Today’s post is an honest, heartwarming piece by my friend Jennifer Milone. I am sure you will be blessed by her story. In my book, I mention the circle of friends we had in Florida, and our wild family pizza parties, Jennifer and her family were part of that circle. This story makes my heart ache a little, because I really miss this wonderful group of women that Jennifer is part of!
It is a typical response in my circle of girlfriends that we chip in and start making meals for the newest mom just home from the hospital. I’ve received “new-mom” meals from those girlfriends three times now and it is such a blessing to taste such yummy and creative food, and not to have lifted a finger for it!
However, what do your girlfriends do when you unexpectedly give birth to a child with Down Syndrome and find yourself in a non-celebratory mood? I know some people would say that their friends might want to grant some space to deal with the flurry of mixed emotions. Some might say their friends would still bring the meals, but say nothing because they wouldn’t know what to say anyway. Some might even say their friends would just disappear altogether or pass judgment on the mom and child. I don’t know what your friends might say or do, but I know what mine did.
I have a growing circle of girlfriends that love Jesus. They are in different places on the path with their walk with Him, but they are on the path. I have purposely sought out such kinds of girlfriends over the years. In times of joy, who better to praise God with? In times of sadness, who better to be encouraged by? In times of confusion, who better to reach out to? In times of answered prayer, who better to worship our God with?
In January of this year, I gave birth to a child that rocked my world. I wish I could tell you I say that because of my sheer happiness. But I cannot. My world was rocked because the delivering doctor informed my husband and I, with a grim expression on his face, that our daughter has Down Syndrome. We didn’t know it beforehand. The look on his face was nearly as awful as the feeling inside of me. I would have been swept off of my feet had I not already been laying in a hospital bed.
That was in the morning. Later in the day, one of my girlfriends called to congratulate us. I’m not even sure what I said in that phone call. But one thing stands out in my memory, Nichole’s inquiry.
“I was surprised you don’t already have Phoebe’s pictures up on Facebook!” , she said.
“Because I can’t bear to look at her, and too embarrassed to post pictures of her for everyone to see.”, was my only response.
Well now this particular girlfriend was not going to let that fly! She saw a Sister in Christ down and devastated. It was only a few hours later she was standing in my hospital room, semi-professional camera in hand, analyzing the best lighting and poses for baby Phoebe’s newborn pictures. It’s not that she was imposing her own will. It’s that she knew I would understand God’s plan for us at some point, and that I would regret this lost moment forever because I had been too upset to embrace it at the time.
Nichole also sincerely assured me that Phoebe is truly a blessing. I could see Nichole meant what she said because her eyes danced when she gazed at my baby all lovingly wrapped up in her arms. It helped a lot to see that.
After being discharged to go home, I was still wounded at the prospects of how I ended up with a Down Syndrome child. I could barely speak to God. I could barely talk about Phoebe other than to report her diagnosis. My best girlfriend, Tammy, spent hours at my kitchen table, telling me what she knew about the angelic nature of Down Syndrome children. She held my baby as if she was the sweetest and most perfect baby in the world! She told me that she hoped one day I could see it too. Through our talks, I realized that Phoebe is not the one with the problem. It was me. I had really thought I understood the difference between the Christ-followers viewpoint of the world and the secular viewpoint of the world. Christ-followers focus on what God sees as good. The secular world wants perfect bodies, perfect clothes, status, fame, power, etc. Apparently, I was still relating to the secular world. It helped so much to have my eyes opened.
The following month, Tammy returned to work, but her spot at my kitchen table was soon filled. By this time I was able to see Phoebe as the complete treasure she is. I really had come a long way! But my Sister in Christ, Susan, came to help me with another part of my broken heart.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I had specifically prayed my baby would not have a genetic abnormalities. I have “advanced maternal age” and this was a high risk factor. But I had proudly shouted from the rooftops that the only statistics I was claiming was God’s statistics. That meant I knew He heard my countless prayers on the subject and that all was going to be alright.
Here lay Phoebe with a genetic abnormality. What happened to all those prayers I prayed? 9 months of them! This was serious and I felt forgotten where God was concerned. Susan kept telling me what she knew of God to be true. She kept pointing to Scripture that we both believe is God-inspired. She re-explained all the things I intellectually knew… that God loves us, hears our prayers, and answers them according to His plan and not ours. It was the final turning point. I was now once again headed in the right direction to God with my head and my heart.
Girlfriends, don’t underestimate your ability as a Christ loving girlfriend to rescue the day, and help out a girlfriend in need even if she doesn’t ask. Don’t underestimate your ability to help a confused girlfriend see situations and people the way God sees them. Sometimes you are the only one that can see clearly. Don’t be afraid, girlfriends, to step in and point someone’s way back to God. It’s easy to get lost in this world and forget what we know to be true!
By the way, God did answer my prayers. He gave me such a precious, sweet, beautiful baby. If you stop and ask me today, I will most likely forget to mention that she has Down Syndrome. I will be too caught up in telling you about how cute it is when I get her to laugh or how good she sleeps at night or how at 9 months old I have already taught her to turn pages in a board book with her little hand. And God sent me an entire month’s (yes, a month!) worth of cooked dinners from my circle of girlfriends. They were scrumptious and I savored every last bite!