The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

Dec 29, 2010

December 28th, 2010

I would say "it seems like just yesterday", but that would be a lie.  The truth is, it feels like forever ago!  I can hardly remember what life was like before having Little Miss Macy.  It's all kind of a blur.  I have not even been back to the hospital where she was born.  Most of the moments are pretty gray, but as I was looking through photos the other day, several moments came crashing back to me.  Like a ton of bricks actually.
I began journaling/blogging events and emotions as they unfolded within about 24 hours or so of Macy's birth. But I never had shared the moments leading up to her arrival.  I guess the news of her Down Syndrome Diagnosis slightly over-shadowed the labor and delivery portion of December 28th.

So here goes - as best as I can recall 365 days later.

Macy's Birth Story

The excitement actually began 371 days ago.  I had, for a few weeks, been showcasing tall-tale signs of Preeclampsia.  All the symptoms were there.  I was at work.  I remember the LONG (okay 30 foot) walk down the hallway to my boss' office.  "LaVon" I said "My doc just called".  I took a seat and broke down.  It was surreal to say the words out loud, I was all choked up.  Had a huge lump in my throat.  I couldn't seem to get the words out.  "I've been ordered to go home and be on full-time bed-rest".  She was, of course, supportive and understanding.  I went back to my office and tried to wrap up a few things.  Luckily, just a few days prior, I had given co-workers instructions on how to handle some of my things while I was away.  So I was simply finishing up with some last minute TV buys and organized my desk (as to not leave my office in too much disarray).
Those next six days were actually not all that bad.  The nasty Nebraska blizzard of Dec. 2009 (you know the one), was in full effect.  So it was nice to not HAVE to go anywhere.  Most everything was shut down anyway.  Seeing the "school and business closings" scroll at the bottom of the TV screen was actually a calming relief.  Relief to know that I was not really missing out on anything anyway.  It would have been a lot more relaxing, however, to not have had an ancy & rambunctious 2&1/2 year old running around.  But Joe did a pretty good job of entertaining and taking care of her.
We did attend Christmas Eve Church Service as well as our family Christmas at the Mallory's.  But I stayed off of my feet as much as possible.  So I was FINE.  :)

Then.  Monday, Dec. 28th rolled around.  Yep, blood pressure still dangerously high.  Protein in urine, etc.  My doc went several rounds with himself before finally making the call to induce labor early.  3 weeks and 1 day early.  He explained "this baby will be better off outside than in"..."so let's get you across the street, checked in and let's get this baby girl out".  YIKES?  Although, not super surprised, it was all still quite a whirlwind.  We did have my bags packed and in the car just in case.  So we were actually 100% ready to go.  Just had to make a few phone calls.
Little did I know that would be the day.  The day that would be etched in stone as the day that forever changed the course of our lives.  We didn't know it at the time, but we were not just adding a member to our family, we would be set on a new life long journey.  From this day forward all priorities, things we thought were once important we were arranged and reassessed.  For the BETTER of course.  This day December 28th, 2009, is the day I truly felt a strong sense of what God had planned for me all along - Joe and I's new sense of purpose...
I will spare you the step by step of the 12 hours of laboring as it was pretty "text-book" progression.  Everything was moving along as it should.  Slowly, but all-in-all, really well.  I had my iPhone near me the whole time, so I was texting and emailing my sisters and family with up-to-the-minute news updates.  :-)
I remember my sister Lisa stopping in to check on me a few times throughout the day.  She was on  shift downstairs in the ER.  Joe, Keri, my mom and dad were in the room right around 9pm.  I loved that they were there (eventhough I do recall mentioning that perhaps Joe and I would like it to be a quite day with no visitors until after our second daughter was born.  But do you think my family would listen and follow, they do what they feel is best.  It's like they knew...I am not one to be "alone"...and looking back "alone" is not what me and Joe needed.  We needed to have family there "rallying" with us.  We were having a very nice and "chill" conversation.  I remember explaining this strange sensation I kept feeling.  I felt pressure very low, but at the exact same time strong pressure up high in my rib cage as well.  So, surely, I thought, since I was feeling her way up in my ribs, she was still way too high to be too alarmed.  After about 10 minutes or so, my dad STRONGLY recommended that we call a nurse in asap.  His theory was that she was pushing on my ribs and trying really hard to push her way out.  We didn't believe him,  but we called the nurse in to do a check anyway.  I had been progressing very slowly and didn't think I could have been dilated or effaced enough by this point yet...

