I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
It has been said that if a story is not told, it will be forgotten. As we celebrate Joshua’s 10th birthday, I would like to share a small piece of the story of God’s grace in our lives.
The above verse sounded from the radio as we raced to the hospital for the birth of our 5th child. It was almost midnight. Our other four children (ages 17, 13, 11 and 1) waited at home sleeping.
I was eager for Joshua to be born. Although it had been an easy pregnancy, it had been a hot summer and a good night’s sleep was in the distant past. I would not be sleeping that night either. About 5am, Joshua made his entrance into the world and the midwife laid his sweet little body on my bare belly. Soon afterward, he had to be whisked away because he was not breathing well. He was taken to be bathed and to be examined by the pediatrician.
I waited eagerly for the nurse to wheel the bassinet back into my room so I could cuddle him. About 8:30, Joshua was brought into my room and we were alone. Since he would not wake up to nurse, I decided to change his diaper. I looked at his tiny feet and legs and thought proportionally his legs looked shorter than the other children’s. Then gradually I noticed the other characteristics – a space between his toes, a broad neck, little ears and a flattened bridge of his nose. It was clear to me that little Joshua had Down syndrome. My first thought was, “They made a mistake!”
By “they”, I meant the doctor and technicians who had done the ultrasound. Five months earlier, in San Antonio Texas, Mike and I had gone in for a level 2 ultrasound. Since I was 41 and considered a high risk pregnancy, this was one way to determine how the baby was developing. In addition to examining the organs to check for functioning, the doctor explained that they take several measurements to check to see if the baby’s measurements fall within a certain range. These were called markers and the more markers, the greater the chance that the baby would be born with Down syndrome. As he went through all the measurements, he did not indicate that any were out of range, and he said that all the organs appeared healthy. He did show me a bright spot on Joshua’s heart that he said it was a marker. I am not sure how I came to the conclusion, but I thought that considering my age along with the presence of the “bright spot” that meant there was about a 1 in 20 chance that the baby had Down syndrome. Since that meant there was a 95% chance he did not, why worry?
As I sat there looking at my little miracle who had spent nine months growing inside of me, I was thankful I did not know beforehand because I would have worried a lot! But at that moment came a flood of thoughts. What will his life be like? What will my life be like? Will I love him as much as I love the others? How will other people treat him? Will he be made fun of?
It was another long night since I did not sleep much; however, I knew that I was not alone because I felt the Lord’s presence with me. His Spirit brought to mind a song I had been singing in church the previous morning:
Lord, I give you my heart. I give you my soul. I live for you alone.
Every breath that I take, every move that I make, Jesus, have your way in me.
It was as if the Lord asked me, “Did you mean the words you sang yesterday? Is that still true?” The answer was “Yes!” and I was filled with His peace for an unknown future. Joshua’s features were not a surprise to the Lord, and God had not made a mistake! He had knit Joshua together in my womb. Joshua is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). Each of my children is a unique creation of God, but I had not settled one question in my mind. Would my love for Joshua be as great as my love for my older children? Again, the Lord seemed to speak to my spirit reminding me that just as I love the other four with His love, He will love Joshua though me.
This question was still heavy on my heart Joshua’s first three weeks at home because he was not very alert during this time. I had to wake him up to nurse, but he rarely kept his eyes open. Once he opened those beautiful blue eyes, I fell in love. When he began to interact with us, we found he was so easy to love. When he smiles, he lights up the room. One of my favorite sounds in the whole world is his laughter.
Joshua is ten today. We cannot imagine life without him. He is funny and clever and a bit mischievous. Some people would call him a “special needs” child but I don’t think of him in that way. His biggest needs are love and acceptance, the exact same needs we all have. Some days are really challenging, but on both the hard days and the good days, my help comes from the Lord. And every time we sing that song in church, I reaffirm that with every breath I take I want Jesus to have His way in me.