Our Chloe was born on Leap Day, 2012, via C-Section. The operating room was buzzing with excitement, awaiting the reveal of the gender. They swaddled and presented her with a quick, “It’s a girl!” before whisking her away for cleaning and evaluation. For that brief moment, life was ideal. We had a handsome, intelligent, and healthy 2 year old son and now a beautiful baby girl. Then the room became abuzz with a new energy. Concerned faces searched my husband’s and mine, examining our features and the creases in our hands. When they finally placed Chloe in my arms for the first time, I carefully considered her… maybe they had given me the wrong child. Then the room grew eerily quiet when I asked, “How do you test for Down syndrome?”
“Why do you want to know?” a nurse asked, not wanting to meet my eyes.
“Because Chloe has it.” I just knew. We didn’t have any pre-natal testing, but I knew when carrying her in my womb that this child was going to be different. But knowing didn’t make understanding and accepting any easier. These early days were a confusing mixture of loneliness and grief interspersed with an unrelenting joy that was fighting to take hold.
Chloe was two months old when we welcomed Sarah into our home. Sarah was Chloe’s Infant Stimulation Therapist from ICEC. She was this bright and bubbly fresh breath of air blowing away the gloom, and this was an important first step to understanding and accepting this new life we found ourselves in as Special Needs Parents. The loneliness started to fade as we had someone else on our team to love on and support our daughter.
After Chloe healed from her open heart surgery at 6 months old, we started the Early Intervention Program in Laguna Beach. Chloe graduated from EIP in the cutest cap and gown ceremony possible, and we are now in the one-to-two year old program at ICEC. From the early days at EIP on, we have been surrounded by beautiful babies just like our own, with parents who are also experiencing this confusing fusion of joy, sorrow, concern and triumph for their child. And during Parent Discussion, when the tears and smiles on other parent’s faces reflect our own, the loneliness abates. These precious families are becoming a second family to us.
The team of therapists are so compassionate, knowledgeable, and supportive. With every word of advice or encouraging comment, the veil of grief lifts, letting in the joy and hope for our child. This well-crafted team have not only become mentors and confidants, but cherished friends too. The Intervention Center for Early Childhood has done so much for our family. Chloe is their primary focus, but not their only one. They arm us with the skills needed to ensure Chloe’s success in life, and through the Parent Discussion Groups they assuage our fears and celebrate the achievements. We don’t have to worry about finding child care for our now 4 year old inquisitive son. He is learning preschool skills and how to be a mentor and friend to children with special needs his age in the TOPS program. They even give us frazzled parents some time off through their Parent Night Out program. ICEC is what makes this life possible for us.