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Video: How one mom faced Down syndrome

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    KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, co-host: When Kelle Hampton 's daughter was unexpectedly born with Down syndrome , the life she thought was perfect was suddenly turned upside down.

    HODA KOTB, co-host: With time, her pain and fear transformed into a profound new perspective. And

    Kelle writes all about it in her new book, it's a memoir called "Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected ."

    GIFFORD: Oh, welcome.

    KOTB: Welcome.

    Ms. KELLE HAMPTON (Author, "Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected"): Thank you.

    GIFFORD: And your beautiful daughter is almost two now, or she is two.

    Ms. HAMPTON: She is two.

    GIFFORD: She is two.

    KOTB: It's interesting because when she was born, I think you -- sometimes in photographs shock and those kind of things are not captured, but when she was born and you saw her, although everyone said she was a healthy child, you knew something was wrong, didn't you?

    Ms. HAMPTON: I did. I knew. And especially when she opened her eyes and I remember seeing it in her eyes, and I knew -- I didn't say anything. And I asked everyone in the room, 'Is everything OK?' and I said, 'Why does she -- you know, her face looks a little bit smashed,' and everyone said she's fine, she came out fast, but I knew.

    GIFFORD: Well, you had a healthy daughter several years before that...

    Ms. HAMPTON: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: ...so -- and you'd been told all along with all of your prenatal care that everything was good, you saw ultrasounds.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Yeah.

    KOTB: No signs of Down syndrome .

    GIFFORD: No...

    Ms. HAMPTON: No signs of Down syndrome .

    KOTB: So when was it -- because you go from that photo, which is very -- you can -- you can see it in your eyes...

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Mm-hmm.

    KOTB: ...and then you suddenly see it through a different set of eyes. Tell us what happened.

    Ms. HAMPTON: When I saw her, it was...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAMPTON: ...pure shock at first, and the first wave of grief is just -- it's almost like a death, it's what happened to this other baby?

    KOTB: Yeah.

    Ms. HAMPTON: You're grieving the loss of this baby that you thought of.

    GIFFORD: You're also so hormonal at the time, too.

    KOTB: Sure.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Yeah. Very true.

    GIFFORD: You'd just given birth and I'm...

    KOTB: Right.

    GIFFORD: ...that's traumatic enough. Yeah.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Sure. And you're still holding your baby in your arms...

    KOTB: You're...

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    Ms. HAMPTON: ...while this is happening.

    KOTB: But your daughter Lainey ...

    GIFFORD: Lainey .

    KOTB: ...who was two at the time, saw your newborn and you just watched how she looked at her sister, and something went off in you, didn't it?

    Ms. HAMPTON: That was -- that was the moment I'll never forget. And it was painful, too, because so much of what you expect with a second child is a relationship between...

    GIFFORD: Right.

    Ms. HAMPTON: ...her sister, and I had so looked forward to that and told her all about the sister she was going to have.

    KOTB: Uh-huh .

    Ms. HAMPTON: And she walked in the room and I'll never forget, there were all these friends in the room and everybody sensed it, that the only one who didn't see Down syndrome was Lainey .

    GIFFORD: Oh.

    KOTB: Uh-huh .

    Ms. HAMPTON: And she was just proud and she held her and smiled and...

    KOTB: Oh.

    GIFFORD: It's always been that way, hasn't it, now?

    Ms. HAMPTON: It's always been that way.

    GIFFORD: They have a really special relationship .

    Ms. HAMPTON: Beautiful relationship.

    GIFFORD: You also had expectations for your daughter that were decidedly less than what it's become, right? I mean, she's doing quite well.

    Ms. HAMPTON: She's doing wonderful. Since I've been into this and have met so many families that have children with Down syndrome and adults, I have learned so much. There are individuals with Down syndrome in the world that are going to college, that are driving cars, that are getting married, and...

    GIFFORD: Having full lives.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Yeah. We hope that for Nella and I know we'll have that.

    KOTB: Tell us what your family's like now.

    GIFFORD: Look at that.

    KOTB: I mean, I...

    GIFFORD: The pictures are -- you took most of these, too, didn't you?

    KOTB: Come on, all day long.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Yes.

    GIFFORD: They're just beautiful.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Oh, she adds so much to our family. And...

    GIFFORD: Look at her.

    Ms. HAMPTON: ...we're excited for the future. She brings such light to our family. And I know for the future that we hope that she'll get to do whatever she wants to, she can go to college, she can get married if she -- whether she chooses to live with us or live independently. I just want her to be happy and I think...

    GIFFORD: Of course.

    Ms. HAMPTON: ...everyone just wants their child to be happy. And I know that we have what it takes to provide our kids the confidence and love.

    GIFFORD: And your husband had a family before, so you have two boys that just adore them, right?

    Ms. HAMPTON: Yes, two boys, yeah. So we have four children between the two of us .

    GIFFORD: They're beautiful kids.

    KOTB: What do you hope people take away -- when they read this book, what would you want them to take from it?

    Ms. HAMPTON: I think that people will be able to relate with, you know, not necessarily raising a child with Down syndrome , but we all have heartache, we all have things in our life that are not what we expected, and if you embrace them and learn from them and grow from them, you can find beauty in whatever.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAMPTON: And Nella has changed our life and we know that we'll be happy.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. HAMPTON: And you know, out of heartache comes happiness.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: Most people with Down children tell me...

