A Surprise Blessing

March 2024

by Andrea Rasmussen

The phone call from my doctor is forever etched in my memory, “We noticed on your 13-week ultrasound that your baby is missing its nasal bone… this is a marker for Down syndrome.”

Of course, my husband and I went to “Dr. Google” right away and went down a rabbit hole to convince ourselves that it didn’t mean anything, that the tech saw it incorrectly, and “how could they even see a nasal bone at 13 weeks?” We declined further testing as we didn’t see any point. This baby was our baby no matter what, but we were hoping and wishing it was NOT Down syndrome. All we knew about Down syndrome was that it was something undesirable, difficult, embarrassing, and to be avoided at all costs. 

Fast forward to the 18-week ultrasound where… hooray! The nasal bone was there looking perfect and right on target, and I saw our baby girl squirming, kicking, and being incredibly cute. However, low and behold, a more significant and serious problem was detected… a hole in our baby’s heart. I was alone at this ultrasound, and when they shuffled me into a cold, stark room after the ultrasound was over, I just knew it was bad news. The doctor proceeded to tell me about my baby’s heart condition and that, considering my age (45), they were giving me a 50% chance of having a baby with Down syndrome.  

After listing all of the problems we would experience, the doctor asked if I would like to terminate the pregnancy. I broke down in tears. I was all by myself and was feeling pressured to end this life that I had just seen on the screen looking so perfect. When I asked, “How can you ask me such a thing?” They assured me they had to ask everyone this question because everyone has different feelings and beliefs.  

I left that ultrasound feeling defeated, abandoned, ashamed of getting pregnant so late in life and very unsupported by the medical profession. Why couldn’t they tell me things like, “She does have a heart defect, but it can be fixed by surgery; she may have Down syndrome, but there will be lots of support and help along the way?” There was none of that. Thankfully, a friend knew about Pregnancy Care Canada and the support and resources they provide.

My friend connected me with another doctor, who shared my faith. We spoke over the phone, and the doctor empathized with me and agreed that, at times, the medical response to such a diagnosis can feel harsh and unsupportive. She helped me believe that even if our baby had Down syndrome, it would still be a beautiful and valued life and that I was on the right track. She prayed for me, and I felt the glimmer of hope return that I could enjoy my pregnancy and look forward to meeting our daughter. We stayed in contact throughout the remainder of my pregnancy.  

Although I was feeling a little better about what lay ahead, I was still in denial that our baby could have Down syndrome (we still weren’t 100% sure and had declined any conclusive testing). I would pray and hope it away, saying things like, “God, please make this baby perfect, without any chromosomal abnormalities.” I was sure that when she arrived, Down syndrome would be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. In hindsight, I really should have been praying, “God, thank you for blessing me with a child; you know her life and who she is; thank you for being with us even when times are scary and unknown.”

God had shown me at 13 weeks with the missing nasal bone image that our baby would have Down syndrome; He was helping me to get ready, reassuring me that it was going to be ok – but I refused to listen. Despite my stubbornness, I felt God so close to me during my pregnancy. I had this beautiful girl growing inside me. I felt so connected to her and had such peace, even amongst all the stress, doctor’s appointments, endless ultrasounds to check on her, and the constant reminders from the doctors that I was too old and that my baby wasn’t right.  

Our daughter Winslet (we call her Winnie) was diagnosed with Down syndrome when she was five days old. We cried and grieved, but not for long, because we were already so in love with our perfect baby girl.  

Knowing what I know now, I wish I hadn’t been so afraid. I wish the doctors at the ultrasound had responded differently and offered support, kindness, and encouragement, and that although there may be some unexpected challenges, all would be well.

People with Down syndrome are an extremely important and valuable part of our society. They are perfectly made in the image of God. They have this special “extra part” in them that makes them light, pure, magnetic, and very lovable! It’s not easy at times, there are certainly challenges along the way, and sometimes in moments of struggle, I ask God, “Are you sure I can handle this?” Those times are fleeting, though, because Winnie has a great support group around her.  Winnie is very loved, and we feel truly blessed that we were chosen to be her family! 

If you need to talk to someone about an unexpected pregnancy and would like accurate information on your options, go to our website: https://pregnancycarecanada.ca/looking-for-help/You can find a pregnancy care centre near you or you can connect with someone online who can help. We’re here for you.