For many mothers, the choice to have a water birth is as clear as water itself. Not only do they feel soothed by the warmth, but their babies come into the world with the same sentiment: they’re said to feel more secure with less palpable stress during the birth.
Amber Rojas crouched into the clear waters of her birthing pool on September 26, 2017. Her labor advanced quickly – and for a moment, she wasn’t sure she’d even make it into the water to deliver her baby the way that she had planned.
But she did, and she watched as her baby emerged from the womb, into the water and into the world. Almost immediately, she knew that her child had Down syndrome, and her reaction to it was emotional, to say the least.
Before that life-changing moment, Amber had gone through all the normal steps of a pregnancy. She had attended her prenatal check-ups and medical professionals had examined the baby via ultrasound. They had never reported any potential health issues, however.
The doctors hadn’t shared what the baby’s gender would be, though – and that was just how Amber wanted it. She and her husband, Fernando, already had four children: Xavier, 10, twins Kaydence and Zayden, 8, and toddler Ezra, who would soon celebrate his second birthday. And Amber and Fernando wanted their fifth pregnancy to come with a bit of excitement.
“Since this was my fourth and last pregnancy and fifth baby, and I’ve literally labored every way possible, I wanted to leave something to surprise,” Amber explained to CafeMom. “Something different to look forward to, especially because we really were not planning to have more.”
Even without the doctor’s confirmation, though, everyone around Amber suspected that she was having another boy. She wrote in an August 2017 Instagram post, “Most people are guessing boy because of the way I carry.” She wasn’t entirely convinced, though, and added, “I still feel I’ve carried all my babies the same way.”
She wouldn’t figure out if her newborn would be a boy or a girl until around a month later, when she felt the telltale signs of labor coming on. With that, Amber, her husband and all four kids drove to the birthing center so everyone could welcome the new baby together.
A photographer – who the family had hired rather than throwing a baby shower – was also in attendance. They captured both photos and video of Amber’s labor and the birth. And it all came to pass quickly after Amber spent some time pacing about outside.
Amber told BuzzFeed, “I almost didn’t think I was going to make it back into the birth center [as] my contractions were coming so hard and so fast.” Fortunately, she did – and she even climbed into her birthing pool. She would soon have her newborn baby in her arms.
“It was like this thing came over me and I could not help it, my body was pushing the baby out,” Amber said. “And the next thing I knew, she was out and in my arms.” Amber’s fifth child was a girl – but she barely noticed that because something else was different about this baby.
Indeed, Amber recognized it as soon as she lifted the baby. “I could literally see it, I could see it in her face,” Amber said. She began crying as she held her daughter, who would be named Amadeus “Ami” Reign Rojas. “I looked down and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, our baby has Down syndrome.’”
Amber was able to diagnose her daughter based on the child’s physical features, she explained in a piece that appeared on Love What Matters. “I could feel that she felt differently than all my others. She felt really limp and her eyes – we all have small eyes, but hers were small in a different way.”
These physical characteristics – such as upwardly slanted eyes, a lack of muscular tone and a flat-looking face – are often present in those with Down Syndrome. The genetic disorder occurs when a child is born with a third chromosome 21, where there should be only two.
“I kept thinking, ‘Why isn’t anyone saying anything?’” Amber recalled. But her husband and kids were more concerned with the baby’s gender. “My family said, ‘Well what is it?’” Amber wrote. “I totally forgot we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl.”
And that detail not only delighted Amber, but it snapped her back to reality. “My thoughts of her having Down syndrome went away because I was so excited we were having another girl!” she wrote. In the moment, she smiled as she cradled her youngest daughter.
Eventually, the midwife spoke with the new mom to confirm her suspicions and to suggest that the family take Ami to hospital. “She said, ‘I don’t want you to be worried, but your daughter has some soft markers for Down syndrome,’” Amber recalled. “Another reason they also brought it up is that she had a low resting heart rate.”
Around 50 percent of newborns with Down syndrome suffer from a heart defect, and Ami’s low heart rate was a telltale sign that she had one, too. Indeed, the doctors soon told Amber and Fernando that Ami would need surgery within a few months to repair the problem. “That was very scary, just like it would be for any mom,” Amber told BuzzFeed.
Five months later, though, in February 2018, Ami underwent the procedure and came out with flying colors. Her doctors told the Rojas family that they would see a huge difference in the baby’s demeanor, and her mom happily reported that that was indeed the case. “She is doing so good,” she told Buzzfeed. “It’s amazing to have her actually be the baby she is supposed to be.”
Now, the infant’s mom is doing her best to raise awareness about Down syndrome and how much those with the genetic disorder can achieve. As for her own daughter, Amber couldn’t wait to make her baby giggle. “She hasn’t laughed, but we can’t wait,” she said. “We work really hard to get those smiles.”