It made sense to be scared. The ultrasound technician kept taking pictures. The room fell quiet. And then she stepped out.
My husband and I were left alone wondering what was wrong. We had seen a heartbeat on the screen, so surely all was well. But the weight that fell on both of us was a sign that there was more to come. More information. More news. More to fear. After a few minutes, the doctor joined us, ultrasound pictures in hand.
“Your son has several markers for Down’s Syndrome,” he said.
I don’t know what happened next. I heard nothing more that he said. Eventually he left and we drove home in silence. It made sense to be scared.
It was hard to know what to think. The test was inconclusive, and we did not know for sure. My husband and I found ourselves in an uncertain place where our perspective seemed to change what would happen to us. As we focused on the test results, we found ourselves preparing for a life that was not what we had planned. We stood face to face with the news so many people encounter when someone falls sick, a diagnosis is offered, or life changes drastically in one moment of time.
But, if we tilted our heads just a tiny bit, the doctor’s words held a glimmer of hope. My sweet baby, yet-to-be-born, also could be just fine. He had markers for something he may not have. And while we worried and wondered, we also realized there was much we did not know. And we were not the one in control. God's hand held us and our little one securely.
We had six months to think and pray and wonder. We had six months to remember the truth. The truth was (and is) that even in the midst of a difficult time, even when the path is not what we dreamed, even when it’s hard and painful and dark, we are not alone. God is faithful to walk with us through any challenge we face.
That is the truth we held tight to when my labor began that day. God did not leave us alone--he had the situation under his control. Those are the words we recited when his birth was complicated and long. I chose to hope as I delivered my son--even when he did not cry, at first. I told myself, again and again, that this was my son, regardless of his struggles, and that God would see us through. No matter what. And as they whisked him away to medical help, I took a breath and asked how he was.
“We would like him to cry more,” the doctor responded. “And there is a problem with his right arm. But otherwise he is okay.”
I always knew my son would be okay, no matter what. The truth is that we were going to be okay regardless of how many chromosomes my boy had. The journey could have been different, but it would not have been less. God’s glory would still shine through, with Down’s or without. God has a plan and purpose for all things that exceeds our limited understanding.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The very next day, we took our son home and his journey truly began. It was not simple, it was not straightforward, but it was exactly as it was meant to be. He had health issues to handle from a difficult start and it’s true, his right arm did not work. There was therapy plan and attention to be paid. But we had already learned so much about trusting God through the pregnancy. Spinning ourselves in worry did nothing for our son. Trusting in the one who made him mattered so much more. In acting on that trust, we found a place to stand and be enfolded by the God we know and love. He met us in those moments of uncertainty and helped us to see a bigger picture than we could ever see ourselves.
And yes, it was scary at first. But that fear took us to places without choice or hope and needed to released. So much of parenting is an exercise in understanding that we have been given our children as gifts.
Whatever the struggle, whatever the issue, God will meet us where we are and offer us hope and comfort, enough to pry our fingers off of our fear. And how He will rejoice with us when we learn what was always truth; that joy can be found in the whole of it, even when it is not what we dreamed.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra