15 Aug Meet: The Akers Family
Jason and I were married in May of 2011 a couple of years after each of us had been through bitter divorces. We are a blended family. I came into the marriage with two boys, Andrew who was 11 and Ayden who was 7. Jason has a son from his previous marriage, Bryce who was also 7 at the time. We were an instant family of 5 all trying to navigate and discover where we fit into our new life and our new home.
In October 2011, we found out I was pregnant. We already had 3 boys, so naturally, I was longing for a daughter. I would lay in bed on many nights envisioning cheer camps, shoe shopping, proms dress fittings, and wedding planning. I anticipated the day of the ultrasound to be the day all of my dreams came true and the showering of pink would soon consume our house. The ultrasound tech navigated the doppler around on my belly and instantly my husband and I both saw it at the same time, clear as day, we were having another BOY! I laid there watching the rest of the ultrasound excited and amazed, our little boy was before our very eyes, his precious little heart flickering on the screen. London James joined our family in June 2012 perfect as could be.
Now with 4 boys, I still secretly wanted a little girl. Life became routine and I settled in quite nicely to my role as Princess of the castle. I frequently proclaimed my high ranking status and used it quite often to gain leverage since I was the Lone Ranger. But, in August of 2014, God decided that our family needed to grow by two more feet. Baby number FIVE would make his or her debut spring 2015.
The beginning of the pregnancy was normal, the exhaustion and morning sickness, oh the morning sickness, I just knew it had to be a girl, it was unlike anything I experienced before. I had all the routine exams and everything was perfect. I began begging Jason to let me go get a 3D ultrasound as soon as I reached my second trimester. The holidays were approaching and I wanted to do the most amazing gender reveal to our families when we were all together for Christmas. Things kept coming up, the older kids had sports, and life just got in the way. The 3D ultrasound appointment never got made.
At my 14 week OB appointment we began to discuss getting our ultrasound scheduled. As my doctor sat behind her computer sifting through my files and asking me the routine questions, she looked up and said, “You know that since you turned 35 the month you conceived, you are considered advance maternal age, correct?” This was seriously not something an emotional pregnant woman wanted to hear. She went on to say that because of my advanced age, she was going to schedule a level 2 ultrasound at the maternal fetal medicine department at Riverside Hospital. This was precautionary, and just to get clearer better pictures of the baby’s anatomy. December 5th was the day we were going to find out one last time if my dream of having a little girl was going to become my reality. It was just before Christmas too, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Ultrasound day was finally here! Jason and I rushed to the appointment early, because everyone knows if you get there early, you’re likely to be seen early. That was wishful thinking! We were finally called back to our room about 30 minutes behind schedule. It was dark and there were signs on every wall in the room that read, “No cell phones allowed.” The ultrasound tech began the scanning and we exchanged small talk and laughs. We told her we had 4 boys at home and that she needed to tell me that I was headed to the mall to shop for pink directly after this appointment.
I will never forget it, she paused the Doppler and said, “It’s a GIRL and she’s a little tap dancer!”
Her feet were moving the entire ultrasound. I laid there the happiest mommy ever. After 14 years of being a mom to all boys, I was finally getting a little girl. I began planning my shopping trips and all the stops we would make on the way home. The tech finished and left. We waited for the doctor to come in and then we were home free to prepare for our new daughter. I was so excited. I was ready to just forget the whole gender reveal plan. I begged Jason to give me my phone so I could start my massive text message. I needed to shout to the world our exciting news. I was about to send the world’s largest group text ever sent, but he made me abide by the rules…. no cell phones.
Finally, the doctor came in. He told me that he needed to get a couple more measurements that the tech wasn’t able to get. I joked with him and told him he better not find any extra appendages while he was looking. He measured and looked and measured some more. He removed his glasses and leaned in close to the screen and measured again. He took another look and flipped the screen to 3D and measured some more. As he leaned in for the third time he said, “Jennifer, did you happen to have any genetic testing with this pregnancy?” That moment I felt my heart fall to my stomach. My entire body felt numb and lifeless on that table. My ears began ringing this high pitched squeal and the only thing I wanted to do was run to the bathroom, but I couldn’t move a single muscle in my body. It seemed like the room was silent, except for the ringing, for what seemed like forever.