It was at this very moment that everything got a little hectic.

My nurse walked in the room rather calm and nonchalant..took a quick peek and quickly jumped into action.  She ran out into the hallway and called out loudly for assistance.  I think she said something in way of "We are more than complete, this baby's on it's way!".  "Get a bed cart!".  Or maybe table, I'm sure this is not exactly what she said, but close.  As I think back.  This does not even make sense to me.  What does that even mean anyway?  I'm just telling it as I recall it.
In any case, several nurses rushed in and quickly prepped me and the room for the delivery which was obviously imminent.  They politely kicked my family (with the exception of Joe of course) out of the room.  The nurse talked through "pushing instructions", but advised me NOT to do anything until the Doctor arrived.
And that was some good advice.  As soon as he got there and finally took his place.  He advised me to push once.
And then again.
(I thought I had pushed most of these details away and stored them in a dark place never to be relived again...but as my fingers type, I am whisked away right back tot that delivery room, as though it were yesterday.  It's a warm feeling)
I barely got through that second push before hearing the most amazingly beautiful sound in ALL the world.  A loud and strong cry from my precious 2 second old baby girl.

Deep Breath.

The doctor took a short look at her and handed her over to me - placed her in my arms - and time seemed to stand still.
All I can remember thinking was wow.  This is incredible.
I can't believe how quickly that went.
And, now in hindsight, I could have felt "wow, I can't believe how quickly your life can change - in an instant really".
I remember looking deep into her crisp newborn eyes.  Holding her warm naked body close to mine.  She was calm and very content.
I immediately fell unconditionally, madly, deeply, IN LOVE with this precious young soul.  To me, she appeared perfect.  Flawless.  At that very moment all was right in the world.  My and Joe's hearts were on fire with ecstatic, happy & proud emotions.  After a few minutes of "holding a piece of heaven" in my arms, they took Macy across the room to the warmer to examine her and clean her up.   Routine right?  Why would I think anything was up?  We had absolutely no reason what-so-ever to think something might be wrong.  Perhaps we were naive, but at no time in during our pregnancy did we have any indication or worry that our little baby girl could possibly be (who some may consider) "not-perfect".  We figured that the "routine exam/vital check/baby stats/etc" would take a short while.  So I motioned to Joe to go out and fill our family in and deliver the good news.  "It's a girl"  "5lbs  4 oz"  "she's beautiful and perfect"!  "Momma's doin' GREAT!"

Little did we know, at that moment, this was not entirely true.

I also found out several months later, that my family was concerned and knew something was up before we even did.  Apparently, they were standing in the hallway and for some strange reason, a nurse went to them and advised them to please wait in the sitting room down the hall.  I guess she had explained to them that the doctor needed to "make some calls" and we need this hallway to remain clear"..."for patient privacy" or something like that.  hmm.  they knew something was not quite right.

In any case, Joe came back into the room.  But for some reason, the medical professionals decided it was acceptable to bring Macy back over to me while he was away and began pointing out several characteristics that leaves them to believe that Macy may have Down Syndrome.  There exact words which still blare loud and clear in my head to this day were "EARLY OBSERVATIONS INDICATE A HIGH LIKELIHOOD THAT DOWN SYNDROME MAY BE PRESENT".


Joe walks near my bedside.  I make eye contact with him.  My eyes are red and filled with tears.  I can not speak. I was probably pale and expressionless.

