Amelia's story actually began long before she was ever born. It really began with me as a young child who enjoyed babysitting. One of the first babysitting jobs I remember was for a sweet Down Syndrome baby. I can't even remember now if that baby was a boy or a girl but what I do remember is accidentally getting the baby's leg caught on something under the counter as I held the baby in my lap and the sad tears and seemingly broken heart the baby had as a result. As I hugged the baby and checked to make sure the leg was ok, the crying stopped almost instantaneously and melted into my body with what seemed like love and forgiveness. All the pain was forgotten and replaced with pure joy at the affection received. The feeling of forgiveness given to me by that baby has stayed with me all these years.
Later as an adolescent I had another babysitting experience with a little girl named Megan and her sister who lived not far from our home. Megan also had Down Syndrome and had a miraculous way of bringing you into her world. She had a beautiful smile that radiated pure and simple joy that I will never forget.
Now fast forward many years....As one of two adopted children I had always dreamed of having a large family and have prayed that one day we would be able to adopt a child (or children) to join our family. Shortly before I became pregnant with my fourth child, my husband and I had been praying about and considering taking steps to begin the adoption process. We knew we didn't have the money to pay for an adoption but felt sure that God would provide if that was His will for our family. We learned at that time about an organization named CHASK which stands for "Christian Homes and Special Kids." CHASK works to connect Christian families with birth families who are considering abortion due to an ultrasound or prenatal test revealing that their child has (or may have) special needs. We learned that over 90% of women who discover that their baby may have Down Syndrome abort that baby. We were shocked and our hearts were broken. Neither of us could understand why anyone would abort a Down Syndrome baby (or any baby.) While we still weren't sure at that time which direction God would have us go toward adopting a child, I knew then in my heart that I would one day be the mother of a Down Syndrome child. Shortly after this I became pregnant with my fourth child and it was a whopper of a pregnancy! I was so sick and so exhausted. My poor children; all they remember from that time in our life was me being sick, throwing up in every bathroom we came near and watching movies I would put on to keep them occupied while I crashed in exhaustion. Birth did not bring a lot of relief to the stress in our life as my poor sweet Seth had very bad colic and cried continuously. Life was HARD! As a result we gave up on our hopes of pursuing adoption at that time.
Life went on and seemed to just get busier and busier. We had another baby and my health was deteriorating. I also had the children and myself very overcommited in various homeschooling activities. My spiritual life was stagnant as I had foolishly been putting off spending time with my Source of Strength to accomplish all the busyness we were involved in. When we learned that I was pregnant for a sixth time, rather than feeling excited about the new life within me, I was terrified. I felt like we were barely surviving as it was. How on earth did God expect me to care for another child? I wasn't even doing a very good job with the children already born.
I remember having the thought when I saw the positive sign on that pregnancy test that this baby would have Down Syndrome, I was over thirty five now. I dismissed the thought and went on with processing the reality of parenting six children. There were several other times during my pregnancy that that same thought would briefly reoccur but I never really believed it nor gave it much consideration.
As my pregnancy continued, I began to feel very sick again. I was filled with fear over how we would cope. I was scared for my own health, fearing I would feel worse after another pregnancy than I already did. I was tired of just surviving and felt burdened with guilt over the lack of quality parenting I was providing for my children. My dreams of adopting seemed gone forever or at least until the children were all grown and out of the house and I could handle parenting again.
Throughout all of this our family was struggling to learn how to help our third child who has many autistic tendencies and struggles with learning and with much of life in general. We had tried several diets with moderate but never lasting success. I knew that diet played an important role in his functioning but couldn't seem to pinpoint exactly what we needed to do.I came across a diet called GAPS which stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. A friend lent me her copy of the GAPS book and I read it cover to cover in just a couple days. With every page I read I felt as though Dr. Campbell McBride was writing about me and our family personally. I knew that our family needed this diet and that for the health of the baby I was carrying I myself needed to begin immediately. At that time I did not fully realize what a miraculous gift from God this diet would be in our life. (I'll be writing much more about GAPS and our family in other posts.)
