I was actually disturbed and somewhat ticked off that this theme or topic kept surfacing during my education. In one of my dev psych classes there was a guest speaker who shared the incredible difficulties they had with their ‘developmentally delayed child.’ I remember sitting there almost overwhelmed as I listened to the horrendous experiences they shared with us. With great care I listened to every detail that outlined what I feared. Lack of sleep, exhaustion, family difficulties, temper-tantrums, stress, and total breakdowns, none sounded appealing to me. I am sure there must have been something positive in there too, but I simply didn’t hear it. I was newly married, the topic of children was on our minds, and all I thought was, “There is no way I could live like that.”
I remember distinctly thinking to myself, “God. Why is she here today, right now, at this time? Is this some strange way you are trying to prepare me for the future?” It might seem odd, but that thought served to feed my fears, not relieve them.
Interestingly during this time in a completely unrelated course, one of my assignments required that I write and conduct a Baby Dedication for a couple in their forty’s who had recently given birth. They had been married 20 years and although they had tried and petitioned God for a child it wasn’t until after woman’s 45th birthday that they discovered they were expecting their first child. At first both were excited and thankful. After the birth of their little girl though, things changed. Dad couldn’t accept the child and grew resentful toward God for allowing them to have a Down Syndrome child after faithfully serving Him for years.
Here I stood again, before people who were experiencing something I secretly dreaded the thoughts of.
Something stirred within my heart as I researched and prepared a Baby Dedication that would somehow bring encouragement and hope to Mom and Dad while at the same time honoring the unique value of this little child.
It wasn’t long after this that Christine came into our lives. My wife Lynn was a TA at a daycare and as you might guess, Christine had ‘unique giftings’ herself. Spending time with Lynn and Christine afforded me the opportunity to personally see both the unique challenges, like listening to Bananas in Pajamas 153 times before supper, and joys of spontaneous laughter and everything being a ‘new discovery’ raising a ‘uniquely challenged’ child might bring.
There was a change. Slight as it was at first I noticed my attitude begin shifting. My outright fear was being replaced with apprehension. Over time I recognized I was beginning to soften and become more comfortable around those who were ‘uniquely gifted.’
Besides my social awkwardness I believe it was the potential unknown and my perceived inability to provide the necessary care that fueled my fears. It is interesting to me that God continues to lead us down paths that forge character within our lives. Most often these are very uncomfortable seasons within our lives where thoughts/motives and our deepest thoughts surface so that they can be examined and surrendered to Him.
I remember clearly the excitement I felt when Lynn said, “Greg. We’re pregnant!” (Yeah, well, you and I both know she was pregnant, but we did experience it together.) Both of us entered into this stage of our marriage with great enthusiasm, hopes, and aspirations for the family we would raise. Listening to our child’s heart beat for the first time was exciting. I marveled at two things, one, the technology that makes this possible and two, there is life here that Lynn and I have created together. What an incredible thought! This child will be a wonderfully complex blend of Lynn and I and we have the wonderful privilege of investing within their life. What an honor that is!
Night after night I read stories and sang songs to this child as Lynn lied upon her back. Both of us dreaming and sharing what we believed the possibilities our little family would have. We were excited. Finally, after a long wait, we will have a child of our own.
Adrenaline surged through my body as my mind raced, grasping at the weight and meaning of the Dr’s words. Did I hear correctly? Does he mean what I think he means? “Pardon me. Could you repeat that please?” I ask in disbelief.
“We have discovered a dark spot on the brain and are uncertain what this is. From what we can tell, developmentally the fetus is far behind where it should be at this point in the pregnancy. The clenched fists and little to no movement have us thinking that this child will be born with Downs or Spina Biffida. Would you like us to do further tests so that your options are open?”
In that moment I stood face to face with fear.
Until next time consider what your greatest fear(s) in parenting were and how you responded when face to face with them. In part 2 I’ll share more of our journey with you.
Your friend and Pro-Active Parent Coach