My Baby Was In the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit—and I Never Could Have Imagined What Came Next

One year ago, my family reached the pinnacle point of our year of grief: it’s the day Anderson had open-heart surgery. It rounded out the year that was filled with disappointments and worry. We found out we were getting stationed in the middle of no where, that our unborn son had Down syndrome, that we had to move again (to a place that once again was not on our dream sheet and even further from family) and to top it off—that hole in our son’s heart they said they were 95% sure would close, didn’t.

So, there we were, waiting for updates in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Not speaking, mostly praying, but also wondering—how has this become our lives?

anderson operation

An old childhood friend emailed me recently. He told me about a study he remembered from his college psychology class. The researchers interviewed people right after a life-altering hardship. The subjects expressed dread and doubt for their future and had an overwhelming grim expectation of life going forward. A few years later when the researchers interviewed the participants again, they were surprised to find the majority of them had positive memories and attitudes about their previous years. When asked if they experience more joy or sorrow from their hardships—the overwhelming response was joy.

Having gone through a tragedy himself, my friend wrote this, “Tragedy and hardship are a pathway to a happiness we can neither anticipate or fathom. It’s the joy we feel from the unexpected and surprising that are the best kind of joy.”

I’m not going to say I’m thankful Anderson had to have open-heart-surgery. I’m not thankful that he had to endure that. But I am grateful for how God has used it in all of our lives. I’m not thankful that I had a terrible Down syndrome diagnosis experience, but I am grateful that it brought me to the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network. That move further away from family— has made us more resilient. Having a child Down syndrome has stirred my soul and awakened me to the possibilities of this one grand life we’ve been given.

I never anticipated looking back on our year of grief fondly. But in a way—I do. If someone were to ask me if we experienced more joy or sorrow from 2014 and 2015—like those people in the study—the overwhelming answer is joy.

I can see how God is and will continue to use that year to shape us and to help others walking a similar road. Because of that year, I know what is important and what is not. Because of that year my life is forever changed—I have more depth, more purpose and therefore, more joy.

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Jillian Benfield
Jillian Benfield is a former TV News Anchor/Reporter, turned military wife and work from home mom. When she was 20 weeks pregnant with her second child, she learned her son had Down syndrome. Now she’s trying to figure out how to juggle a wonderfully sassy toddler and a baby with special needs. She writes at News Anchor To Homemaker.  Jillian’s work has been featured on ABC News, The TODAY Show and Yahoo News. Follow along with her parenting adventures on Facebook!