Within weeks of beginning GAPS I began to feel miraculously well, having more energy than I had had in ages. I was sailing through this pregnancy with absolutely no digestive issues, not even one episode of the ever present heartburn that had accompanied me during my past pregnancies. I felt GOOD!
The fear I'd been feeling began to fade and was replaced with gratitude for this new life and excitement over her arrival. We had a relaxing summer and took things pretty easy, cutting out all extra activities so we could just rest and enjoy life without all the added stress of always having somewhere to be for a couple months before Amelia would make her arrival.
Amelia's due date came and went (as expected since that is the norm for me.) Then, on the morning of Aug 24th I began to think that this could be the day. As We went about our morning routine I became certain that this was in fact the day. I called my husband and told him I thought he'd better head home so he could help me get the children off to our friends' home where they would stay during the birth. My contractions were coming along nicely and I thought for sure she would make her appearance very soon, but after Mark got back from dropping off the children they began to fade and eventually stopped. I suggested we visit a new farmers market I had seen advertised, hoping that getting my mind off of labor and walking around a bit might spur things back into action. The farmers market wasn't much to walk around (one table with a farmer selling eggs) so we decided to head home with a quick stop at the market for some ice cream (a non GAPS approved treat we decided to indulge in before picking up the children.)
While checking out at the market we were surrounded by a group of people with various special needs. The lines are always painfully slow and long at this particular store so we had plenty of time to stand in line enjoying the various conversations and interactions happening around us. As we drove home Mark and I visited about the various people with Down Syndrome that had been a part of our lives growing up and how much we enjoyed them.
Since nothing seemed to be happening with my labor, (and we'd finished eating our ice cream) we decided to go pick up the children. As Mark was calling our friend to tell her we'd be over to pick them up, I suddenly had a wave of nausea that sent me into the bathroom to up-heave the toxic treat I had enjoyed from my body. I called to Mark that something was changing. I wasn't sure we should go just yet and sure enough the contractions kicked in hard and fast. By now it was getting late and we thought we'd better bring some things to the children in case they needed to stay the night with our friends. We called Tiffany our midwife and I climbed into the birth pool. Once Tiffany and her assistant Aubrey arrived Mark made a mad dash to deposit the children's things. By the time he returned I was ready to push this baby out.
While squatting in the pool I reached down to feel my baby's head and felt the bulging bag of waters, I pushed through a couple more contractions and out came my beautiful Amelia Rose, in her sac! As I held her between my legs under the water, I knew that something was not right... she felt so limp. When I laid my eyes upon her, I knew instantly that she had Down Syndrome. I didn't really process it at that moment though as I was just trying to hold my baby the best I could in spite of the awkwardness caused by a very short umbilical cord. She never cried but was bright and alert. Once Amelia and I were out of the tub and snuggled into bed Tiffany and Aubrey left the three of us alone to get to know each other. As I held my precious tiny treasure and contemplated her having Down Syndrome, my mind wandered back to my childhood, to Megan and the baby, to the random thoughts I'd had throughout my pregnancy and then to our trip to the market and the ride home. I knew that God had been preparing us for this moment. I can't recall this without goosebumps and a lump in my throat. I was overcome with peace, and could feel God's presence surrounding and embracing us.
As Mark and I gooed over our new daughter I told him I thought that Amelia had Down Syndrome. I didn't know if he could see it too because he hadn't said anything. He seemed surprised and asked why I thought so. I couldn't explain why as I don't think she looked distinctly like a Down Syndrome baby, I just knew. Shortly after, Tiffany and Aubrey returned to our room to do the newborn exam and Tiffany gently and sweetly told us that our daughter had signs of having Down Syndrome. I looked to Mark to read his face, I wasn't sure how he felt. He hadn't said much after I had told him that I thought so, other than to suggest we ask Tiffany about it. I told Tiffany that I knew she was right. I told her that Amelia was perfect and that God had a very special plan for her life. As I spoke those words there was a huge crash of thunder as if God Himself was proclaiming the truth of my words.
Psalm 139:13-16 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.