heaven.  I don't want to be part of an exclusive "We're going to heaven and you're not" club.  I believe in the love that Jesus taught.  In the end, only God can decide who is good enough.

And wow.  I sound like I believe.  I think I'm preparing to believe?  I've been agnostic for at least 6 years.  I want to believe.  I need God in my life, because without Him I am alone.

I've been investigating churches online.  I think I found an inclusive one but it's 8 miles away from me.  But 8 miles is not that far to find fulfillment with people who might be similar in their beliefs as me.  

I wanted to make today my first Sunday, but snow, ice and unbearably cold temperatures had me deciding last minute this morning to stay in.  I will visit next Sunday.  This is a year for positive change.

Oh, and the investigator sent me an email on Friday.  The DA's office now has our case.  We should know soon whether or not they are going to prosecute.

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Counseling and a Letter


Tonight my counselor suggested that I seemed to be doing great.  I had just finished telling her how busy I've been, that I love my temp job but now have permanent employment (starting the 16th) and that we'd had a wonderful Christmas.  She basically asked if I was ready to end our sessions.  I think she saw my immediate panic!

While I may appear to be doing great, and I probably actually am compared to most in similar situations, just talking with her helps me to sort and organize my thoughts.  Through the chaos of my every day I don't really take time to do that, and when I talk things out to her I realize why certain things are, how certain things came to be, and steps I still need to take.

Perhaps I'm not using our sessions for what traditional counseling is intended to be used for, but she isn't going to get rid of me that easily.

And by talking to her tonight, and verbally organizing my thoughts, I realized the importance of writing an email to the D.A., something that I keep pushing to the back burner.  But this email is important because this man basically influences our future.

I put aside an hour tonight (at the dismay of my favorite 2-year-old) and carefully advocated for my children.  Here it is:


Dear Mr. XXXXXX,

I am writing you regarding a matter important to my family, and from what I've read on your website biography is important to you as well being that it regards the protection of children.  

I believe Detective XXXXXXXXX will be turning in a packet to you if she has not done so already.  That packet contains information regarding a crime against my 16-year-old daughter, Sxylar (case 2013-xxxxxx).  Last September  I caught her stepdad, Cxdy XXXXXXXX, recording video onto his phone of her from under the bathroom door while she was getting in the shower.  I'll forgo the details since you will find those in Detective XXXXXXXXX'X report.

I'm certain you receive reports similar to this every day and I'm sure there are many that are much worse.  But, what makes this story different is that in counseling he admitted what he did.  There is a confession.  There are a couple of reasons he confessed, but I can guarantee none of them involve being a man of good moral character.

Of course I want him prosecuted so that Sxylar sees there is justice for the violation against her, but there is also a need for him to be prosecuted because we share two young children of which the youngest, XXXXX, has Down syndrome.  While Sxylar has every right to never see Cxdy again, his children will always have him in their lives.  

As the District Attorney I'm sure you've seen the statistics of sexual abuse against females with disabilities.  I just read that the incident rate is reported to be as high as 150% of that of females without disabilities and it is estimated that only 20% of those incidents are ever reported. 

Right now a protective order is in place while the investigation is ongoing.  Once that protective order is gone, and if there is no prosecution, I fear for XXXXX's future.  He was willing to violate his stepdaughter because he calculated an opportunity to do so and I can't take it for granted that he would have any more respect for his own daughter.  

I believe God intervened the night I caught Cxdy, as he was very sneaky, never guessing that I would unsuspectingly come down the hallway in the dark and without shoes to make a sound. The odds were against me ever finding out. It would be naive to believe this was the very first incident or that he has the self control to stop on his own.  

If he is prosecuted it gives us the tools to make sure he never has unsupervised visitation with XXXXX, and it protects future victims if he is a registered sex offender. 

Please remember my daughters Sxylar and XXXXX, and even my young son XXXXX when this case comes to your desk.  What would you want for your daughters or granddaughters?  

Thank you for taking the time to read my plea and I will keep you in my prayers.

Sincerely,

XXXXXX X XXXX



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17


I'm sitting on the side of my bed debating my next move on Words with Friends when my bedroom door gently opens and my freshly-turned (as in today) 17-year-old daughter bounces over to me with a small box in her hands.

"Look what I bought today with the money I got from Nana and Grandpa."  She opens the gold ornate box to reveal a palette of shimmering bronze, gold and brown eye colors.

"Wow," I answer.  "Those are really pretty."  As I say those words I am at the same time wondering how my daughter turned out so different from me.  In this very blog I could envision me writing about the problems with women feeling they need to hide their faces in color.  I would write about how cosmetic companies market to women to make them feel inferior--that the features they are born with will never be good enough.  But at the same time  I am torn, because for Sxylar the freedom to play with these colors is a form of expression.  For her it is an art.  She doesn't see the act of wearing makeup as limiting.  She sees it as limitless.

She and I are so different.  And I realize this is okay.  And I also realize I am not always right.

I remember an entry I wrote back in March.  In regard to Clara having Down syndrome I mentioned that none of our children turn out the way we expect them to.  They don't.  Let them be who they are and they turn out better.

I look at this young woman sitting beside me and I smile because I raised her.  And she is beautiful.  Happy birthday, my baby girl.  I'm so proud of you.  Thanks for helping me see the world through your eyes.


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Dear Perp:


Your bad decision changed all of our lives, but I'm sure it wasn't the first bad decision you've made.  I couldn't have been so lucky to catch you on your first offense.  I'm not naive enough to believe it.  I am lucky that I caught you at all.  I am beyond thankful that I caught you.  Otherwise, I would still be with you and you would still be violating us.

I saw the anguish on your face that day in court.  I know you are in pain.  I know you regret that you got caught.  I know that is all you regret.  Because now you have to find someone else to violate and you were so comfortable here violating my baby girl and God knows who else.

I don't want to write you to berate you.  You will get plenty of that for the rest of your life or at least while you're registered as a sex offender.  I hope you have to register as a sex offender, because then at least your next potential victim will have warning that I never had.

I don't miss you.  I've moved on and I'm quite happy with life as it is.  I do, however, still live with the guilt that you were sneaky enough to win my trust and do this to us.

I never want you back.  I don't even contemplate it, and I haven't since that night.

You did not break our hearts, and you did not break us.  What you did made us stronger because now you can never hurt any of us again.  If we have to be around you, we will be watching you.

Take your pervert phone and enjoy it while you can.  I feel strongly that karma will find its way to you and justice will prevail.

I'm done.

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