Although I don’t know what it’s like to raise a child with a disability, I do know what it’s like to be pregnant with a child who most likely has one.
It’s a little scary.
I spent many hours during those belly-growing, ankle-swollen months imagining how life might change or what our future might hold if our son did indeed have Down syndrome or another chromosomal anomaly like the doctors were telling us. Of all the things we wrestled with during that time, the absolute hardest part to grapple with was not how we might love our child, or how our lifestyle or parenting would need to evolve, or even where God was in the midst of it all. The most painful part was speculating about how the world would view and treat him.
Would they love him, too? What kind of a life would he have?
No mother on earth wants to see her child rejected, overlooked, misunderstood, or made fun of.
My husband and I made peace with the unknown of an untested ‘diagnosis’ and when we met Judah for the first time a few months later my immediate thoughts were about how white-blonde his hair was and how different he looked than the rest of our family. He was just so special, so him, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief and joy finally having him in my arms. It wasn’t until several minutes later that it occurred to me that he didn’t have Down syndrome, or any other detectable chromosomal anomaly.
By the time I gave birth it just wasn’t the “main thing” any more. We understood that if he was born with Down syndrome, we’d have a new type of grief and a new reality to deal with, but as far as we were able, we had come to terms with the possibility. Our peace came through searching and prayer and tears and leaning into the love we already felt for our boy. It wasn’t an easy time, but our faith served as the bedrock upon which we built everything else.
During my research while pregnant I had discovered that around 9 of out 10 pregnancies in women who know they’re carrying a child with Down syndrome end in elective abortion. The number broke my heart, imagining my own child on the wrong side of the statistic if he were conceived in another woman’s womb.
But most of these mothers? Most were convinced that if they birthed the child, he would not have any quality of life. To most of them, termination was the more loving, more humane way of managing their grief and the difficult unknowns for the future of their child. I can’t assume these 9 out of 10 women found the decision to follow through with abortion uncomplicated or painless. In fact, I assume that most found it excruciating. I wouldn’t dare label them ‘selfish’ or say they took the easy way out. (Abortion steals life from babies and mothers alike.) But it does make me incredibly sad. Any life cut short is a grievous tragedy – no matter what angle you’re coming from.
That’s why, when I saw this video I not only cried for my own baby, I cried for the babies never given the opportunity to have the life that these gorgeous young souls represent. And I cried for the mothers who never got to know the kind of joy and pride and love you see easily demonstrated in the last few heartwarming moments of this short film. (Disclaimer: if you’re anything like me you might ugly cry and collapse into a blubbering mess at the beauty of these two minutes worth of stunning people and reassuring, hopeful words. You’ve been warned.)
I can’t relate to these women as a fellow mom of a child with special needs, but I can relate with them simply as a mom.
We mothers love our children with passion and experience a joy unparalleled by any other type of relationship on earth. Our kids make us proud, bring us to our knees, stretch our limits of grace and gratitude, expose our weaknesses and insecurities, reveal the depths of our hearts, and unleash our power to heal and comfort and believe and love wild and fierce.
We love better because our children taught us how.
Today, as we recognize World Down Syndrome Day, let’s help spread awareness that although every child is differently abled and differently gifted, every child is beautiful and perfect and utterly amazing in the eyes of God and in the eyes of his mother.
Diabetes or cerebral palsy, left handed or right, athletic, musical, autistic, red-haired or brown, academic, tall or short, outgoing or shy, a lisp, a stutter, an extra copy of the 21st chromosome or a piano protégé – every child has something that can define their lives if we let it. And every child has something that can help showcase God’s glory in them if we look for it.
Mamas, shall we help the world to see our children a little more clearly?