26 Mar Momspiration Monday // Hollyce’s Story
I first became a mom the day I met Tyler and Emily. I had been dating David (my now husband) for several months and heard stories about his sweet 6 year old and darling 8 year old. I’ll never forget watching those little legs walk into that tiny apartment and asking them for hugs the first time I met them. My transition to motherhood was “unique.” I went from being a single city girl in Chicago to buying Minion snacks and good night prayers with the kiddos. Tyler and Emily didn’t come into my life through a “typical” fashion – they came running in with fart jokes, booster seats, and missing teeth. Some might say I was an “instamom” – the directions would have read: fall in love with a wonderful man, adore his two young children, add gogurt and crustless PBJs and voila – your instamom is ready!
I’ll never forget the day AFTER David proposed to me. This is where you say – but why the day after? Well….I flipped the surprise on the kiddos….I was going to ask them to marry me I went to Hobby Lobby, bought two little boxes, two Ring Pops and decorated each box for the kiddos. When they came home after school, I sprung the question on them as we all sat on the couch. Guess what?! They said yes! 9 months later in August 2015, David, Emily, Tyler and I got married in the most magical place – Disney World. That was the day I legally became a “stepmom.”
Fast forward to Labor Day 2016. That’s the day I found out I was pregnant – this set in a motion a new chapter of motherhood. We were so excited but wanted to wait to tell Tyler and Emily until I was further along. First trimester hit me hard – morning (let’s be real – all day) sickness and extreme exhaustion. I kept falling asleep at 7pm – it prompted Emily to ask David, “Is Hollyce okay? She’s sleeping a lot. I bet she’s going through a growth spurt.” Oh sweet Em – how wise you are! I sure was going through a growth spurt but not in the way she thought. Once we were in the clear, we surprised the kids again with our news. It was met with shrieks of excitement and the countdown began until Baby H entered the world.
On April 21, 2017, Hudson Tyler Hammond entered the world. The nurses buzzed about a potential Down syndrome diagnosis. For those who are unfamiliar, Down syndrome occurs when a person has an extra chromosome (most common is Trisomy 21 – an extra copy of the 21st chromosome). This happens at conception when a pair of chromosomes fail to split. There is a very wide range of developmental delays and/or physical issues that are caused by Down syndrome. *There are prenatal genetic tests that would have confirmed Down syndrome; we had declined the tests as we knew the outcome wouldn’t change our decision to continue with our pregnancy.
Later that afternoon, a doctor came to talk to us about a possible Down syndrome diagnosis and that’s when I looked at David’s eyes….he just knew. Hudson was born on a Friday, which meant the labs would be closed over the weekend and we wouldn’t get his blood test results confirming his diagnosis until the following week. Friday and Saturday were filled with so many thoughts and emotions. Not only was I first time mommy to a little newborn, but we were struggling with understanding what Hudson’s diagnosis would mean for him, for us, and for our family.
But God paved the way for us (which He always does – whether or not we realize it)! Not only had David volunteered with Best Buddies (a NFP that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities including Down syndrome), but we have a friend who has a 12 year old with Down syndrome. God had been preparing our hearts long before Hudson came into the world! That weekend, our dear friend sent us a poem, “Welcome to Holland.” It’s worth a read but here is the CliffsNotes version: It describes pregnancy as preparing for a trip to Italy, yet when you land, you are told you are in Holland (the special needs diagnosis). There is nothing wrong with Holland – it’s just different than what you planned for and expected. Holland has tulips, windmills and so many beautiful sites to enjoy. These words were comforting to my achy heavy heart.
By Sunday – David and I were in a better place. With the car seat loaded up and enough hospital supplies for a lifetime, we checked out and brought our sweet newborn babe home. That first night home was the hardest – I cried as my anxiety took over my thoughts and worried that I wasn’t going to be enough for Hudson. We received confirmation of Hudson’s diagnosis two days after we came home. Reality hit. I struggled thinking about what Hudson would be like as an adult – will he be treated differently? Will he go to college? What kind of job will he have? Will he meet someone and fall in love? Will he live with us forever?
Over the next two weeks, after encouraging phone calls with friends, family, and meeting other moms who have kiddos with Down syndrome, I accepted Hudson’s diagnosis and the fact that our lives will be a little bit special. I will be a different type of mom than those who have typical babies – but who cares? What’s so wrong with being different?
During my 12 weeks of maternity leave, I did all the same things as other mommies. I nursed my baby, rocked my baby, changed diapers, did tummy time, read books, went on walks. Hudson is just like any other baby – except that he’s rockin’ an extra chromosome. I learned what it meant to truly be present, accept what is and put faith into what will be. God molded me into the wife, mom and woman I was meant to be – one whose love doesn’t count chromosomes and can take on any challenge.
Now Hudson is 9 months old. Sure, our lives are a little bit different than those with typical kiddos. Hudson’s schedule is busier than my previous work schedule – weekly speech therapy, physical therapy, and a nutritionist visit. We have to work extra hard on his daily exercises to help overcome some of the challenges he has physically due to low muscle tone (common Down syndrome marker). I wouldn’t change Hudson for the world – but I’m hoping to change the world for him!
To the mama who just received a prenatal or birth diagnosis that you are going to have a child with special needs….CONGRATULATIONS! That word is not said enough in some of those cases, and I want to be the first to extend a warm virtual hug and celebrate the arrival of your little one. This is a beautiful life and you can do this!
To the woman who is contemplating becoming a “wicked stepmother”….we are not the way Disney movies portray us! You are the “gift with purchase” – never replacing their mother but you will provide maternal support and love. It can be a difficult role…that of the “stepmom”…but if you focus on those kiddos, love them with all your heart, and guide them along the journey of life, you will all be better because of it.
To the mama of typical kiddos…please teach your children to love those that are different. Help them understand we all have our own challenges, struggles, and fears in life – but if we share kindness, compassion and understanding to one another – the world will shine brighter.
I’m proud to be a mom – in all the different ways that I am. Our family isn’t “normal” – but who is? That would be so boring!
Here’s my call to action for you sweet mamas: Let’s be the mothers that raise a generation of kids that don’t point out what separates us – but celebrate and embrace what’s the same and what’s different! Let’s be the moms that raise children that change the world! Who is with me?!
Hollyce Hammond is a 29 year old step mom and special needs mom living in the north suburbs of Chicago with her family. She recently left corporate America to begin her blog, Holding Moonbeams, that focuses on topics around special needs and blended family parenting. She enjoys baking (former pastry chef), teaching FIT4MOM classes, and all things Disney.
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