"For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Ps. 139:13-14a
Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about the scariest prayer. Now that we are ready to share, I would like to give a little background on that post.
I would venture to say that most girls, as they grow up, dream of becoming mothers. I know that's not true of every girl, but I think it's safe to say that it's true for the majority of girls. It was true for me. Because I don't have time to go into all of the details of my journey toward becoming a mom, I will give you a condensed version. I will say this, though: while our journey of becoming parents hasn't been the easiest, I know that it hasn't been the hardest, either. We have dealt with infertility, but I know there are others who have had much greater struggles with infertility than us. This is our story...
Trey and I became pregnant with our first child a little over a year after our marriage. We had been praying for a baby for about 10 months, and finally, it happened! Unfortunately, we suffered an early miscarriage. We grieved deeply over the loss of our first baby. The months grew long as we waited and hoped for another pregnancy. Finally, almost a year later, we became pregnant again. Our daughter, Kate, was born healthy in June 2011.
Because it took us a couple years to become pregnant with Kate, we planned to have another child close in age to Kate. However, as many of us have experienced in life, our plans do not always come to fruition. Again, the months grew long as we waited, but this time, the years grew long, as well. We were slowly tested for fertility issues as time passed. We discovered and surgically corrected one problem, but still, nothing. While we were exceedingly grateful for our daughter, we also longed for her to have siblings. We longed for a home filled with children. A verse that became the cry of my heart was Proverbs 13:12:
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."
We knew fully the heart sickness that comes from deferred hope, and we prayed fervently for the Lord to fulfill our desires. We prayed for our next child, and we trusted that these desires were from Him. During our wait, we followed God's call for us to become foster parents. With each new foster placement, I would whisper in my heart, "Could it be for this child that we've prayed?" But then, as time went on, each little one was reunited with parents or relatives, as is the goal of foster care, and we rejoiced in their placement with family.
Finally, though, the Lord had a surprise for us. On March 4, 2015, I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that I needed to take a pregnancy test. The following morning, with doubt and fear gripping my heart, I did so, only to find out with joy that our long wait had come to an end. We were pregnant!
I wish that my blog post could end here, with such joyful news over God's answered prayer. I will say this, though, before I continue: it is for this child that I've prayed. After all of the wondering and waiting, we finally see God's provision. And really, while four years may seem like a very long wait to some, we see now the goodness and rightness of God's timing. He is never late, and He is never early.
At my 12 week obstetrics appointment, I went in for a routine checkup. When my doctor could not find the baby's heartbeat, we had to do a sonogram. Thankfully, our little one's heartbeat was immediately evident in the sonogram, and I rejoiced as I looked at that tiny baby. But just as my heart leaped with joy, the sonographer hesitated. My doctor was in the room, as well, and she immediately said, "What do you see?"
It was a borderline issue, and the sonographer said that typically it will resolve itself by the next big sonogram. Still, my heart was stirred with concern. My doctor informed me of a new blood test that would identify any chromosome problems. This screening test is different from blood tests in the past, as it samples the actual DNA from the baby and not the mom. Therefore, while it is still a screening test and not diagnostic, the accuracy of this test is much greater. After several days of quietness and prayer, my husband and I decided to do the blood test. I would get peace of mind, and we would also find out the gender of our second-born child.
We waited almost two grueling weeks before the results came back. At 4:15PM on the Friday before Mother's Day, my phone finally rang. I hurried to Trey, answered, and put the phone on speaker. It was my doctor, not the nurse, and we immediately knew that something was wrong. On a positive note, we learned that we are having another precious baby girl. But also during that phone call, we learned that our daughter tested positive for Trisomy 21. Down Syndrome.
How do you possibly process such news? We had planned to announce our pregnancy that Sunday, Mother's Day, as I was finally out of the first trimester, but this news took us a few steps back. We decided to keep our pregnancy private for a little longer. We needed to process this development.
So here we are now, announcing to you that we are pregnant! Most likely, our daughter has Down Syndrome. I want to be clear on one thing: while we have grieved over news we never expected, we are committed to our daughter. We still rejoice over her life, because it is for this child we have prayed. Maybe we didn't pray for a child with Down Syndrome specifically, but we prayed for another child to bless our home and to bless others. God in His wisdom gave us this precious girl. We do not regret her life, and we have not ever considered terminating this pregnancy. We do not begrudge God the gift of life that He has given us to parent.
As we have processed the unknown, we have thought deeply about the name we would give our second-born daughter. I would like to introduce you to Alisa Jane. Alisa (pronounced A-lee-sa) means "joy" in Hebrew. No matter what happens over the course of this pregnancy and into our daughter's life outside the womb, we want to always have joy in the Lord for her life. Challenges will come, but is this not true of any child we parent?
Jane means "gift from God" in Hebrew. Sadly, as we have delved into learning about Down Syndrome, we have faced a devastating reality: the vast majority of pregnancies of DS babies are terminated. In fact, research in 2009 indicated that upwards of 92% of such pregnancies are terminated! I would venture to say that as neonatal testing has become more accurate, this percentage has only crept higher. In our journey with Alisa, we have been asked several times if we will terminate. In fact, I had one nurse who assumed we were going to terminate, and when I realized what this nurse was assuming, I clarified to her that we will keep our daughter no matter what. I was not angry with this nurse, but I realized through her assumption that, more often than not, DS babies are terminated in the womb. Her assumption was merely based on the norm she sees in her profession.
I will be honest. It wrecked my heart that our world does not see value in the life of my baby. We want to proclaim to a world that idolizes perfection and runs from heartache that our daughter's life is valuable. Life is valuable. We will not pick and choose what problems we will accept in our unborn children. We will rejoice in the blessing God has given us, no matter what.
After all, it is for this child that we've prayed.
For now, I will leave you with this. Please pray for our family, if the Lord brings us to your mind. Pray for our daughter, Alisa, that God heals her body as she grows in my womb. We are not undergoing any invasive testing. The blood test and the soft markers from sonograms make it pretty clear that she has Down Syndrome. We are asking God to heal her, that when she is born, she is free of any birth defects, because as loving parents, we cannot help but pray for her health and healing. At the same time, though, we are praying for God's will to be done. As I wrote before, this is the scariest prayer to utter if you don't trust God, but we are choosing to trust Him, and we find that this prayer is the safest and most comforting we could pray.
If Alisa is born with Down Syndrome, please don't say you are sorry for us. We aren't sorry for ourselves. We will rejoice over God's will, in her life and in ours. We know the road will be more difficult at times raising a child with special needs, but we also know that she is worth it. Choosing life is always worth it! We are sharing our story openly now because we want the world to know that choosing the hard way in life is infinitely more rewarding than running from it. Maybe we will all see a miracle on the day Alisa is born, that God might heal her from any abnormalities in her DNA or her body. We know He is able to do so. If that happens, then only God will get the glory.
Perhaps, though, we walk this road so that we can show our world that a dying population - those with Down Syndrome - are actually worth choosing life for. Perhaps we can show this world through our daughter that there is greater joy in life than chasing perfection, even when it means pain and heartache along the way.
True joy, in fact, is never found in chasing the perfect. It is only found in chasing the genuine life of following Christ. It is the road less traveled, but it is the only road that brings us to true life!