Baby number five would enter our world any minute. He was coming by c-section because Mary had already had one due to a complication last time. Everyone was excited. A baby was coming. The doctor explained everything that was going on since we were on the other side of the screen. The incision was made. Any second now and we would meet our little guy! “Here he comes,” the doctor announced. Excitement. Joy. Expectation.
All the air left the operating room.
We couldn’t see our new boy because the nurse grabbed him and they took him across the room and then out. I asked what was wrong. We knew that something out of the ordinary was going on. We knew what was supposed to happen in the room after a baby is born. It’s magical. All four times before, when the baby came, the walls couldn’t contain everyone’s happiness.
This time was different.
We had already been in the regular room a couple of hours when our pediatrician came in. He bounced in congratulating us and celebrating the birth. He sat down and starting talking about how healthy Eli. “His APGAR score had been a little low at first, but everything was fine now.” He continued telling us the normal information about a newborn. He continued talking, and said, “…and we think he may have Down syndrome…” (and he kept talking, but I have no idea what he said). I interrupted him and asked, “What did you just say?”
So many thoughts went through my mind in that moment. Life seemed to grind to a halt. I describe it now that my dreams for Eli died — even though they had not been dreamed yet. I’m talking about the dreams we have of how a baby will grow and develop and the dreams for the future that haven’t taken shape, but still exist.
I can see myself standing in the hall outside the special room they had Eli in because he needed to undergo some tests, and he needed to be under special lights. I looked at him through the glass and wondered why God had brought this about. I loved Eli and accepted him as he was, but I didn’t understand. I had no idea what God had in store. But I did believe that God had created Eli just as He wanted him to be.
I can’t write everything down now because I think it could be an entire book. But let me cut to today.
I am so grateful for Eli.
I repeat Betsy ten Boom’s statement all the time that there are “no ifs in God’s Kingdom.” But, if Eli had never been born or if he had not been born with Down syndrome here is a list of things that would never have happened:
- Our hearts would not have been opened to the disability community.
- We would not have cared about the children affected by disability living in orphanages across Ukraine.
- We would not have adopted Micah.
- We would not have adopted Matthew.
- We would not have adopted Eliana.
- We would not have adopted Ethan.
- We would not have become examples and advocates for adoption.
- There are a dozen or so families who probably would not have adopted a couple of dozen kids, simply because those families would not have been exposed to the need and the possibility.
- We would not have moved to Ukraine to serve the disability community here in Brovary.
- Our family would never have been changed the way it has been changed.
There are lots of other, more private things that I could list here (but maybe for a book).
I’m grateful that this little boy has changed so many lives. Including mine.
One of my favorite Eli stories is when Mary was getting everyone ready to head to church on a Wednesday evening. She had made sure the big kids were presentable and had gotten Eli, Matthew, Micah, and Eliana ready to go. She was getting them all into the van (Clifford the Big Red Van, we called her – for obvious reasons). The only problem was, she could not find Eli. She checked everywhere in the house she could think of, and then checked the backyard. Sure enough, he had decided to escape out the back door. There was only one problem. Here is the photographic evidence.
Somehow, she still made it to church. She is a remarkable woman.
One last thing — I stumbled upon a photo of Ethan doing the squinty smile…
(I’m pretty sure that’s how Jesus smiles at us.)