All grieving parents have had something happen to our dearest loved ones, our children, that shouldn’t have happened. The odds were against it, the chances low. Whatever it was: the illness, the accident, the stillbirth, it shouldn’t have happened but it did. For this reason, many grieving parents live in fear whenever “chances” come up. Having a low probability that something will or won’t happen means nothing to us. Because we know what it is like to be “the one”.
When people talk about chances, I automatically think of the one. The one in one hundred, the one in one thousand, the one in one million. Someone somewhere is the one. Someone somewhere will be the one that some bad thing will happen to.
Throughout my pregnancy with my son, we had several instances when chances and statistics were thrown our way. The first was our 1 in 26 chance of our baby having Trisomy 21, discovered after our 12-week blood work. Only a 3.8% chance he would have it, a 96% chance he would not, my husband pointed out. Women who conceive at age 32 typically have a 1 in 700 chance of having a child with Down syndrome. And yet, I kept thinking about the one. The one mother in 26 or in 700 whose baby will have T21. I was that one.
After his diagnosis, there were many statistics thrown our way. Chances of this, chances of that. I started to struggle with fear, realizing that if we were “the ones” for this statistic, then what is stopping us from being “the ones” that something else happens to? I feared mightily for my three daughters and my husband.
I wandered into a little shop one day and found a necklace that had a pendant with the word “chance” on it, followed by its definition. Words listed in the definition included: accident, destiny, fate, possibility. I was drawn to it and bought it. I’m not sure why. But I was swimming in a world of statistics and I felt I needed that necklace to remind me of what a chance really is. I focused on the word “possibility” and applied hope to it.
One statistic that was repeatedly given to us was that approximately 10% of babies with T21 are stillborn. I don’t know why, but this one stayed with me. I didn’t know if it was fear that had me focused on that stat or intuition, but when Beau was stillborn at 29 weeks, I can’t say I was surprised. When I asked our doctor what happened his response was, “Down syndrome.” He shrugged his shoulders.
It has been almost four years now since that initial diagnosis and I still struggle daily determining the differences between fear and intuition, weighing the chances of bad things happening with the chances they won’t. All while choosing to live presently and focused on the good things in my life. I meditate on the fact that at this moment my family is safe.
I also focus on the many times when I have been “the one” that something good has happened to. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart (approx. 2% chance), IVF resulted in three living children for us (approx. 33% chance), I have healthy twins (approx. 2% chance). I received a scholarship to go to a yoga retreat in Italy last year (chances unknown). These are just a few of the times when I have been lucky enough to be “the one.” The possibilities for good things to happen are endless and that gives me hope.
Photo by: Tara Rigg