Expecting parents have a lot of planning to do. A lot of preparation goes into being able to bring a new little life home.
Every milestone is cherished and celebrated as mom and dad count down the days until they get to meet their new child. Ultrasounds are part of that process, and many parents hold their breaths until they get the all-clear.
And for good reason — those early ultrasounds are vital for getting to know their new child and prepare the best they can, with as much information as possible.
When Bonnie Witaschek of New England and her husband went in for the 20-week ultrasound, they probably anticipated what thousands of other parents did: that their child would be healthy and whole.
Unfortunately, the ultrasound revealed a very different future for the little family, and as doctors told the parents that they were seeing heart defects and the lack of a nose bone in the images, Witaschek’s heart sank.
“I knew in my heart that she had Down syndrome,” Witaschek told PEOPLE. “The heart defects, I was ignorant to and I didn’t think they would amount to anything. I didn’t realize she was going to need open-heart surgery. When I found out that was going to happen, that was very scary for me.”
It didn’t end there, either. There was a whole list of abnormalities that included multiple heart defects, a low blood sugar disorder, and a stomach problem. Along with that, their daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
While heart defects are common in individuals with Down syndrome, the number of issues the girl was facing seemed insurmountable. But her parents knew they wanted to give her the best shot at life that they could.
That didn’t keep them from fearing for her life at every turn. They’ve prayed a lot throughout the process, and others have been praying, too.
“When she was coming out,” said Witaschek, “I had this striking fear that she wasn’t going to live outside the womb. I started praying really hard for her to live.”
“But the moment she came out, she was strikingly beautiful. She was so strong and her eyes were so alert and she wanted to see everything in the room and I was in amazement of her. At that very moment, I decided she was going to be fine.”
That was only the first milestone, though — a very encouraging one, but only the beginning of the uphill battle. Next, little Kitty would have to get through multiple surgeries to correct her numerous ailments.
“It was like watching a silent film,” Witaschek said, referring to waiting during these procedures. “I was outside of my body. I can’t imagine that I even breathed during that time, waiting to hear that she made it out.”
Kitty endured three surgeries during her first five weeks of life, which would be a struggle even for an adult. With every procedure, her parents waited impatiently to hear how their baby girl was doing.
“Waiting in the waiting room, whenever I saw blue scrubs coming around the corner my heart would stop and I’d clench the arm chair,” Witaschek said. “But she came out of it beautifully and I have a picture of her looking around and blinking at 5 weeks old.”
Despite all the setbacks, her family has stayed strong and hopes to see more improvements in the future.
Her mom is especially impressed by her daughter’s verve and will to live. “She’s so strong,” she said. “It’s like nothing even happened to her.”
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