October is a month that calls awareness to several causes, but two quite different causes touch my heart very profoundly. Though these causes are not related for most people, they are for our family. In October we call awareness to Down Syndrome, along with Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Without one, we would not have the other. Let me explain…
The year was 2014, we began to feel that our family was not complete. We did not necessarily feel called to have another baby of our own, but we did not know exactly what God was calling us to. As a married couple who practiced Natural Family Planning, we shifted from trying to postpone pregnancy to a couple who was just open to whatever God wanted. During this time, we achieved pregnancy twice, however, my body was not able to sustain either pregnancy. We miscarried both babies, one at six weeks, one at eight. Even though we did not necessarily feel called to have our own babies, we were devastated. The loss of a human life is a tragedy, no matter what age.
The pain of knowing I had lost a baby was something I had a difficult time explaining to even my closest friends and family. It was something difficult for me to even understand within my own heart. I suffered in silence. I knew my heart hurt, but I could not explain it well to the outside world. I knew it was perfectly acceptable to hurt, but I also knew that I had to get up, go to work, run after my three little ones, and keep our family moving forward. All too often, as mothers, we do not give ourselves enough time to grieve, no matter the type of loss.
It was through these two pregnancies that my husband and I realized that God was not calling us to expand our family through our own means, but that He was, without a doubt, calling us to adoption. We had always been open to adoption from the beginning of our marriage and had off and on been praying about it, but we did not know where to begin or what kind of child God was calling us to adopt. In God’s own way, He clearly answered our prayer and placed special needs, particularly, Down Syndrome, on our hearts. Little did we know, about the time we began feeling that our family was not complete, our soon to be son, was abandoned on the police station steps in a province in China. God chose him just for us!
While I was getting my theology degree in college, I worked with adults who had Down Syndrome and I helped them to live independent lives in their own apartments. These beautiful friends of mine had left a lasting impression on me. Our family embarked on the journey of adopting our son George, who is a child who rocks that extra twenty-first chromosome. The process took us sixteen months and during those sixteen months we were asked several times, “Why on earth would you adopt a child with Down Syndrome?” “Why would you put yourselves through that?” Others said, “What a blessing you will be for that child!”
Though I am sure George, our son, would tell you that we are a blessing to him, George has been way more of a blessing to our family than we could ever imagine being to him. It was these comments which made me know that Down Syndrome Advocacy MUST happen. Being a special needs parent or sibling is not always easy, but it’s not always easy to be a parent or a sibling of a child without special needs either. In fact, I dare say, our children are kinder and have more patience with their sibling with special needs versus their siblings without.
In this short article, I cannot advocate on the importance of Down Syndrome or Pregnancy and Infant Loss and do it justice. I would need pages and pages to do that. It boils down to one simple thing for me, we need to be completely prolife in all ways. When somebody you know looses a pregnancy through miscarriage, please do not discount it as something less than loosing a child living outside the womb. When you see someone with a special need, do not discount their lives. Each person is created in the image of Jesus Christ and should be treated with respect and dignity. My son with Down Syndrome deserves a happy and fulfilling life, just as my children without Down Syndrome.
For all of the people who asked us why on earth we would ever consider adopting a child with Down Syndrome or those who stated what a blessing we would be to our child this is what I have to say; George has taught our family more about the word LOVE than any other person in this world. He loves more deeply and purely than those of us without that extra chromosome. Sometimes I think that extra chromosome allows him to be more accepting, more merciful, and more joyful. In fact, it’s been such a beautiful experience that we are doing it again. Thus, I would consider adopting a child (or two ? ) with Down Syndrome because they are an earthly image of Christ and a reflection of who I am called to be.