The first meeting

6.30 pm, the Coombe

My initial reaction, on first guessing that Jacob had Downs, was deceptively small. He was born at half past six in the evening. Judging by the grey November sky, he didn’t appear to have packed any sunshine with him. 2.6 kilos. Small, with beautiful blonde hair and blue eyes in a high, almond setting. Our floppy little creation was put in his mother’s arms, and as he was turned over I thought hold on, those eyes are different.

Those eyes gripped my heart like they were cold little hands, utterly depending on me and yet unknown to me in a way that I hadn’t expected. I’d love to tell you that they held a zen-like innocence, those eyes, or that they exuded some intelligence beyond the normal.

Maybe they did, but I didn’t see that. Certainly not in those first few minutes. They made my insides feel as though they’d been dropped down a mine shaft, those eyes. My mind rushed forward into the future with a blind terror. What did this mean? What could it mean? Was I right or wrong about what I was thinking? I remember going to the toilet then. Me and my unexpressed idea. I had never felt more alone. This was maybe two or three minutes after the birth. Dee was very uncomfortable with post-birth pain and hadn’t seen the baby properly yet. The fact that he was a third boy when we’d both been hoping for a girl would just be impacting. I guessed it would be hurting her deeply, but I was beyond that now.

I came back into the room, and the look of concern on the midwife’s face relieved me, strangely enough. Now I could hear Dee saying the nightmare words out loud. Has he Down Syndrome? The midwife was saying ‘Oh no, I don’t think so.’

I knew, beyond any doubt, that she meant well but was wrong. The panic of those few unforgettable minutes instantly passed away. There was concern, of course. But I saw Dee lean over our new little man and take him to her heart just as he was, with utter conviction. I knew then that this was somehow going to be alright. Somehow.

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