I grew up in a Christian home, attended church regularly, read and memorized scripture, including the verses in Psalm 139: 13,14 that say,
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
However, it wasn't until 19 weeks into my 2nd pregnancy that my belief in whether those words were true or not would be tested. The phone call from the doctor at 4:30 on a Thursday afternoon in October 1997, confirming a diagnosis of Down syndrome for the baby girl I was carrying, would bring me to a crisis of faith I could never have imagined.
Did I really believe that this baby was fearfully and wonderfully made? A wonderful work of God? If I put my belief in the way society views individuals with special needs, then I would certainly think the Bible had it all wrong in this case. 90% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted in our society because they aren't viewed as fearfully and wonderfully made. My own doctor was quick to remind me that I wasn't too far along in my pregnancy to choose that option as well.
I'd be lying if I said that this 'quick answer to the problem' didn't find its way into my swirl of emotions and thoughts that first 24hrs. I too struggled with viewing this baby as anything but wonderful. All of my hopes of having the daughter of my dreams were dashed with this diagnosis of 'perceived imperfection'. I cried out to God and asked him how this fit into his Word that says we are ALL "fearfully and wonderfully made".
I didn't get a quick response from God on this one. In fact, He has patiently used the last 12 (almost 13) years with Josi in our lives (and now Nadia) to teach me the truth of those verses. Sometimes he has had to knock me over the head with a two-by-four, other times he gives me treasured moments of 'normalcy' to show me that ALL of his creation is JUST the way He meant it to be.
Most recently, He's shown me through the amazing lives of hundreds of families who actually seek out children with disabilities to become part of their families, just how "fearfully and wonderfully made" ALL children are and the VALUE they have not only in God's eyes but in the eyes of those who believe those verses are true. Not just the ones that are so cute that you just want to smother them with kisses, but even the ones that at first glance you're tempted to turn away from. They are ALL WONDERFUL because they are ALL WORKS OF GOD.
I don't profess to be 'there' yet on this issue, and I still struggle with the desire to have a 'typical' daughter in my life, but I'm thankful that God has given me not one, but two, living, breathing, 24/7 reminders that His standards of perfection are WAY different...and I dare say,much better than what the world's are.
I'll leave you with this column that you may or may not have read already that I've always loved. It's a tribute to Moms who are raising children with special needs.
My friend is expecting her first child. People keep asking what she wants. She smiles demurely, shakes her head and gives the answer mothers have given throughout the ages of time. She says it doesn’t matter whether it’s a boy or a girl. She just wants it to have ten fingers and ten toes. Of course, that’s what she says. That’s what mothers have always said.
Truth be told, every mother wants a whole lot more. Every mother wants a perfectly healthy baby with a round head, rosebud lips, button nose, beautiful eyes and satin skin.
Every mother wants a baby so gorgeous that people will pity the Gerber baby for being flat-out ugly. Every mother wants a baby that will roll over, sit up and take those first steps right on schedule (according to the baby development chart on page 57, column two). Every mother wants a baby that can see, hear, run, jump and fire neurons by the billions. She wants a kid that can smack the ball out of the park and do toe points that are the envy of the entire ballet class. Call it greed if you want, but we mothers want what we want.
Some mothers get babies with something more. Some mothers get babies with conditions they can’t pronounce, a spine that didn’t fuse, a missing chromosome or a palette that didn’t close. Most of those mothers can remember the time, the place, the shoes they were wearing and the color of the walls in the small,suffocating room where the doctor uttered the words that took their breath away. It felt like recess in the fourth grade when you didn’t see the kick ball coming and it knocked the wind clean out of you.
Some mothers leave the hospital with a healthy bundle, then, months, even years later, take him in for a routine visit, or schedule her for a well check, and crash head first into a brick wall as they bear the brunt of devastating news. It can’t be possible! That doesn’t run in our family. Can this really be happening in our lifetime? I am a woman who watches the Olympics for the sheer thrill of seeing finely sculpted bodies. It’s not a lust thing; it’s a wondrous thing. The athletes appear as specimens without flaw - rippling muscles with nary an ounce of flab or fat, virtual powerhouses of strength with lungs and limbs working in perfect harmony. Then the athlete walks over to a tote bag, rustles through the contents and pulls out an inhaler.
As I’ve told my own kids, be it on the way to physical therapy after a third knee surgery, or on a trip home from an echo cardiogram, there’s no such thing as a perfect body. Everybody will bear something at some time or another. Maybe the affliction will be apparent to curious eyes, or maybe it will be unseen, quietly treated with trips to the doctor, medication or surgery. The health problems our children have experienced have been minimal and manageable, so I watch with keen interest and great admiration the mothers of children with serious disabilities, and wonder how they do it.
Frankly, sometimes you mothers scare me. How you lift that child in and out of a wheelchair 20 times a day. How you monitor tests, track medications, regulate diet and serve as the gatekeeper to a hundred specialists yammering in your ear. I wonder how you endure the clichés and the platitudes, well-intentioned souls explaining how God is at work when you’ve occasionally questioned if God is on strike. I even wonder how you endure schmaltzy pieces like this one — saluting you, painting you as hero and saint, when you know you’re ordinary. You snap, you bark, you bite. You didn’t volunteer for this. You didn’t jump up and down in the motherhood line yelling, “Choose me, God! Choose me! I’ve got what it takes.”
You’re a woman who doesn’t have time to step back and put things in perspective, so, please, let me do it for you. From where I sit, you’re way ahead of the pack. You’ve developed the strength of a draft horse while holding onto the delicacy of a daffodil. You have a heart that melts like chocolate in a glove box in July, carefully counter-balanced against the stubbornness of an Ozark mule. You can be warm and tender one minute, and when circumstances require, intense and aggressive the next. You are the mother, advocate and protector of a child with a disability. You’re a neighbor, a friend, a stranger I pass at the mall. You’re the woman I sit next to at church, my cousin and my sister-in-law. You’re a woman who wanted ten fingers and ten toes, and got something more.
You’re a wonder.
Written by: Lori Borgman Columnist and Speaker
...and Wonderfully Made!