Yesterday, I heard a husband who sounds broken, because his wife is afraid. They are expecting their third child, and that baby has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. She fears the future. She fears what God is asking. She is considering the unthinkable, thinking abortion will take away her fears, her worries. Hearing the pain in his voice, I don't need to imagine the fear in hers, I've felt afraid of the future when I expected our ninth. I know people whisper to you, "Abort. Try again. Do over." in so many words.
But each of us is unique. Each of us has a soul. Each of us is part of God's masterful luminous joyful glorious plan. It is only sometimes sorrowful because we live in this fallen place, but the divine reality of each of us being a gift is baseline. I wish I could hug this woman and tell her what I know.
This child is a gift. This child will be different, but the future is not unbearable, it is simply unknown. It just feels unbearable because all the unknowns come crashing down at once when you get a diagnosis of anything less than perfect.
All children come to us helpless and with struggles we cannot yet know. Some have severe allergies, others learning disabilities, some have tempers and others struggle with making friends. Each child comes with an unknown future. Oddly, with children who don't have genetic markers for conditions, we don't agonize about the future nearly as much, though they will still have to weather illness, school, bullies, frustrations, heart breaks, skinned knees, bad dates, bad haircuts, disappointments from others and from themselves and yet, we think only of the glittering promise of the unknown with genetically "normal" children. I promise you, he will surprise you out of fear with his capacity and his love, and your capacity for love.
I also promise you out there, if you are faced with a diagnosis of a child with a less than perfect genetic or physical or mental make up, this is not the end of your world, don't let it be the end of his or hers because you were afraid. Love stretches our hearts the way pregnancy stretches our bodies. We will never go back to being the smaller creatures we were, once we begin loving someone new. And it's okay to be afraid, it's just you have to know, you have to believe, you have to trust, that love is always always always, stronger than fear, stronger than death, stronger than all of the unknown.
The last thing I'll tell you my unknown sister, is hold tight to your husband. Hold tight to each other and God and it won't be all drudgery, it won't be all darkness. You'll be stunned when the sun breaks through in your heart, and you find you can smile and even laugh, and all things again seem possible.
P.S. I wasn't going to write on this, I'd already called in and asked fellow Catholic writers to pray for this family. Then I looked at the Loyola 3 Minute Retreat for the day as I cleared out my inbox of emails. I don't normally, but today, the Holy Spirit prickled. If you haven't clicked on the link, the first words are from Genesis 22: 11-12. "But the Lord's messenger called to him from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. "Do not lay your hand on the boy," said the messenger..." and so I'm writing here for whoever reads this, asking you to pray for this family, pray for their three sons, for their marriage, and for them to know God loves them all.