I saw a friend last night who'd been out of town for several weeks to be with her daughter for the birth of her first baby. Almost before I could ask her how things had gone, she said, “We have to talk.”
In that instant I knew that the baby had been born with Down syndrome. She confirmed it and we hugged.
I was overcome with sadness for my friend and her family, even though I know this little guy is going to bring incomparable joy into their lives, touch many hearts in his lifetime, and teach the whole family how to reach deeper into the fountains of love and compassion than they had ever imagined possible.
But let's face it: that young couple didn't sign up to be trailblazers. They only set out to do what millions of young couples do every year: start a family and have a normal life. That dream has been shattered. Other dreams will take their place in time, but for now the family is left to live among the shards.
It hurts so bad. It is such a heartache.
One mother described her feeling about having a baby with Down syndrome as being like having planned the vacation of a lifetime in Italy, getting off the plane, and realizing you have wound up in Holland. Now, Holland's a great place, but it doesn't match up with a lot of the hopes and dreams you had for Italy.
Still, I have lots of good news for my friend and her family. First of all, as Kelly's pediatrician told us in the hospital, “You're going to have a great time with this kid.” This is so true, if impossible to describe and imagine exactly how. Suffice it to say that Holland presents lots of unexpected delights!
But also true is this: So much has been learned since Kelly was born about so many things that will make a real difference in this baby's prospects in life. First there are all the infant stimulation and educational interventions, which make a big, big difference.
Add to this is the fact that every day researchers are getting closer to unlocking the secret as to what causes the developmental delays of Down syndrome. Trials on young adults with Downs are even now underway to test a promising new drug. I am convinced these little ones will do everything their brothers and sisters do in life–grow up, go to college, have a career, get married, maybe have a family of their own.
All that said, my advice for today is this: Just take a deep breath, say a prayer, and fall in love with and enjoy that baby, one day at a time. God knows the heartache, and God will bring the healing in time.
And all will be well.
Photo courtesy Google Images