What is the difference to a mother between her own baby, and someone else’s baby?
My own baby smells just right. And looks…just right. I know my baby’s features better than my own. My arms recognize my baby’s familiar shape and feel. I would know my own baby in the pitch dark just by feel and smell.
One of my lingering fears during my pregnancy was that Verity would seem foreign to me. That I would have a hard time bonding with her. That she would have that look and feel and smell of someone else’s baby. Wouldn’t there be something different about her that would make her feel strange to me? Sweet, to be sure, but not right. Not mine.
It’s time for me to make two confessions.
[I feel safe saying this now because I have grown up from where I was back then. You understand how it’s okay to tell your parents about something you did back when you were waaaay younger. ]
The first confession is that before Verity was born, I prayed that she would be cute.
The second is that when I first got a good, clear look at her as the pediatrician was examining her in the hospital, my heart sank. Between the effects of her hasty birth and her “differentness,” she was, in fact, not cute.
In that instant came thought #1, “This is how it feels to have someone else look at your baby and think that there is something wrong with her.” Thought #2, “Oh well, die to it, Susanna. It’s time to grow up and get over it.” Thought #3, “But I will have to take pictures for others to see!”
[Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good at all. But it is the sad truth.]
I felt very protective of her. I tried not to feel sensitive to every nuance of every glance toward her. I used a big bow to camouflage the fact that the back of her head looked flat. I wanted everyone to, oh please, look past her homeliness and see a little valuable person. A part of my heart is now outside my body. Please don’t injure it with light esteem as it lies there in open view.
It wasn’t until after she came back to my hospital room from the NICU that first night that I really learned my baby. I needed space and time in order to discover and delight in the gift God had sent me.
The many charms that babies have to offer are so subtle. They must be savored slowly, deliberately, and quietly to be properly appreciated. You rush it–you miss it.
And the savoring doesn’t grow lesser over the course of ten babies. It grows deeper with the greater knowledge of the hurried passage of time. Let the time flow on around us. I will not miss this pleasure. God has given me richly this child to enjoy.
By the next morning, she and I were moving together. We had disconnected physically, but we were now connected down below the surface, down at the level of knowing.
That was just over twenty weeks ago.
The other day I was singing to Verity before I laid her down to sleep. She was turned toward me, up close to my face. She loves the singing, of course, and was smiling with her bright eyes on mine, laughing around the thumb she had stuck in her mouth, and reaching up to my face with her other hand. Then she began to hiccup. And as I gazed at my baby’s face, I was overwhelmed by an enormous welling-up of…I don’t exactly know…normalcy? It was so familiar, so right, so comfortably like any of my other babies at this age.
What makes the normalcy so poignantly significant is that there is more. Always there is more.
More difficult? Yes, but not nearly as difficult as I had been braced for. The dread of Down syndrome is blown way out of all proportion to the reality, if over 90% of babies with Down syndrome are being aborted.
It is in the design of God that when we embrace the difficulties He ordains as necessary for us, there comes a greater good.
More awareness, more wonder, more contemplation, more amazement, more significance, more appreciation, more savoring, more joy.
The joy is hard fought. Hard won.
Hard is worth it. Hard is good.
Hard must be good, because our sovereign God is good.
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy and shall break with blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding ev’ry hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain; God is his own interpreter and he will make it plain.” ~William Cowper