Monday, February 11, 2013

Walking again

 I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted me what I asked of him. 
So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given 
over to the Lord. 
                                   -1 Samuel 1:27-28

We tried for Johnny for three months. I know it is nothing in the grand scheme of fertility struggles that friends ran into, we weren't discouraged or frustrated with the process, but right before the third try, at this time last year, we added a new level of prayer to our wishes and wants. I distinctly remember praying over and over again, "God, this is yours. I feel I am ready for a third, but I leave this to You. Show me what You want." In a way we were probably testing God even though we felt like we were relying on Him. We wanted some direction on how to go in our life, should I stay at work or go back to being at home, and we felt like a positive pregnancy test would give us some sort of clear sign for where we were meant to be. Little did we know the changes that would soon be present in our lives.

Shortly after we found out we were pregnant, the girls and I participated in the Carenet Walk for Life. Johnny was technically with us, teeny and tiny in my belly, making his presence very well known to Mama by making me feel woozy for most of the two mile walk. Still very, very happy with walking for such a great organization.

We slowly announced to the world that we were joyously expecting our little Raptor and marked each four week "chunk" of pregnancy with a new belly photo.

And we anxiously counted down days until our next appointment, when we could hear Johnny's heart beat and check in on our baby. And even though it wasn't until we were 8 weeks along that we got to hear Johnny's heart, did we ever doubt that he wasn't a child. We knew that, from the moment of conception, he was alive. Not potential for life. But alive.

At 12 weeks we again looked forward to making sure our baby was ok and our lives changed from that moment on. We were faced with what the medical field terms as a "genetic abnormality", a "glitch", a "chromosomal disorder". It was challenging to grapple with because from the moment we knew he was on the way, he was our child and he was loved. In fact, I would argue that even further back, when we decided to try for him or even from the time before we got married and determined that we might like to have 4 kids, he was our child and he was loved. And as Christians, we know that he has been planned for us all along. All the sudden we were faced with startlingly new decisions, ones where doctors who were not familiar with our convictions asked us what our plans with this pregnancy were. As if it was ever an option for us. We were well aware of the fact that we could terminate this pregnancy. We could hit the reset button and try again in a few months. Nobody even had to know but us. After all, like so many say, it was a fluke, sometimes things go wrong, it's not your fault, so why suffer for it? As I think about the thoughts that others in this world might offer, I sit confused. How could I reset something that just weeks before I had thought of as a gift? How could I consider something a fluke, when before that 12 week appointment I had considered myself lucky and blessed to be taking that journey once more. As I have stated before, most children like Johnny, who are prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome, are terminated. Sadly, many of these Mommies and Daddies go on to try for another pregnancy, one that conforms to their idea of what a child should be. Sadly, many of these parents make a choice that effectively grants one life unworthy of living and another as being better than.

Our 12 week ultrasound...what exactly makes this "not life"

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my 
mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and 
wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know 
that full well.  
                                   –Psalm 139 13-14

So looking at things from that perspective, it is hard to imagine a world where it is ok for us to accept one life wanted and another as unwanted. But that is a world that we live in. A world where women are allowed to make a decision that a child with certain conditions can be terminated and a child that fits a normal expectation is ok to continue carrying. For those of us who are pro-life, those of us who know that, from the beginning, life is unique and worthy of maintaining, this is difficult to deal with. Never before than with dealing with learning about Johnny had I felt more validated in knowing that Johnny was a unique life, completely independent of my own, and he only needed time to grow before he could live outside of me. And there is a difference there...being a unique life and needing someone else to live. Holding his Karyotype now, the short map of his chromosomes, the footprint of his DNA, I am struck with how much scientific evidence there is that confirms how individual he is. 

In the second set of chromosomes (the squiggly lines), all the way at the end is the 21st. 
Three are shown.

His gender X and one Y

A loss on the 13th chromosome and an extra 21st

 You can see in the screen shots of these images three clear factors that show without any doubt how individual he is. The first is the presence of his Y-chromosome, something he clearly did not get from me! The second is the addition of the extra 21st chromosome, the presence of what is termed Down syndrome. Now he more than likely had that extra chromosome present in the egg portion of his potential for life, it's just more likely that the extra chromosome is found there. However, I do not possess an extra 21st chromosome, that is something unique to him. The last is seen on the third image, the microarray, when looking closer at his chromosomes a portion of his 13th is missing, which, after looking further, was inherited from Matt's side of the family. All of these building blocks are glaringly present and completely different from mine. He is unique.

Granted there are people out there who say all of this evidence shows nothing, that pro choice isn't denying that this isn't unique DNA, but that pro choice is about giving a woman a right to do what she wants with her body. But that is so inherently flawed because with giving a woman the choice to do what she wants with her body, you are denying this unique individual the ability to do anything with theirs. By the time we knew for sure that Johnny had Down syndrome we were 20 weeks along. Because of his condition being stated as "medical" we could have elected to terminate until 24 weeks. 24 weeks. The image below is from 21 weeks. All organs and limbs are present. The baby is completely functioning on it's own besides air and food. The only thing this child needs is time. And due to modern medicine, at 24 weeks, a child could survive outside the womb. How can we as a nation accept that this child could be terminated when it could also survive with medical technology to help...

 21 weeks

30 weeks

So what? Pro choice people would say that is all great and wonderful, but that was your decision to make. That just like nobody forced us to end our pregnancy, others can make that choice for themselves. And I know that our situation is good, we are a typical suburban family with a strong support network, but none of that should matter. Each child is unique. Each one of us starts in the same way, cells that are rapidly dividing and growing and moving into place to build a new life. What is the difference between an 8 week pregnancy that is terminated and an 8 week pregnancy that isn't? Desire. There is no biological difference between the two. There is no different DNA. There is nothing about the fundamental building blocks that create a child that make them unlike one another. The only difference is the fact that in one a mother wants their child and in another their mother doesn't. Why should a mother (and father) be allowed to make a choice based on their own desires for someone else in an instance that ends their life? And please don't misunderstand me, this is not about feeling that people who have had an abortion are taking an easy way out, this is not about feeling that there isn't a lot that goes into that kind of a decision. This is about the fact that everyone needs to realize that this is life from the beginning and if we acknowledge that fact then there is no way we should allow abortions to take place. In working with Carenet, providing funds and supplies, encouraging their counselors, raising awareness for an organization that provides ongoing love and support hopefully we can help more women make the correct choice. Which is why the Walk for Life is so important to us and we will be participating again this year. 

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name 
welcomes me.
                                        –Matthew 18:5

In our instance it was never a real option. We would never have taken that road. We hope to continue to support Carenet for years to come. Johnny has blessed our lives in more ways than we ever knew. I never in a million years would have thought that we would have a child with Down syndrome and now I could never in a million years imagine a life without him. What others determine as a chromosomal abnormality, as being broken, seems more whole than most grown ups I know. What others determine as a glitch, I know is God's destiny for us. My aunt told me yesterday that I was meant to be Johnny's mama, I think that, more so, he was meant to be my son. He has taught me so much. If I have learned so much from him, what could other women learn from their pregnancies regardless of their parenting decision. I hope that more women will take these unexpected opportunities to choose life and work within the parameters of life. I pray that they will welcome these children and that they will make a choice...between parenting or placing in adoption...

Knit together

Fearfully and Wonderfully made


Jo Farmer said...

Absolutely beautiful and amazing, just like little Johnny. Blessings to your lovely family

Jo & Bobby xx

The Howards said...

Thank you. We are so glad to have so many people who dote on Johnny with us. I hope our insight lends light to others!