Her baby has trisomy 18. She reminds us to enjoy every moment of parenthood.

She was told her newborn could die within days. That baby just enjoyed her first birthday.

Imagine that you're a woman who finds out during a routine doctor's appointment that your unborn baby could die within days of her birth.

That's what happened to this mom.

Motherhood isn't easy for Heather Peterson. All photos are from the Peterson family and used with permission.


In case you missed it, we recently covered the story of Nathan and Heather Peterson. Their daughter Olivia was born with trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome. 

\n\n

Babies with this condition usually experience numerous medical difficulties, including problems with their vital organs. Sadly, only about 10% survive to witness their first birthdays.

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

Olivia is one of the babies who beat the odds. She celebrated her first year of life on Jan. 7, 2016.

Big smiles for Heather, Nathan, and baby Olivia.

Previously we told the story from Nathan's perspective, but what was it like for the mom who went through it all? 

Heather went to her 20-week sonogram appointment and the doctor became quiet while reviewing the results. That's when she knew something was wrong.

The doctor confirmed her fears. Trisomy 18 was the diagnosis for her unborn daughter.

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

After giving the news to Heather, the doctor and nurse waited for a response. With tears streaming down her face, Heather responded by saying, "We're going to be OK."

In spite of the darkness surrounding the news, Heather was able to see the light.

"I remember explaining this to the nurse and doctor, and they were amazed by my strength in light of everything," Heather told Upworthy. "But I sensed that a bigger thing was happening."

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

A few days after the diagnosis, she felt it was an opportunity to use her experience to help others in a similar situation. That in itself gave her a sense of purpose even though the days, weeks, and months to follow were extremely difficult. 

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

"I felt radiant and a friend remarked that I was glowing," Heather said. "Of course I broke down in despair many times as I thought about the road ahead of me."

Even though Olivia has celebrated her first birthday, Heather's still taking things day by day.

Olivia's first birthday cake, made with love by proud mom Heather.

Remember, approximately 9 out of every 10 babies diagnosed with trisomy 18 won't live to celebrate their first birthdays. This was a huge milestone for the Peterson family, but Heather experienced mixed emotions.

\n\n

First she described Olivia's actual birthday, and it was awesome.

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

"It was peaceful and everything came together perfectly," Heather said. "I didn't worry about whether everything was going to get done, or worry about Olivia's future. I just thoroughly enjoyed the day."

Olivia's first birthday was wonderful for everyone involved.

But after the celebration was over, the intense fear began to sink in. 

\n\n

Heather feared Olivia would be unable to transition from nursing to drinking from a cup. She feared Olivia's birthday could signify the beginning of the end of her life. She feared the gut-wrenching moment when she has to say goodbye to her baby girl.

\n\n

That's when she took a deep breath and focused on the things she can control — namely, giving Olivia all of mommy's heart right now.

\n\n\n\n

"I wasted weeks worrying about the future instead of enjoying the present with my daughter," Heather said. "My job is to love Olivia while she's here." 

And now she has something to say to other moms who may be going through the same thing.

It goes without saying that raising a baby with trisomy 18 can be extremely difficult. Heather has lived it and offers her thoughts to mothers who are experiencing it. 

The days and nights are often exhausting for Heather.

"I grieve for you, mama. I know this road, and it is so painful and beautiful. Enjoy life now, in this moment, in the tiny things around you. Learn how to ask for help and draw closer to the community of friends and family around you. It can be difficult to lean on them, but you will see how much they love you when you allow them to ease your pain."

And for the moms in relationships, she reminds them that they have the green light to be as "much of a mess as possible" and their spouses do as well. The key is to not take anything personally and know that as long as both parties communicate and stay close to each other, it will make things easier. 

You know those milestones that many parents take for granted? The Peterson family reminds us all to enjoy every single one of them.

As parents, we love the milestones our babies experience. It could be when they giggled for the first time or when they learned how to drink from a sippy cup. We may have snapped a photo or rolled some video, but afterward, it was on to the next thing without giving it much thought.

\n\n

It's different for the Peterson family. They didn't know if they would ever witness Olivia laughing or drinking from a sippy cup on her own.

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

But they did.

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

Olivia even laughed out loud for the first time a few weeks ago. See for yourself. 

Throughout the otherworldly tantrums our kids throw in public places and the negotiations we facilitate to get them to eat just one bite of broccoli, we should be reminded to love every moment of the chaos. 

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

Heather knows this. And she embraces it all. 

Nobody knows for sure if Olivia will be here to celebrate her second birthday, but the Peterson's music group Hello Industry says it best in their song titled, "The Innocent Will Die." 

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

"Anything is possible."

More

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture