Birth of a vision…death of a vision…Anticipation…Dashed hopes…Heights…Depths…
The Psalmist speaks for us when he says,
“Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence.
If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:17-19)
Since I last wrote there has been much reflecting on my life, reminders of hard times, God’s workings and faithfulness to our family. After the circumstances of the birth of my firstborn which I described to you recently, God lovingly gave us another gift, our second son, our sweet Matthew. We were thrilled with this little boy beyond measure. I was already 38 and another baby at that age was a marvel to us. We had always desired more children, but time seemed to be slipping away. Advancing age presented problems, so they say. The risks in pregnancies at later ages for the mama increased–the greater possibility of birth defects loomed before us. At age 41 we found I was pregnant again. Oh joy! Perhaps God would give us a little girl. Doesn’t every mama need a daughter? A mixture of excitement and anxiety ensued. The boys were only five and three, but this mama was “old”. I could have been a grandma.
Sonograms in those days were uncommon. All was going well. Those wonderful little flutters were felt in my belly when this child moved, and as the baby grew, the familiar movements became stronger, but not frequent. Familiar fears of some impending problem began looming in my mind, but according to personal track record, these things were pondered in the heart and not voiced to others. In the ninth month this child rarely moved and my silence continued. Labor began and the doctor and attending staff performed their skilled work of bringing our baby into the world by Caesarian section. That beautiful cry of life, the hoped-for words, “It’s a girl!”, were heard and the nurse whisked our child away to clean her and do those things nurses do. But time stood still as my husband whispered something like, “They are examining her far too long. They are studying her hands and face. They didn’t do that with the boys.” The doctor’s verdict was that we had a healthy little girl, but the nurse did not bring her to me. An eternity later our pediatrician came into our assigned room and with averted eyes told us our baby girl had Trisomy 21…The twenty-first set of chromosomes in her DNA structure was not a pair. There were three. Our Jennifer had what is commonly known as Down Syndrome. The doctor told us there were places we could put her and walked out.
Stunned, yet not stunned, our eyes lingered not so bravely on each other. Later we would share how God had prepared us for this “crushing” event through a variety of circumstances, but at this moment our emotions were in flux, attempting to think rightly, yet filled with a kind of sorrow.
As we were abruptly introduced to this new world of “disabled children” I learned the reason my daughter had rarely moved as she grew within me–low muscle tone, typical of her makeup. I would soon realize that even holding her head up at three months would be a terrible struggle for my little one. “Hi, Jenny,” we would say as her head wobbled erratically and we would steady her and lift her sweet face toward us.
That first evening in the hospital blurred before me. Our daughter turned dusky (bluish) just as I had finally been allowed to hold her for only a few moments. Hospital staff whisked our baby away to another hospital to check for heart problems and I prayed, “Lord, don’t let me love her if You are going to take her.” I was frightened, confused, steeling myself against the pain of loss–emotional and physical.
Many friends came to visit in the days that followed, more than a usual amount of visitors, people trying to comfort, not knowing what to say about this new life which would normally bring joy and congratulations. One woman came in and said, “I’m so excited for you!”, and I pitied her.
In the middle of that first night when my baby was across the city in another hospital, deep sleep from emotional and physical exhaustion took over. But in the early morning hours, the overhead light was rudely turned on, a nurse walked in and loudly proclaimed, “Mrs. Finamore, here is your daughter! She’s fine!”, handed her to me, walked out and closed the door. Vividly in the mind, emanating in the voiced words, “Ok, here goes, Lord,” I gazed at this baby’s little face–memorizing the sagging cheeks, the slanted eyes, the ears set low on her head. I began to unwrap the swaddled blanket covering her body. I saw two arms, two legs, ten fingers, ten toes. So perfect. I took off her tiny shirt and caressed her tummy and back. I undid her diaper and saw her little girl body. I kissed her face, her neck, her hands. That motherly tenderness, designed beautifully by God, overwhelmed my soul, my emotions, as I stared at this little one created by God, and I was smitten. The lump in my throat moved to tears in my eyes as I fell in love, bitter-sweetly, with this child, created in God’s most precious image…this child who needed my love and care and tenderness–and who also needed Jesus–just like any other child in the world.
The years have passed, twenty-six to be exact, and this child has filled our lives with joy. She loves life, is never, ever bored, brings a light to the eyes of all those she meets. As she will tell you herself, she loves to create things, she is an artist, a dancer, a computer genius in my estimation. She adores her brothers and her daddy. God has given her a humbly grateful heart, a heart filled with love and acceptance without judgment. We learn much from her about not complaining or arguing. She is without guile.
This home will never have an empty nest. There will never be a relationship with her at the level I have with my own mama. Her daddy will never walk her down an aisle. She does not have a college degree, but did proudly wear her cap and gown at her high school graduation. And it is all good, because God is the Always Good. He does all things well.
Sister, don’t despair when God brings you things not asked for. Do not grumble when your dreams are not realized as you envisioned. Do not allow any bitterness to take root in your heart when plans do not materialize. Do not allow fear of the unknown to rule your heart. We either believe God is Sovereign over all or we do not. We believe He is good in that sovereignty or we do not. We are grateful for His workings in our lives or we are not. We either believe He is working out in our lives all things for our good and His glory or we do not. What do you have for which you did not ask, my sister? God is sufficient. Be satisfied with Him above all else. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He never misleads–even when we do not understand.
“Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth,
And follow where He guideth.
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.”
“…Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work (maturing work) that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
“For You formed my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.”
Looking with you for His return when we will be perfect, without disability, unfettered by sin which weighs us down. We shall be like Him–for we shall see Him as He is–