They fill him in. 
For those who know Joe, know he's quiet and reserved.  He does not exactly wear is heart on his sleeve as much as me.  So it's difficult to know exactly how he was feeling or what he was thinking at that very second.  But I KNOW, I could see it in his eyes, that he was doing what he does best...He's has compassion and lot of love...from the first second he laid eyes on her, he fell forever in love. This is one lucky baby girl!

What does all this mean?  This word.  Down Syndrome, something we knew nothing about, was foreign to us. 
They show us her eyes and how they slant upward slightly.  They point out her ears and explain their lowered position.  The flattened bridge of her nose.  The extra skin behind her neck.  How her left hand has a single horizontal simian crease going the whole way across.  Even still, they could not be 100% certain, they were going to run some tests and told us we'd have the official results with in a day or two.

This was all soo overwhelming. I want them to stop talking and let me just kiss her...but a big part of me is curious and needs to know what they saw, that I don't see.

Joe and I embraced - our swollen eyes welled up with tears.  We wept.  We were so very confused.  We did not have words.  The hot tears streaming down our cheeks said enough.  I remember shaking and just hugging Macy as tight as we could.

We were not sure what we were supposed to say, what we were supposed to ask and most importantly, we were not sure how we were supposed to feel.  Were we supposed to feel sad?  Devastated?  Angry?
No.  Fortunately, we did not feeling any of these emotions.  Yes, we were in a great deal of shock.  But, truly, all we can remember feeling was love.  True, real, love. In it's purest form.  It was too late.  We already fell in love with this tiny, innocent, helpless person.  In that short amount of time (prior to learning this diagnosis) she has already looked deeply into our eyes and forever pierced our souls.  She had already left a permanent mark and forged a powerful connection all the way down to the bottom of both our hearts that would surely last a lifetime.

And yes.  For a short time we were broken.  Our hearts seemed to have crumbled into a million pieces.  But as quickly as they crumbled, they were also quick to re-mend themselves.  It did not take long for us to put this into a healthy perspective.  We did not say it to each other out loud yet.  But a few hours later, after everything was quiet and had calmed down, we both agreed that it did not take long for us to realize Macy was a blessing from the Lord above.  We both felt amazingly blessed that God had entrusted us to care for and love this precious child.  How lucky we felt.  Not sad.  Not ashamed.  We did not feel sorry for ourselves one bit.

I'm not exactly sure how much time had passed.  But I think it was about an hour or so before we invited my parents and sisters back in the room to finally meet their #10 grand-baby.
I remember vividly, the expression on my mom's face.  She looked in my eyes, saw my tear-stained face, glanced at Little Miss Macy.  And nodded.  She started to cry.  And just nodded.  Somehow she just knew.  I didn't even have to say anything.  It was heartbreaking to watch my dad stare into Macy's eyes.  I could feel a powerful sense of love.  I knew right then that he was immediately smitten with her.  Don't get me wrong, he loves ALL of his grand-babies, but right then and there and I could sense a strong powerful connection between those two.
I was also confused and remember quietly asking Lisa in a quiet whisper..."can I feed her"?  Throughout my entire pregnancy, this was the one and only vision that I had.  I knew that shortly after delivery, I could hold my baby girl and nurse her.  At least, that's how it went with McKenzie, so I had no reason to think this could not be the case this time around.  But I was confused, because this time around, the nurses never gave me the "ques" to go ahead and try and feed her.  So I asked permission.  I didn't know.  This was still "new" to me.  The Nurse Practitioner told me I could try.  But was quick to warn me as well.  "Do not be too dissapointed if she does not take to nursing right away".  "Babies with Down Syndrome" she continued "tend to have very low muscle tone and have a difficult time latching on and have a weak suck."  "Do not be surprised if she does not pick up on it tonight."  It may come with time.  I was initially discouraged, but I remember being SOOOO HAPPPPPPY...and SOOOO RELEEEIVED when my Little Miss Macy proved her WRONG!  She had no trouble feeding what-so-ever.  She knew what she wanted from the get go and nursed with no problem.  That was heaven to me.  Thank you God for this.  I needed THIS.  All IS right in the world.
That is when I knew.  She has officially "accepted" me as her momma...I knew "I CAN DO THIS".

