I handed Nathaniel to Alan that day in weakness. Three years before, my womb had produced this squirmy, eager, sunshine boy, but now probably 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, I foresaw abortion or divorce: the sonographer’s prognosis for cases such as mine. Had my husband’s hand not guided me from the examining room, it would have smashed the doctor’s jaw. Surrender to your choice, he had said: abortion or divorce.
We 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 Alan, 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 were 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?