Just over a year ago I received the news that my fifth child (a girl!) would be born with Down Syndrome. I felt so overwhelmed at the thought of adding a child with special needs to our family. Could I still homeschool? How would I devote equal attention to her four older siblings? Would I still have me time? Through a series of heartfelt prayers, wonderful interactions with friends, and finding kids and adults with Down Syndrome on social media, I found my footing again. I felt that this was a way for me to experience unexpected miracles.
When You Think You Know Something
Our little family had been through busy and overwhelming seasons before. And every time the Lord had supported me, had supported all of us. I thought that my husband and I could take on this new experience the way we had faced previous seasons: with faith and gratitude and one step at a time.
I thought I knew a lot last year, mostly about God and my relationship with Him and the way that He works. And I did. But once we learn something, it’s time to learn something new. I wrote this post earlier this year, in which I described a lot of the ways I thought I was prepared for my daughter to be born.
And if I’ve learned anything since then, it’s that I am not alone. God has sent us so many unexpected miracles this year.
I have seen the God’s power through people this year. To enumerate the many acts of love we have been recipients of during my daughter’s life would be impossible. I’ll try to give you a sense for the way God has worked miracles through a few people this year.
When my daughter was born a few weeks early and admitted to the NICU in our local children’s hospital, my mom and my mother-in-law scrambled to change and book flights so they could be here for as much of her admission as possible. And between the two of them, we had live-in help for the better part of a month. At the beginning of February that seemed like plenty of help. By the end of February, it was clear that we would need more still.
I was relieved and awed by the outpouring of love and support from our church family that followed the departure of our moms. They set up to bring dinner nearly every night for a month, and then continued to bring it a couple times a week for the next two months. Women came to play with the older kids on days I needed to be at the hospital.
They were constantly checking in on me, ensuring that I always had someone to talk to. I was in crisis and there was no pretending that everything was okay. One night I was completely overwhelmed by the doctors’ continued announcements of further health problems with our daughter.
God encouraged me to reach out for help. His Spirit whispered that I did not need to endure this alone. I had a couple friends from church who I sent out a text to begging them to connect me with someone who had experienced what I had. It was a vulnerable step for me, but so worth it.
A few days later I was driving home from the hospital and I got a call from a woman I’d never met. This woman introduced herself as having been connected through our mutual friend. She proceeded to talk for a long time about her son who has Down Syndrome, telling me how amazing he is.
Something she said really struck me, and it was the Lord speaking even though it was her, because I have used the advice she gave and the impression from the Spirit again and again. It was a conversation I really needed at that time and an unexpected miracle. Though I was constantly praying for help, I never thought it would come from a new friend hundreds of miles away.
It’s a difficult thing for someone who only has a vague understanding of medicine to be suddenly thrust into that world. For the first few months of my daughters life I was taking in new medical concepts almost daily.
I would then go home and try to explain what I had learned to my husband, our kids, my parents, and my in-laws. With only a basic grasp of these concepts, it was exhausting to try to explain them to people who also had a limited knowledge of medicine.
But God blessed me with one dear friend. She had been an ICU nurse and I was able to have conversations about my daughter’s treatments without trying to explain what any of it meant, because she had a much deeper grasp on the world of medicine than I did. As I explained different situations she would give me a medical perspective shared in love and understanding as a friend and fellow believer in Christ. She was just the person I needed on the dark days when I struggled to understand where we were going.
My daughter was born with a heart defect, and she was assigned to be followed by a cardiology nurse practitioner for the duration of her stay there. This woman was lovely and we had many heartfelt conversations as she worked with the neonatologists and the pulmonary team to get our daughter healthy enough to come home. She became a dear friend and supporter.
After a short stint out of the NICU, our daughter got very sick and I ended up taking her into the emergency room at our children’s hospital. She was taken immediately to the critical care unit (a place I did not know existed until that moment). My daughter was immediately given breathing support while I spent an hour answering a myriad of questions and met a dozen new medical personnel.
Then we were left with a nurse to wait until someone from cardiology could come and evaluate my daughter and clear her for admittance to the cardiac unit. I had no real enthusiasm over this, although the doctor seemed to think I would since someone from cardiac (“our people”) would be there soon.
So, I remained slightly indifferent until the nurse practitioner from the NICU appeared in the doorway. I had no idea that it was even a possibility that she would be coming, but relief like nothing I had felt in the previous few days filled me. Someone who knew us was there.
She hugged me and she looked at my daughter and then she said the best thing. “You did the right thing, bringing her here. We’ll take care of her.” I didn’t realize until that moment how unsure of myself I had been. It was so encouraging to hear praise from someone who knew me. And I thanked God for whatever miracle of His grand design allowed her to be there with me in that moment. The nurse practitioner’s words stayed with me for weeks and helped sustain me through an intense hospital admission. God had given me what I needed to trust myself and be confident in His choice in me as my daughter’s mother.
These unexpected miracles have become a strength to me this year. I’ve come to trust that God will always send miracles to support us. They may often come from unexpected corners, but I believe they will always come.