She sounded awful. She said she had tried to call my cell phone, and that she just wanted to talk to me, to hear my voice. And she had something to talk about.
So I changed into house clothes, used the bathroom, got some grapes, and sat down ready to cheer her up. When I called, it was about 7:30 a.m. there, and I woke her up. She answered right away, though. She had been expecting my call.
She had trouble coming right out and telling me what had happened, but I knew that something was wrong. Right away she pegged it to the pregnancy, by mentioning a visit to the doctor. Eventually it came out: one of the prenatal tests had come up positive. There is a 65% likelihood that our baby will have Down's Syndrome.
In a few hours she will have an amniocentesis test to verify it one way or the other. The procedure itself has some risk of hurting the fetus, which is why they don't usually do it first. It takes a week to get the results. A long week. But the results are more exact, like 99% sure. Next week we will know for sure.
We stayed on the phone for about 45 minutes. Maybe an hour. I mostly listened and tried to cry quietly, so that she wouldn't hear me. How can you comfort someone when you are falling apart yourself? I eventually got to the point where I could bring up the fact that Down's Syndrome kids often lead fulfilling lives, and that they can be some of the nicest, friendliest people you ever met. We agreed that if God is calling us to provide for one of these special souls, that we should rise to meet that calling.
Doesn't make it any less of a shock.
The last ten minutes we talked about more mundane things: the rib place between here and Leavenworth that I finally tried, after driving past it hundreds of times without stopping. (It's Daniel's, Dad, not Bitler's. And it was OK, but not worth stopping for. There's a better place here in town for smoked ribs.) We talked about how my classes are going, both as a student and as a teacher. We talked about how Maxine is doing.
We're already counting our blessings. If our first child had been born with Down's, we almost certainly would not have had a second. But we've already had Maxine, and she is that ultra-blessing that you just couldn't see coming. No way either of us could have known what she would mean to us.
Horyon told me that she has one big advantage over me in dealing with this: Maxine is there with her. Maxine wants her mother to be happy, and is sensitive to the times she is not. She says to Horyon, “It's OK, Mommy, we'll go home soon. Can we have some candy?” How can you not smile?
Horyon said that she felt much better after talking to me. A burden shared is a burden lightened, after all. I didn't feel better. I felt alone. Horyon had talked to Mom and Dad, but I was thinking of calling them anyway. I thought about it for maybe 30 seconds, then my phone rang. It was Mom.
“Were you calling to see if there was a long busy signal?” I asked.
“Yes.” She continued, “I wasn't too sure of the details. Sometimes Horyon is hard to understand on the phone, and it was 5:00 in the morning for her. That couldn't have helped.” I filled her in on the details she had missed. We talked for 20 minutes, and she recommended that I call our pastor. Perhaps after having some dinner.
I had dinner, then called. I talked to Linda, Randy's wife. She reminded me of some of the things that I had reminded Horyon of, that God can work through us whichever way it goes. That they can lead fulfilling lives.
I then spent some time on the internet, pretending life is normal. Chatted a bit with a coworker about plans for the week, looking for useful web sites and talking strategies.
Then I got a call from Anna, our Bible Study hostess. She had missed me Sunday, since I was at church in Leavenworth, and wanted to confirm that our group was meeting Wednesday night. I told her the news, and we talked. She offered to email our group, which I gratefully accepted.
I feel fragile. This news of something that may or may not be has me in tears. The thought of having a “normal” baby was already overwhelming enough that I had pretty much set it aside for the moment/month. I'm barely getting from day to day, planning, teaching and grading, then working all weekend to get my assignments done by Sunday night, leaving me short on sleep to start the whole cycle again. A Down's child? Sure, why not. While we're at it, how about I get rid of my desk and just carry around all the paperwork I use throughout the day.
I pray. I feel better. Until I think about it more. “Don't worry,” Horyon assures me. “It won't change anything, and could make you sick.” I know. I know. I pray more, and feel better for a short time. I pray with Linda, and with Anna. I feel better again. Until I think about it.
“Pray constantly,” the Bible tells us. Tells me. Maybe that's what I need to do, because it's the only thing that keeps me from feeling that the world is on my shoulders right now.
If you pray for us in the coming days, be sure to pray that I get enough rest, because that will be the big challenge for me this week, as it has been for the past month.
Peace, to me too.