It’s a truth I have known but am experiencing in a whole new way that as big as any challenge is, God is bigger. It has dawned on me that perhaps it is through the enormous, threaten-to-swallow-you-whole challenges that we experience how BIG God truly is. What I know for sure is He has poured out blessings on us over the last few weeks that have left us in awe, even as we have struggled to find our footing in a changed landscape. As I count out those blessings, I can’t help but feel grateful.
1. The unwavering love of family – I am certain the news of Lina’s diagnosis was as great a shock to our family as it has been to us. But there has never been a moment of hesitation in the acceptance and love they have shown to our daughter. Grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and aunts have cuddled, cooed and swooned over our newborn, exactly as we imagined they would. From the moment of her birth, Lina’s familial fan club has proclaimed her beautiful and remarkable with a genuineness that has helped heal our hearts. Our little girl will not lack for doting relatives. She is unquestionably loved.
2. An amazing network of friends – I mentioned earlier that friends have organized an entire month of meals for us. Many of them drive quite a ways to get to us, many of them have their own little ones demanding their time and attention, and all of them lead busy lives we know make the meals they bring a true act of love. It has been such a gift to us. And as these friends come bearing food or meet us at church, they, too, cuddle and admire Lina with a genuine acceptance that bolsters our hopes for her future. This past Saturday night, I attended my rescheduled baby shower (which had been planned for the weekend after Lina was born), and I again was overwhelmed by the love and support of some amazing people. Friends from all over the country have reached out to us with support and encouragement that has touched and strengthened us when we have needed it most. Neighbors have offered support and love. People we barely know have contacted us to offer encouragement through their own personal stories and experiences. God is using so many people to meet our needs.
3. The circumstances of Lina’s birth – I have had many occasions over the last several weeks to be so thankful that even with all the unexpected that came our way on September 13, I was able to have the home VBAC I hoped for. At 5 weeks post-partum, I feel pretty much normal. Even with the D&C, recovery has been easier than post-cesarean with Corin. The peaceful, spiritual atmosphere here at home as we welcomed Eline is a memory I treasure, and I am so grateful I was not facing a more extended hospitalization myself as we dealt with those first few days of Lina’s NICU stay.
4. Our remarkable donor family – Some of my first thoughts as I began to process Lina’s diagnosis were for our donor family. I put myself in their place and thought about all the ways this new development would be hard for them. I knew they were waiting on pins and needles for news of our baby’s arrival. It took me several days to work up to writing that email. I wanted to make sure they knew that a diagnosis of Down syndrome did not change the gratitude we felt to them. I wanted them to know we still believed we had been led to them and to our Lina, and that she was our miraculous gift. I wanted them to know that she would be loved and accepted, and that they would not have to worry for her. I sent the email to our donor mom a few days into our NICU stay and waited anxiously for her response. It came quickly, and when I read it, I felt again how much I loved this amazing family. Lauren* wrote first about how beautiful Lina was and about how she looked like their daughter. She offered congratulations and such genuine sympathy for what we were facing. She said their hearts were with us. She expressed an interest in learning about Down syndrome along with us. I just now went back and re-read her message, and it made me tear up again. I know it has been a lot for their family to process, and I imagine they have wrestled with their own difficult emotions. We’ve talked since about how it was certainly not what any of us imagined and how it has already changed all of us. But I also know Lauren* and her family love our little Lina, and I am so grateful that with the long list of things we will have to worry about in the coming months and years, how her biological family responds to her will not be a concern.
5. An awesome big brother – Corin has certainly had his adjustments to life with Baby Sister, but he has been so very sweet with Lina. His parents have no shortage of meltdowns and battles of the will to navigate, but none of his angst has thus far been directed baby-ward. He clearly loves her and is proud of her, and it reminds me of what Jon said in the NICU, when I was thinking about Corin and how he would relate to Lina. Jon said, “At this point, Corin is the one person who won’t look at her as being different. To him, she will just be Baby Sister.” He was right. This is what unconditional love looks like. I pray this is the beginning of a very special relationship.
There are more blessings to count, but given it has already taken me two weeks to write this post, I figure it’s time to wrap this up. There is always more to say, but I have a date with my old friend, the breast pump. (That really is a post for another day.)
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.