All my sisters and niece Erika all came in and met Macy that night.  Joe's twin brother Jason could also, not stay away.  It was so great for Joe to have his brother/best friend there to support him.  Our visitors stayed late into the night.  They comforted me and Joe and just loved on Little Miss Macy for the adorable baby that she was (and still is).  :-)
Jerry & Lynette came the next day.  Joe's parents always bring a huge sense of warmth and comfort.  And, they brought McKenzie to meet her baby sister for the first time.
It was amazing.  She was very proud and excited to meet her little sister.  It's through the eye's of an innocent, unsuspecting child that you can truly put things into perspective.  McKenzie loves her sister unconditionally.  I remember McKenzie running through the door to hug me and I remember thinking she looked different, she aged 5 months over-night.  My baby girl is a BIG SISTER.
Many more family and friends came to visit and also, OF COURSE, fell instantly in love with our Little Miss Macy.  She was just a ray of sunshine and there was absolutely no reason not to celebrate.
So why do we call her "Little Miss Macy"?  Throughout the course of a couple days, she went from "Baby Girl Harnisch", to "Baby Macy"...and then one of the nurses at Children's wrote "Little Miss Macy" down on her dry erase board upon check-in.  We thought that had a nice ring to it and it just STUCK  :-)

It was the middle of the night.  Probably 2am or so?  I don't know, who looks at a clock when your world is being rocked?  Our last visitors have left. It was quiet and very dark.  It was in these late night/early morning hours that our new reality really started to sink in.

This is when Joe and I were alone with our thoughts.  This is when we grew scared and very alone.  We had a million questions for each other, but we never asked “why”?  I am a believer that God works in wondrous ways, and on this side of heaven, we may never truly know that answer to that question. 

That first night seemed to last an eternity.  We could not for the life of us catch any shut eye.  I could not take my eyes off of Macy.  Our minds were racing - it was a very surreal feeling.  I wanted to sleep.  I was hoping that if we could just fall asleep then perhaps we would wake up and find that this had all been a dream.
 We did eventually manage to rest our eyes for a while, waking up to a quiet tap on the door.  It was not a dream.  Macy's

Our pediatrician visited us bright and early to meet our little angel.  Around 7am I believe.  He told us congratulations.  He was warm and caring.  We were still overwhelmed and did not have too many specific questions for him.  He began examining and checking Macy over.  In his opinion, all was well.  He began listing off several possible medical risks/conditions associated with DS that we will need to look for in the days/weeks/months to come.  He gave us a short laundry list of people to contact and tests we will need to do to ensure she was all around healthy.  Check her heart, lungs, eyes, etc…

the day after that, Macy was admitted into the NICU with typical small baby issues such low blood sugars, jaundice, not keeping her temps up, etc…no big deal stuff …but later the NICU doctor detected a strange clicking sound in her heart and recommended she be medically transported immediately to a different medical facility.  One that could provide her with a higher level of care.  Where an echo could be performed.  And perhaps surgery if necessary.  Here's comes the LifeNet team to take our baby away!  That was certainly a surreal feeling, of which, I HOPE to never have experience again...

Our regular OB/GYN was out of town that day, so his partner (who I  had not yet met) came to the hospital to check me over and make the decision as to whether or not I was ready to be released.  I recall vividly his warm and caring demeanor.  He was genuinely compassionate and communicated down on my level.  He was not talking to me like a doctor. I really felt as though he was talking with me as a friend and fellow parent.  He was sharing his and his wife’s experience when their children were born.  Their NICU experience.  How scary and emotional it was for them.  He even teared up a bit and I was reminded that doctors and nurses are real people too...who would have thought?  :-)  He recalled his wife’s rush of confusing emotions.  The tears.  He warned me that roller-coaster of emotions was about to increase in speed and will encounter more bumps, twists and turns.  It was going to get harder before it starts to get easier.  This was the first time my feelings were really addressed, and I recall appreciating this so very much.  I appreciated his genuine concern and most important understanding of my well-being.  He made a recommendation to pro-actively prescribe an anti-depression medication to perhaps help me get through.  Looking back it's safe to say I was slightly emotionally unstable and perhaps a wreck.  All is good now though, I assure you  :-)