I managed to utter in a crackled voice, “No, why?”
“I’m so sorry to say this, but we are unable to get a measurement on your daughter’s nasal bone.” He gave me a minute to process. I didn’t know what that meant. I couldn’t focus on anything other than the first time I was hearing the phrase “your daughter” was when I was being told there was a problem with her genetically. I laid there trying to suppress my emotions. I was teetering on the edge of needing him to tell me what this meant and needing him to just stop talking and leave me alone. He continued, “this is a marker that we use to indicate Down syndrome. It is not the highest marker but it is one that is higher on the list.”
There was, those two words in that moment, that shattered hope. I laid there sobbing. In less than 1 hour, every single hope, dream, desire, plan I ever had was gone forever. The doctor wanted to do an Amniocentesis to get a result that would 100% be conclusive, but I refused. I needed to leave, because I felt as though I had lost her. Instead, I was sent to the lab to do the MaterniT21 test. The results of this test were not 100% but because of the marker on the ultrasound, if this blood test came back positive, it would be 99.6% accurate. We were told it would be a 7-10 day wait to know the fate of our little girl.
The hours and the days began to creep by very slowly. We didn’t want to share the news with too many people, because we were praying fervently that the test was going to come back negative. I began painting the nursery wall pink and planning out the room layout. I needed the distraction, but I could not get through a single stroke of paint without breaking down into tears. December 13, 2014, 8 days after the blood draw and my son Ayden’s 11th birthday, I woke up early because sleep was not something I had gotten a lot of this pregnancy, but especially that week. I opened my email at 6:30 in the morning, There it was, in bold black lettering, an email from my doctor that read: I have the results, I will call you sometime today.
I tried to go about the morning being strong and trying to plan a great birthday outing and dinner to celebrate. I put the finishing touches on the nursery room wall and just as I got off the ladder, my cell phone rang. I answered and I heard his voice say, “Hi Jennifer this is Dr… Is your husband there with you?” I knew by that question, the results were not what we had prayed so hard for them to be. He said, “I’m so sorry, the results are not what we were hoping for, but they are as I suspected.” I fell to my knees and sobbed, my baby, my little girl, the one I waited for 14 years, has Down syndrome. I felt like (in that moment) our life was over. There would never be cheer camps, shoe shopping, prom dress fittings and definitely no wedding.
That last 20 weeks of the pregnancy is a little bit of a blur. I prayed to be the 0.4% that received a false positive. I had my days of utter defeat and other days of sheer peace knowing that God created this little girl and He hand picked her to be in our family. We cried and we prayed. On April 9, 2015 McKenna Grace blessed us with her beautiful presence. As she arrived and they placed her on my chest so I could see her sweet face. I remember I looked at Jason and said, “Jason, they weren’t wrong.” He replied, “I know, but she is our daughter.”
She was having some trouble adjusting to life outside the womb and needed some assistance breathing. She was taken to the NICU and spent 2 weeks there. She came home on oxygen and was on it for 8 weeks at home. Her health struggles are not over, but they are definitely not worst case scenarios. She is facing heart surgery within the next year and an eye procedure in the fall. She is a sheer blessing. She has the sweetest demeanor and she flashes a big cheesy grin to anyone who looks in her direction. We share many sweet moments, but my favorite are the ones when she stares intently into my eyes as though she sees directly into my soul. Those are also my most fearful moments. I never want her to see the sadness that was once there.
Today, she is a happy 15 month old who is hitting her milestones and winning the heart of everyone she meets. My only regret is that I cried when I learned who she was going to be. I mourned her and didn’t celebrate her. I wish I would have done the grandest gender reveal and stood proud of the gift we were about to receive. If I could change anything it wouldn’t be changing her, it would be changing my reaction about her. The things I mourned were things that were not important, but they were also unrealistic . This little girl likely holds the world record for owning the most pairs of shoes at her age. At last count, she was at 37 pairs, before her first birthday. As for the cheer camps, prom fittings and a wedding, well we have several years for those, but I look forward to them with much anticipation because WHEN they happen, it will be one of the best days of our lives.
This precious girl is amazing. When God blessed us with a daughter He not only gave us everything I ever wanted, He gave me more.