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: ...that 'This is the child that taught me how to love.'

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: What love was really all about.

    Ms. HAMPTON: Absolutely.

    KOTB: Thank you.

TODAY books
updated 4/10/2012 5:58:54 PM ET 2012-04-10T21:58:54

When Kelle Hampton found out she was pregnant with her second child, she was ecstatic. But when her new daughter Nella was born, she knew instantly that something was wrong: Nella had Down syndrome. Hampton writes about the experience in her new book, "Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected." Read an excerpt.

I turned thirty-one on December 29, 2009. My husband and I went to dinner with friends the evening before, and as we left, toting our leftovers in Styrofoam boxes and marveling at my very round pregnant belly that seemed to have grown a bit since dinner, I noticed the welcoming glow of the nearby bookstore. I had told Brett I didn’t need anything this year for my birthday, since Christmas had just passed and we had splurged on a new lens for my camera, but at the sight of the store window, I remembered a book that had been recommended by another photographer. As we walked by, I told Brett I changed my mind. I wanted that book, and I needed it that very second. So we ventured in, and he played downstairs with our two-year-old, Lainey, while I wandered up in the self-help section, thumbing through titles until I landed on the only copy—"A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller.

Later at home, we put Lainey to bed and I drew a bath and climbed in, heaving my round middle over the edge of the tub and sinking into warm suds with my new book and a highlighter in hand. And I read. And read. And read. Underlining, highlighting, starring paragraphs and quotes and words that moved me hard. I warmed the water about a trillion times and pruned my skin to raisins, but I could not stop reading. I passed three hours in that tub, followed by another hour or so of reading in my bed.

The book spoke of the power of challenges—how living a life of comfort does nothing to make us grow, and how hard times shape us into interesting, developed characters. By the end of the book, I was inspired. Inspired to write a new story for our life—inspired to face challenges and leave my comfort zone and go through hard things because that is what turns the screenplays of our lives from boring to Oscar-worthy. And to be honest, in my mind, our most uncomfortable challenge boiled down to one thing: the changes in our life with Brett’s job and having him away from home. Little did I know.


Three weeks later, a Thursday, Brett and I teased all day that we were so ready for this baby, she had to either come Thursday or Friday. Every time he called me from work, he told me I should be out jogging. I didn’t jog, but I did walk like crazy, trailing Lainey through the streets of our neighborhood in a stroller, thinking, These might be the last moments with my only daughter alone.

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Thursday night, the pains started coming—nothing horribly uncomfortable but some significant cramps that were semiregular and popped up several times through the night. By morning, I had several that were fifteen to twenty minutes apart, and my doctor, convinced I would go fast once I was in full swing, suggested I go to the hospital within a few hours. I remember getting off the phone and it hit me: today was going to be the day. It was surreal. I texted my friends, called my family, began the last steps in the long process of saying good-bye to my only child. She wanted her face painted like a kitty, and although I was excited to pack up and head to the hospital, I savored every brushstroke of those last moments with my big girl.

I called my friend Katie in Fort Lauderdale. Katie was the delivery nurse the night Lainey was born, and we have since been forever friends. She promised me she wanted to be present for all my babies’ births, so she hightailed it over I-75 after my call to get there in time.

It was strange. It seemed so real and yet I had dreamed of this moment for so long, it was almost like a dream itself: Wanting a second child. Losing a pregnancy. Getting pregnant. The horrible night I thought it was all ending and the trip to the ER where we saw that little heartbeat. Waiting and preparing and finally, these last weeks, having everything just—perfect. The birth music ready to go, the blankets I had  made packed and ready, the coming-home outfit, the big sister crown for Lainey, the nightgown I had bought just for the occasion—what I would wear holding my daughter the first night I rocked her to sleep. Even the favors I hand-designed and tied every ribbon to were lined and stacked in a box, ready to pass out the moment the room flooded with visitors. My heart could hardly hold the excitement, and I will never ever forget what it feels like to long for your baby to be placed in your arms the last few days of your pregnancy—it’s so real, you can touch it.

We said good-bye to Lainey as we left her with Grandma and headed to the hospital, where I was quickly instructed in Room 7 to drop trou and gown up. I slipped my white ruffled skirt and black shirt into a plastic belongings bag. Days later, just the sight of these clothes—the ones I wore during all the excitement, during those last happy moments before my life was changed—would bring pain. I think my friend Heidi finally hid the bag because it made me cry every time.

The early stages of labor were perfectly beautiful. Nothing hurt that bad, I had the anticipation of this utopian experience ahead of me, Brett was chill, and my girlfriends started trickling in the room. We actually played a game—the “If you could” cards I had packed in my bag for this very purpose. If you could vacation to anywhere in the world, where would it be? If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be? I played moderator, firing questions from my hospital bed—questions that ignited good conversation, laughter, the feeling that this was fun and beautiful and more like a sleepover than an afternoon hooked up to monitors and IVs. And all the while, among the laughter and small talk was the accompanying melody of the girl I was about to meet. Her heart steadily beat a beautiful rhythm that could be heard loud and clear from the monitor strapped to my middle. Bum-pum. Bum-pum. Bum-pum. I had it perfectly planned, and it was going just as I had imagined—but better

Excerpted from "Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected" by Kelle Hampton. Published by HarperCollins, 2012.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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