Thursday, September 18, 2008

Welcome Baby Paul!

Chocolate for Your Brain welcomes it's latest inspiration, Paul, born this Wednesday, September 17th at 7:28 pm. The following is an article written about him which ran September 11th in the Catholic Standard. Thanks for visiting and for reading.

Baby Paul's Heart and Ours

“Will you accept the blessing of children lovingly from God?”

In every Catholic wedding, the priest asks the question and the couple responds.

There isn’t a caveat or a footnote or an asterisk to that particular answer or question, designed to explain away exceptions or alternatives. It is a promise a couple makes to God in the process of obediently submitting to the sacrament of marriage. The choice to have children was made on that altar amidst family and friends, prayers and flowers. “Yes.”

As the mother of eight, soon to be nine children, even total strangers have remarked to me, “You must have wanted a large family.” No. I have to confess, that wasn’t my plan at all. I planned to get a PhD and run a school, and maybe one day teach English at my Alma Mater. That was my plan. I loved my husband to be and we had dutifully gone through the pre-marital inventory, had the interviews with our bishop, and spent the weekend at the Pre Cana retreat in preparation for the sacrament. But we hadn’t asked the specific question of each other, “How many kids do you want to have?” To be honest, the question had never occurred to either of us, in our youth and inexperience.

When I started on my Doctorate, my advisor asked the question, “How do you hope to prevent yourself from becoming seduced by academia?” I said “My husband and children (at that point I had only one), would be able to keep me humble and out of trouble.” We laughed but God saw the opening I had given Him and took it.

Prudence might indicate that, once kids became a part of our lives, we would have discussed numbers. But again, the question never came up. We couldn’t argue with the consequences of the blessings of our marriage. We loved each new addition to our family fiercely and found the idea of not having known such unique amazing individuals as our sons and daughters, a horrid prospect.

Graduate school was postponed. These people had always been part of our family, though we had never laid eyes on them before they were born. It was as if pieces of our lives and our hearts, our personalities and our gifts, were being revealed to us for the first time in each of these new people. Whenever I would begin to yearn for what had been let go, God would immediately ground me in the present with the people around me. Maybe our family would be smaller if I hadn’t been such a stubborn person, but I wouldn’t wish it. It has been an amazing and unexpected journey these past eighteen years.

God’s plan included this ninth person Paul, who has Down’s syndrome and a heart defect that will require surgery. His heart will have to be remade. Like most parents who discover they will have a child with disabilities the world can see, our hearts had to be remade too. My son’s heart has no walls on the inside. Our hearts had walls that had to be torn down. We didn’t know they were even there.

Paul’s heart will be examined by 35 pediatric cardiologists via the wonders of technology, so that the best possible care can be given to make the four chambers necessary for him to thrive. God has spent the last 42 years peering into our hearts to try and get us to submit to the surgeries of life necessary to make our souls flourish. Neither of us have been terribly cooperative patients, sometimes ignoring the prescriptions that would make us spiritually stronger. There have been moments when we have wanted to say, “No.” Or at the very least, “Why can’t it be my plan?” or “Why this plan?”

I wouldn’t argue with the 35 cardiologists about how to do this pending surgery; I have to trust they will do what is best for my son. Likewise, arguing with God about His plan seems a waste of energy. He’s the expert. God’s plan was for a different sort of Doctorate, born of thus far, fifteen years of study. Once one recognizes God’s plan, acting within it becomes a condition of will, a choice based on trust that the Divine Physician knows more about what’s best than the patient.

God’s plan was much more interesting than mine. I still hope to one day get that Ph.D. if it is right for me to have it, but I must concede, in all honesty, not getting what I wanted thus far has been the greatest gift of my life. God tells us He will make for us whole new hearts, and that is what this journey of life is for, to give Him time to operate on our souls via the trials, triumphs and tragedies we experience. He came to heal us of the illnesses we do not even know that we have.

A dear person in my life asked the question, “How do you know God’s plan?” At the time, I didn’t have an answer but I do now, “If it stretches you beyond your own perceived capacity to love, it is God’s plan. If it makes you devote your whole self to others, it is God’s plan. If the fruits of your actions include joy, laughter, lightness, mercy, healing, hope, forgiveness, patience and peace for yourself and/or others, it is God’s plan.”

I remain overwhelmed by the support and volume of prayers offered on Paul's behalf and am pleased to report he is beautiful, he is as healthy as one could hope, and that we already love him more than we could have thought possible.


reprehriestless warillever said...

Welcome, Baby Paul!

You are entering a world of love.

Heidi Hess Saxton said...

Dear Sherri: I've added your family to the prayer circle at the Extraordinary Moms Network:

What an incredible adventure you have ahead of you! Our prayers go with you every step of the way.

patjrsmom said...

What a beautiful story! Congratulations on your newest blessing!

God Bless,

Anonymous said...

Hello new nephew! Enjoy- Love, Uncle Andy and Aunt Jen

Amy said...

Congratulations and welcome to baby Paul. What you've written about God's plan is beautiful. Hope you don't mind that I print it out and keep it for future reference.

Anonymous said...

Sherri, I had read your article in the Standard and was incredibly touched by every word. Congratulations to you, Marc and the entire Antonetti family on Baby Paul's arrival! I cannot wait to meet him. You are all in our prayers. Much Love, Theresa

jacobusmaximus said...

CONGRATULATIONS! Mark was away until last night (Sat. 9/20) so I couldn't leave town yet. I'll get there soon. Can't wait to meet Paul.
Love to you and Marc.
PS-- let me know if you need me to pick up diapers on the way!

The Ironic Catholic said...


Biteofpunkinpie said...

I followed the link here from the IC... so beautifully written as only a mother could. Congrats on your newest blessing!

The Ironic Catholic said...

p.s. Here is great essay on welcoming a Downs Syndrome child, from of all places, NPR:

Ray from MN said...

Paul is a very lucky boy to have such wonderful parents and brothers and sisters.

God bless you all.

Syncopa said...

Welcome to the world, baby Paul! And congratulations to your Mommy and Daddy for being blessed with you.
I have an 8 year old daughter with DS, and I just want to tell your Mom and Dad not to worry. You'll be fine. You'll walk. You'll talk. You'll play, you'll sing, you'll laugh. And you'll show everyone around you what love is really all about.
If your family wants to find an online support group, go to - where our vision is "extra chromosome - extra family".
Best of luck with the surgery, sweetheart.

Elasticwaistbandlady said...


I read the most horrific article from a Canadian doctor last week who fears that Sarah Palin is setting a trend in women wanting to keep their "imperfect" Down Syndromed children.

As the sister of a brother with Down Syndrome who just celebrated his 20th birthday last week, it really outrages me to think that this elitist physician considers these kids to be anything less than a blessing and a gift from God.

MightyMom said...


as a mother to 3 special needs kids you are in for a world of wonderful!! their very specialness brings blessings that will amaze all those who love them.

God Bless you and your family.

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