Several days later, a genetics counselor from UNMC visited us at the hospital and went over ALL the details pertaining to Down Syndrome with us.  She was wonderful, caring and compassionate as well!  She delivered loads of information to extremely emotional parents in a very sensitive and non-overwhelming manner.  We went through an entire box of kleenex, but it was so necessary and so worth it.  It had to be done so that we could move on and start looking to and preparing for the future.

I think I'm going to stop the first eight posts to our family blog took place at the hospital, by Macy's bedside, from my trusty iPhone.  This is where the rest of our "hospital adventures" unfolded :-) It was my attempt to communicate my thoughts, feelings and Macy updates with my family as the words were just not forming.  Every time I tried to speak, I'd just break down, so I basically decided to save my energy and just not talk at all.  It was just too hard.  A couple nurses made mention of possibly starting up a "Carepages" site to share news updates with everyone, but that somehow did not feel comfortable to me.  So that's really how the blog got started.  It has evolved and has taken on a new life of it's own.

I should also add, that this modern technology, which was allowing us to have contact with the outside world was amazingly therapeutic.  It was so nice to know that so many people were "in the loop" with every step and each new development.  We knew we were not alone.  From the moment Macy was born, hundreds of well-wishes and kind words were flooding in and many thoughts and prayers were lifted up.  We could feel the prayers.  Prayer is a powerful thing.  The email, comments and Facebook messages were SOOO comforting.
It also took a huge load off our shoulders.  We did not have the overwhelming feeling of needing to "go into it" over and over again with each and everyone.  Because, for the most part, everyone was keeping up by email, on the blog or on Facebook.  So that once they were finally able to visit us, we could just hug and talk normally about "the now" and not have to keep "back-tracking" over and over again.  No having the "where do we even begin?" question...

I was debating as to whether or not I wanted to write this all out.  Wondering if re-visiting this dark moment of our life would be productive.  I am glad I did!  Even though this was by far the most difficult and emotionally taxing days of ours lives, it was also the most beautiful.  A miracle took place and I feel it is important to cling onto all the wonderful memories of this once in a lifetime experience.  That day was a roller-coaster ride, ups & downs, twists & turns, a mix of pain & grace, not to mention heartache and joy all woven together.
So there it is.  The Story of Macy's Birth.  The day she entered our world.  As best as I can recall a whole year later anyway  :-)

Macy - Mommy & Daddy love you so very much.  We may have had some struggles with our emotions upon first learning of your Down Syndrome diagnosis.  It was not because we were sad or did not love you, we were just scared and confused.  Our hearts are so filled with shameless love for you and your sister that it spills over into everything that we do.  You girls are the highlight of our existence.  We are better people for having you in our lives.  We never knew it was possible to love this much.  And with each passing day, you are YOU.  Down Syndrome does not define you.  Most days go by and this diagnosis is not even a blip on the radar.  You are just so happy, in.the.big.scheme.of.things.healthy, bubbly and full of energy, that's all we can think about, is you and how simply great YOU are  :-)
Thank you for being YOU.

Mom & Dad


  1. Happy Birthday Macy! It's simply amazing how quickly this year has past. Your smiles have been contagious. Now its time for you to get a little onry and get into your sisters toys. Let's get mov'in.

    With much love,
    Uncle Chad, Aunt Heather, Cousins Dylan, Danielle & Dalton

  2. A lovely, sweet read for first thing in the morning. Every baby has their 'birth story' and by blogging about it makes Macy's story not defined by the DS diagnosis. Very cathartic!

  3. I loved reading your story...takes me back to the same place 15 years ago when I had Kyle. I feel blessed to of found a friend in you. Thank you for sharing your emotions with everyone. You have a gift of telling your story and and have been blessed with a beautiful family.