A High River mom's year to remember

Finding out you are pregnant can be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life. For High River resident Krista Rowland-Collins, it was also a bit of a shock.

Woman gave birth to baby with Down syndrome 5 weeks after home was flooded out

High River resident Krista Rowland-Collins keeps a blog where she writes about her family, from left, James Collins, Brinley and Adele, and her experiences with Adele, who was born with Down syndrome. (Courtesy Krista Rowland-Collins)

High River resident Amanda Pawlitzki blogged for the CBC last summer about her experiences during and after the floods that hit southern Alberta.

Finding out you are pregnant can be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life. For High River resident Krista Rowland-Collins, it was also a bit of a shock.

“Our first child, Brinley was only 10-and-a-half-months-old when, I peed on a stick and said holy s--t! We were happy that B would have a sibling and be close in age. They are 16 months and three weeks apart,” says Rowland-Collins.

As she and her husband, James Collins, excitedly prepared for the birth of a second child, their world flipped upside down. The results for Rowland-Collins’ blood work and the twelve-week ultrasound indicated they would likely have a baby with Down syndrome.

“James was at work and I was at home with Brinley, a nurse called me on the phone. I was appalled I was told over the phone and later wrote a letter to Alberta Health Services about it and got an apology. I cried, I cried so hard I couldn’t piece together what the nurse was telling me,” she says.

Krista Rowland-Collins was seven months pregnant with Adele when the flood waters hit High River. (Courtesy Krista Rowland-Collins)

Krista, who was a school teacher before having children, decided to write a blog about her and her family’s new journey. She started it when she was five months pregnant with Adele. She called the blog A Perfect Extra Chromosome.

“My friend, Christy, had encouraged me to write a blog even before I was pregnant with Brinley, but I didn’t think I could come up with anything to write about," she says.

"Christy encouraged me again after we found out about Adele. I love writing the blog. I find it very therapeutic and it gives me an outlet where I can share my thoughts and feelings with others and it’s a place where others can share their stories and ask questions and know we are all on this journey together."

The flood

Seven months into the pregnancy, the family was presented with another challenge. Their home in High River was badly damaged in last year's flooding. The water left it uninhabitable.

"James comes home and says that it's crazy down the street at his parent's house. The windows were smashing in and the whole basement was destroyed. I was having troubles comprehending that, only one minute away, a neighbourhood was being swept away. The next day, we were watching the news, there was our place, under water. Are you kidding me?" she wrote on her blog post days after the event.

The flood forced the family to move in with Rowland-Collins' parents. Then, on July 24, Adele was born, five weeks early.

“I cried because it has been such a journey. I cried because she was healthy. I cried because I have never in my entire life felt so much love for another human being — except for her sister. The love that you feel for your children is above any emotion, any feeling that you have ever experienced. You see no flaws. All you see is this human being that you made. You see the love that went into making this beautiful child."

Once the flood repairs were done and the family was settled back in their High River home, Rowland-Collins started another project — Adele’s Over the Rainbow baskets. They are offered to parents with babies who have Down syndrome.

'She is ours'

“Most families don’t find out their little miracle has Down syndrome until after delivery. That is very difficult news to digest,” she says.

Along with items for a newborn, Rowland-Collins puts in a list of local resources that families to can access. It is her way to show others in her situation that it is OK to feel the way they do.

On the Facebook page for Adele’s baskets, there are 4,794 likes so far. As for A Perfect Extra Chromosome blog, there have been 98,895 page views to date.

“Your blog has had a positive impact on my life,” posted one follower.

“Your blog was very therapeutic for me during my grieving process of the diagnosis and even though we both all don't have this figured out it was nice to find someone with similar emotions and experiences to what I was having … your blog helped me cope with that.”

As Mothers’ Day approaches as well as the anniversary of the flood and the first birthday of Adele, Rowland-Collins continues to share baskets and post frequently to the blog. The writing is often candid.

“I have to be honest, I was worried that maybe my love would take a while, maybe I would be so overwhelmed by the Down syndrome that I would need some time to come to terms with everything ... I needed no time. I loved this baby from the second she made her entrance into the world. I loved every inch of her. She is ours,” writes Rowland-Collins.