A Story

This story appeared in The Christian Century magazine on May 8, 2019

I handed Nathaniel to my friend that day in weakness. Three years before, my womb had produced this squirmy, eager, sunshine boy. Now it likely carried a child with a hole in his heart, stunted limbs, and Downs.

As Nathaniel chirped about seeing otters, piranhas, and armadillos at the zoo with my friend, I slumped under the sonographer’s prognosis for cases such as mine. Surrender to your choice, he had said: abortion or divorce. Had my husband’s hand not guided me from the examining room, it would have smashed the doctor’s jaw.

From the sonographer’s office, my husband and I hurried to my obstetrician, Dr. Rossi, for comfort and advice. He saw us immediately, withdrew a spoonful of amniotic fluid for testing, and promised speedy results.

Then he gently took my hand and said, “I don’t know what will happen. But I tell you this: it will be all right.”

I did not believe him. Abortion or divorce. Trapped within that framing, I collapsed and yielded to the colossal hopelessness.

But then: There was my friend, telling me about his brother Larry, his family’s delight, brain damaged at birth. Then the pile-driving chant at church—we never chant at church—repeating relentlessly “thy will be done.” Then my husband saying: you choose, but whatever you choose, I choose you. Then at the public library, looking up resources for Downs families.

Then the realization that I could do this, that we could do this, that this in fact was my purpose in life.

At last. This baby was a gift so that I could be a gift. My wide-shouldered blazers suddenly felt too small for this person I was becoming and for the person I carried. Radiant with purpose, fueled by life with meaning, I awaited our baby’s birth.

Then Dr. Rossi called with news: you carry a healthy baby boy. I crumpled. How now to give my life?

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