“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” Matthew 19:13-14
I often tell my children about those rare days when your life changes in an instant. You walk into a room with your world intact, as it was; you leave the room to face an entirely different environment. Some of these events can’t be predicted. The attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York City come to mind. I was teaching a law school course at the time. When the lecture started, it was just a normal Tuesday morning. But when we left class, I listened on my car radio to horrified news reporters telling of the second plane flying into the World Trade Center, followed by both towers collapsing from the damage.
Other world-transforming events can be foreseen well ahead of time, such as the impending death of an elderly or sick loved one. Should God bless a family with children, the birth of a child is one of those foreseeable life-changing days, too. In early 1990, my wife and I were anticipating our first child. However, come late February, the change we experience was not what we were expecting.
The last day of February 1990 in Kansas City was a gray and overcast early spring day. Sally was in labor all day. Things weren’t progressing as well as the doctor had hoped, so she gave Sally medication to help make the contractions stronger. When our oldest child Stephen was finally born at 15 minutes to midnight, Sally had been laboring for more than 18 hours. When the moment came for him to be born, the hospital room wasn’t filled with the usual joyous sounds of a baby being delivered. The delivery room was eerily quiet, as doctors and nurses delivered what appeared to be a healthy baby boy. Stephen didn’t cry much when he was born, something that didn’t concern me too much at the time. The delivery nurses gave Stephen to me first, to hold while they helped Sally finish with the details of giving birth. As I held Stephen in my arms for the very first time, I couldn’t help but notice that his ears had folds at the top. I remember wondering at the time whether the ear folds were normal, a genetic feature from prior generations of either Sally’s family or mine. But again, neither the doctors nor the nurses give us any indication that anything was wrong. As far as Sally and I knew, we were heading into the uncharted waters of parenthood, just like most of our peers who had already welcomed their firsts into the world. But in reality, we had just entered a radically different world, and were oblivious to it.
We didn’t learn just how different world that world was until the next morning. Our pediatrician chose to do his rounds at the very time that I had gone home to take a quick shower and change clothes, so he spoke to my wife alone. We were still a few years away from cell phones at the time, so I remained oblivious of what he had told her until I returned to the hospital to my very distraught wife. “The doctor says,” she said between sobs, “that Stephen has chromosomal abnormalities!” What? What does that mean? Besides being furious that the doctor chose to share this news when I wasn’t there, I was just as angry that he had used such medically superfluous terms.
At that point, my wife and I were starved for information. The doctor wasn’t able to return to visit with us together for several hours, and again, cell phone access was still limited to those with real money (remember Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street in 1987?), so we turned to the only resource we had available, i.e., the hospital nurses. Several of them danced around the subject, but one especially kind-hearted nurse finally gave a name to our new world: Down Syndrome.
Next: The Peace that Passes Understanding