When a couple discovered they were pregnant with their second child, they were thrilled to embrace parenthood and expand their family. But after a round of ultrasounds and other tests, the expectant mom received news that changed her perspective on motherhood.
Parenthood is an extraordinary journey, where every moment is filled with brand new surprises and unexpected twists and turns. Becoming moms and dads to little angels is an indescribable feeling, and only those who experience it can fully understand what it's about.
Children complete families and bring endless joy, love, and contentment to their parents' lives. They are the missing pieces to a family's puzzle; the hope and happiness for all those who wish to view life in its entirety. Today's story centers around a similar theme.
A LOVELY COUPLE
Michelle Scheyen-Howatt had always pictured a happy life with a loving husband and adorable kids. But when nothing worked out according to her plans by the time she turned 30, she said she decided to embrace her independence and moved across the country on a whim.
Soon afterward, things took a pleasant turn, and she met the man of her dreams. The pair built their dream home in the country and tied the knot in their backyard. Nine months later, they welcomed their first child, a daughter named Chloë. Life was beautiful for the couple, and they fully embraced parenthood.
A few years later, they decided to have a second baby to complete their lovely family. When Howatt was 12 weeks pregnant, she and her husband traveled to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, three hours from their house on Prince Edward Island, Canada.
SOMETHING WASN'T RIGHT
During the ultrasound, Howatt said the nurse and doctor performing the ultrasound became quiet, but she wasn't immediately concerned. While the couple waited in the consultation room, Howatt recalled telling her husband:
"I think something is wrong with the baby."
The doctors told the parents-to-be that their baby had an above-average nuchal translucency, a measurement of fluid at the back of the neck. The couple was given the option to go for a definite diagnosis, but as it involved a slight risk of miscarriage, Howatt said she didn't want to go through with it without more information.
RECEIVING THE TEST RESULTS
After that, Howatt said she and her husband had a non-invasive blood test, and per the results, her baby showed increased risks of three different chromosomal defects, including Down syndrome. Howatt found out about the results while at work. She recounted:
"After I hung up, I was in shock. I stared at my computer screen for about 30 minutes before I decided I needed to leave."
Before leaving, the woman said she informed her supervisor, the only person at work who knew about her pregnancy. She told him she had received her test results about the baby, and they didn't seem good.
THE HEARTBROKEN WOMAN
But deep down, Howatt was falling apart. "I was heartbroken. I called my husband and told him to come home, then I cried for 3 hours straight until my eyes were so swollen they hurt," she added.
It was then that Howatt's whole perspective on motherhood changed.
After much thought, the couple went to Halifax, where a fetal assessment doctor suggested they do a super in-depth anatomy ultrasound. Per Howatt, the ultrasound was perfect, but she was sent for a fetal echo to check for heart defects.
When the fetal echo results arrived, they showed the baby's heart wasn't functioning properly. The cardiologist told the couple their baby had multiple complex congenital heart defects. He also said that despite the severe defects, they were treatable.
WELCOMING THEIR BUNDLE OF JOY
After the appointment, Howatt said she and her husband felt "ridiculously optimistic" and knew in their hearts that their baby would have a happy, normal life. Six weeks later, at 28 weeks pregnant, the couple returned to Halifax for a check-up. It was then that they learned that their baby had stopped growing.
Howatt was admitted to the hospital on modified bed rest and could only walk to the bathroom. She recalled feeling sad about missing her daughter's second birthday because she couldn't leave the hospital until her baby was delivered.
Her husband left their daughter with his parents five days after she was admitted and stayed with her until the baby was born. Howatt gave birth to a baby boy. He weighed 1lb, 13oz, and was 13.5 inches long. The mother remembered:
"They wheeled him over to me to see before they took him to the NICU, and all I remember was saying, ‘Oh, he's so cute,' and then he was gone."
NAMING THEIR SON
While Howatt was wheeled to her new room in the Family ward, she went past rooms full of happy couples celebrating the arrival of their babies. She saw balloons and flowers everywhere and families cuddling their newborns. She recollected:
"There would be no celebration for the birth of our son, there would be concern, prayers, and an incubator between us. It felt so unfair, and I cursed my body for failing to keep him safe."
The mother said she felt deeply for her baby with a defective heart, who also had to battle a premature birth. Later, Howatt's husband took her to see their son. "We decided to name him Mason, someone who works with stone, because he was going to move mountains," added Howatt.
THE CONCERNED MOTHER
For quite some time, Mason's parents visited him in the NICU. On one such occasion, a neonatologist told them their son had Down syndrome per the genetic quick scan results. Howatt said she was in denial and felt shocked and heartbroken as she walked to her room.
Once inside, the mom-of-two cried her heart out, fearful for her sweet boy's life and future. "I cried because I felt sorry our daughter would have a brother with special needs, instead of a partner-in-crime and confidant," said Howatt. She continued:
"I cried for the life I thought we would have when we got married, and I cried for the child I had dreamed of having. And most of all I cried because I was his mother, and I was supposed to love him unconditionally, and I was already failing by wishing he were someone other than who he was."
"IT IS WHAT IT IS"
Howatt said her husband let her cry, gave her a tissue, and asked her why she was crying. Then he said, "If we had known before if we had done the amnio, would it have changed your decision to continue the pregnancy?"
The Canadian woman noted that her entire body recoiled at the thought of never knowing her Mason, her mover-of-mountains. Her husband looked at her and continued, "Well then. It is what it is, and we'll handle it as it comes." At that moment, Howatt said she felt proud of marrying her husband.
It was then that Howatt's whole perspective on motherhood changed. After 167 days of intensive care, Mason was given the green light to go home and join his family. He had two heart surgeries when he was nine and ten months old.
PARTNERS IN CRIME
Mason continued to thrive in the loving presence of his parents and older sister. He saw a speech-language pathologist, a physiotherapist, and an occupational therapist and had regular appointments with a pediatrician. He also received hearing aids to help with speech development. About Mason, Howatt said:
"Mason is a ray of light in our family. He is an instant mood brightener. He is so easy-going and lovable. He loves music, trucks, dinosaurs, and Frozen (thanks to his big sister). Chloë and Mason are absolutely partners-in-crime — Chloë is Mason’s best teacher, cheerleader, and friend, all rolled together."
Howatt doted on the beautiful connection her kids shared and said she had no doubts it would get stronger with time. The proud mom said her son taught her how to value the important things and helped her realize the meaning of an extraordinary life.
BECOMING A CONVERT
Moreover, Howatt noted that her son enabled her to understand and appreciate the hard-won battles and how to love unconditionally. The mom-of-two also expressed:
"So yes, I’ve officially become a convert: Down syndrome IS the best thing to ever happen to our family. Because Mason has Down syndrome, and I would not change one single tiny thing about him, especially not one tiny extra chromosome."
Mason celebrated his fifth birthday on April 24, 2022, surrounded by his loving parents and lovely big sister. We hope this beautiful family continues celebrating many more worthwhile moments with their adorable kids.
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