“I wouldn’t worry about this,” the doctor told me as we stood in front of a screen projecting the image of our 13-week old child in utero. I bit my lips so aggressively, I thought they might fall off—an unsuccessful attempt at holding in my tears. Feeling silly responding to the doctor’s kind reassurance by crying, I finally broke my silence: “I hear what you’re saying but I think I just need to cry for a little bit.” She handed me some tissues while my husband took my hand, and I wept.
The doctor had just come in the room with the ultrasound technician, where they found us, a couple of blissful second-time parents ooh’ing and ahh’ing over the black and white lines making up the picture of their tiny baby. The possibility of the doctor coming in to tell us anything but baby looks great was something I hadn’t even thought of. My first pregnancy couldn’t have been any smoother; every appointment was met with the confident assurance from doctors that the baby and I were both healthy as can be. This is probably why I felt all the more taken aback on this Monday afternoon in May when the doctor transitioned from baby looks great to “but…”
It was a little marker for Down syndrome that they’d found—not a cause for alarm (yet), but the blood test they would perform next would help us know more. I cried through the rest of the meeting with the doctor and then through the blood test. As my husband and I left the hospital, I attempted to fight back the tears but when he grabbed for my hand just outside the parking garage, I broke and let out a guttural cry, my whole body shaking with sobs. I did hear what the doctor had said, but I just needed to cry for a bit—a long bit.
Although I haven’t seen that doctor again, she was only the first of three who have now shared the discovery of a new marker—and then another, and then one more—all pointing to Down syndrome or a similar genetic disorder.
In late June, one month after some truly reassuring results from my second round of bloodwork, a call came from a different doctor who found this and that on our recent third ultrasound. I’ve never liked roller coasters, but this one has been my least favorite of all. We’re now four months away from our due date, which is to say we’re four months away from knowing, with certainty, the actual condition of this baby. It’s an eternity and a blink, all at once.
I don’t cry about the unknowns anymore. Maybe the tears have all dried up, or maybe I’m just too exhausted to produce any more of them. Regardless of what we discover when this baby finally makes their way into our arms, I know one thing is for certain: Any sort of genetic disorder will not be the end of their story—or of mine. Down syndrome does not disqualify them from living a big life, and it won’t take me out of the game, either.
I haven’t yet taken in all of the lessons I have to glean from this experience but, for now, I’m learning that my stubbornness can come in handy. I refuse to allow fear to dictate my actions or emotions. When fear steers the ship, it will never leave the shore—because what if, what if, what if. I don’t want a life lived on the shore and I don’t want that for this baby, either. I want these first nine months of their life in the womb to be filled with their Mama’s big dreams and untamed prayers for them. I will not be engulfed by fear because fear is a paralyzer, and the Lord did not form me or my baby with big plans for us to live tiny lives driven by fear.
We’ve always called this baby Meatball because I was very uncharacteristically craving a meatball sub before we knew I was pregnant (so many things made much more sense after seeing that positive pregnancy test). These days, however, in my moments talking to this baby, I call him or her “Shaw”—short for Shalom, which is a Hebrew word meaning peace, fullness, wholeness. The circumstances and stress of this pregnancy—from health insurance drama to another “…but…” from another doctor—will not dictate who this child is. This baby is not someone who brings chaos into my life and this world, they are a child of peace, created for specific purposes (no matter the “abnormalities” that are present or not). As his or her parents, my husband and I are demanding that faith, not fear, will write the story of this child’s life, even in these earliest days.
It’s easy to do—writing pages of the story before we’re even at that chapter. I wrote a lot of pages of my child’s life while standing outside of the hospital’s parking garage and in the days that followed, but here’s the good news: it’s never too late to turn back to today’s page. My child’s days should not be spoken for before they’ve even had a chance to experience them, and yours shouldn’t either. If the pages of your life are being written before you live them, chances are fear is driving your story (because yes, how uncomfortable it is not knowing how things will turn out!). I so deeply understand the temptation to be driven around in fear’s backseat, but it doesn’t take you anywhere worth going, and it’s a dark and suffocating ride. Fear keeps our stories small and adventures stale. Faith leaves a seat open for uncertainty, but she’s really just a much better driver.
I don’t know what the upcoming days will hold, but I trust that the story unfolding for both my baby and me is far bigger and more hopeful than the one fear wants to write. Step on it, faith.
Baby Shaw, my little meatball sub, you are a gift to us in every way. You’ve already helped teach me so much about warring against fear and standing firmly in God’s promises that it’s difficult to believe I haven’t even seen your face yet. Our hands are full with your big sister so it’s hard to imagine life with you, and yet I cannot fathom life without you. You belong here with us, exactly as you are. I can’t wait to meet you.