Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beauty unseen

Today I got some sad news. A friend of mind e-mailed me to let me know that her aunt had decided to terminate her pregnancy. Here’s the situation: her aunt is a 42 year old married woman, with a healthy 2 year old son. She met her husband late in life and they hoped to raise a family together like most couples do. Several weeks ago they found out that this baby she was carrying had Down Syndrome and most likely a few other birth defects. She was 18 weeks along. The baby was well formed, with the ability to hear and be startled by noises and was in the process of having it’s skin form (ok there’s a real name for that but I can’t tell you want it is – starts with a v).

Depending on who you are you will have an initial response: either for the mother or for the baby. Mine was for the mother, but not necessarily how you’d think I would respond. Of course I felt compassion for her, as she felt as though she had to make such a decision: to keep her child or to let it go. The fact that she felt as though she had to judge herself and her strengths within her as to whether she could indeed handle a child with special needs or not is incomprehensible. I could not fathom ever having to make that choice about myself. Am I able to care for this child? Am I the best this child could have? Will I be inflicting pain on this young life by giving it life itself? What horrible questions to have to ask yourself!

I have to believe the mother of this young life made this choice out of love (as I write this I am surprising myself with this reaction). Our automatic response is to believe that NOT choosing life is the coward’s way out. By choosing to give up the life we think that mom is deeming the child inside unlovable, invaluable and not truly sacred. But could it be that the mother was the one who felt unlovable, invaluable and unsacred? Could it be that she just did not feel capable of being the best mom this child could have?

By asking these questions I am in no way saying I agree with her decision, in fact my strongest reaction of all is sincere sadness for this family because of the loss they will experience without even knowing it. I don’t mean the loss of life – they will certainly still go through the grieving process of both the life that moved inside of mom and the dreams they shared for their family. But I mean the absence of a new kind of beauty they would have been able to experience from a brand new perspective. Trust me, if you haven’t had the chance to meet and really know people with ‘challenges’ you have been left out of an entirely different realm of this world. In my opinion the most honest and real realm there is (and I have VERY limited experience).

Here’s how I know no matter what your child is born with or how greatly ‘challenged’ or challenging your child is, with God you can be given what you need and then some. (It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it is possible)…

About 6 weeks ago I took one of the guys I support to church. What happens there is his father meets us in the parking lot we strap the gentleman into the wheel chair (he can walk but is very aggressive and hits out a lot, in the chair he is easier to manage in public). He wheels himself into the church with dad (who’d be around 55-60 yrs old), his dad sets him up (with the staff right behind) and the young guy sits for about 3 songs during worship. All the while dad is giving him constant treats to keep him from hitting (not bribes, as he is at a very low intellectual level, but reinforcement and a distraction really). This guy is pretty tough on his dad and mom (physically). He’s pretty tough on most (and has a heavy arm – I know!). Here’s the thing. The day I sat behind this father sitting with his son, I had NEVER in my life seen someone love so much. That father LOVES his son. I don’t mean that he loves him therefore he ‘puts up with’ him, I mean he LOVES him - period. It pours out of his pores. If I was a softy I would’ve cried but I didn’t (which worked out considering my job at that point), but I was AMAZED and felt my heart move. This dad regularly takes his son for visits and keeps up the church routine (after the songs dad takes son out of the chair in the foyer and walks with him around the near empty parts of the church to ‘bond’). THAT ladies and gentlemen is love – beyond what any human could give to another on their own.

Now back to my friend’s aunt. Please pray for her. My heart absolutely aches for her and is so saddened by the loss of the beautiful person that was once inside of her. She hasn’t any faith and at this point God is the only One who could heal this wound. She’s a child too, just as important as the one that lived inside of her.

It’s weird. Since working in this field I have come to understand both sides of the debate. My hope will always be for life to be given. Not because it’s the right thing to do but because we need to be reminded that whether our child is physically and developmentally perfect, we should never be trying to ‘do it all’ alone.

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