Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I was born to do this

What I'm about to share is something I posted on Instagram just a few short minutes ago. Admittedly, I texted my husband and a few close friends with the words "the day I blew up my IG account.

I was shaking a little as I hit "post" when my daughter Abigail walked in the room... "Why are you shaking ??" she asked with a worried look in her eyes.

The truth is, I do not like confrontation. Ask my friends. I am the last person on the planet to look someone squarely in the eye and say "this is not okay." If Sam has been known by some of our family members as "Confrontational Conrad", I should probably be called "Get Along Gertrude." I don't do controversy well.


Lily's t-shirt inspired me today.

So here we go. 

Someone directed me to an article on Yahoo the other day entitled "Why I Terminated My Pregnancy After Learning My Baby Had Down Syndrome." The article was filled with all kinds of matter-of-fact justifications for why someone chose to make the "difficult decision" to end her child's life.

If someone wants to explain that they are not comfortable with raising a child with challenges because to do so would be a burden to THEM, that's their choice. I don't agree with it and I will never agree with it, but it is their choice.

However – don't try to tell me that you were doing the "best thing for your child" by terminating their life. And don't try to justify your actions by saying that there is such a broad scope of functionality when it comes to people with Down syndrome – that not knowing where your unborn child would fall on that scope means your decision to end their life is reasonable. Or selfless. Let's be real.

"Typical" people have various levels of functionality. I know people with the "right amount of chromosomes" who struggle every day of their lives. So which one of them is not worthy of life? Which one of them should have been terminated ? Because after all, we don't want to burden them with such a heavy thing as life.

If I sound passionate – I am.

 Because I live every day with a little girl who is anything but a burden. Every single day I bear witness to the fact that different does not automatically mean difficult. And the longer we let others boldly proclaim that an unborn baby with Down syndrome was justifiably terminated, the longer my little girl faces a world that is hostile at worst and ignorant at best.

Any one of us at any point in our lives could become a burden to others. We have no guarantees. At what point do we stop saying that life is only valuable when it is not a (perceived) burden? When do we stop playing God and stop making ourselves the sole arbitrators of who is worthy of life and who is not?

I can't sit quietly by and listen to or read that message - that a baby with special needs is better off dead - and not lift my voice in protest. If that offends some, so be it.

Come look into my little girl's eyes and tell me she isn't worthy of life. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bringing Harper Home

It's Tuesday morning, and I'm typing to the background music of a humming dryer, punctuated by bursts of giggles from my littlest ones.  Lily and Hayden spent Saturday and Sunday sick in bed, and yesterday they were still fighting whatever bug they had. Today they are fever free, and although I've wiped their noses at least fifty times since eight a.m., I am confident they are on the mend.

Several readers here, as well as friends on Instagram, have shared a recent news article with me. Have you read about the baby boy born with Down syndrome in Armenia? His mother was unwilling to keep him, and because his daddy refused to give him up, he has now been served divorce papers.

It's a tragic and beautiful story, all mixed into one - I'm not going to pass judgement on the mom, who must have been very misinformed about what life with Down syndrome looks like. She lives in a culture where giving up a child with special needs is a typical practice - babies with Down syndrome and other similar issues are often placed in institutions at birth.

So no judgement here, just sadness for what she missed out on- and praise for a dad who decided packing up everything and moving back to his homeland of New Zealand to raise his child alone was the best decision he could make for Baby Leo. And props to the THOUSANDS of kind hearted people who contributed to the Bringing Baby Leo Home go fund me account that was set up for him shortly before the story ran. My son Jason texted me the link to the article with the words "I donated to this dad!" and made this mama's heart swell ... I know how tight things are for Jason and Naomi as he works full time at the hospital while attending college to earn his nursing degree - I'm sure countless others set some personal needs aside to help this brave daddy raise his little boy alone.

Having said all that ... I just wish things could have been different for that little mommy in Armenia. 

Leo and his daddy will undoubtably be okay. They will face challenges together, just like any other family, special needs or not. But I'm sure the love that has already written their story will carry them through whatever they face - it already is.

And yet ... how different that story could have been .

I can't fully imagine what that mom is feeling right now. I'm sure there is a vast range of emotions she must be going through : loneliness, uncertainty, grief ... and I have to think that if fear was one of the main motivating factors in her decision to reject her baby, there must also now be some measure of relief.

There were probably many family members and medical staff encouraging her that an institution was the best place for her baby boy. And although no one who has carried a baby for nine months makes that decision lightly,  I'm sure that mother honestly felt she was "just doing the right thing."

And yet - I wonder.

I wonder if amidst all the swirling feelings and whispered encouragements and perhaps even prayers - if this mama feels something else ...

.... regret.

I wonder if this unnamed Armenian mama strokes her empty belly at night, remembering the gentle kicks and slow steady movements of the month before, and aches for the baby she'll never know.

I wonder if she returns home to an empty bassinet, little unworn sleepers and perhaps a homemade blanket or two and thinks : where is he now ?

I wonder if she wakes in the morning, alone in her bed, staring at the ceiling and breathing in the emptiness and contemplates what might have been.

I wonder if - in the future, as she puts the past behind her and "picks up the pieces' to start over again - she will come face to face with what could have been her child

I wonder if - when she startles in recognition at those star-studded almond eyes, at features that must certainly mirror those of the child she never raised - she catches a glimpse of the beauty she missed out on ... and feels the sting of regret.

We all have moments of regret in our lives - things we wished we'd said, places we never went to, friendships that dissolved and we never made the effort to get them back - but I can't imagine the regret of refusing your own child. I can't imagine what a weight that would be to carry, and how a mommy would process life from that moment on. My heart just breaks for what I can only imagine as a giant hole in her heart, wondering about the child she'll never enjoy.

I know pictures don't tell the whole story of what life with Down syndrome entails, and I'm not trying to simplify things by sharing them in this message today. I've been accused of "disney-fying Down syndrome" on my blog in the past - painting a picture that is only beautiful and colorful and bright.

But all of life holds challenges - from the cradle to the grave we are going to face things that seem too difficult for us, whether that is in the area of careers or marriage or the ministry or parenting or just our average day-to-day.

There are difficulties for every single one of us, and choosing to embrace the challenges of special needs and focus on the joy that Lily brings to our lives every day is what I do both in-real-life and here on the blog.

So no sugar coating here, just the truth : life is a gift, whether that arrives as a "perfect" newborn baby or a perfect little Lily.

We are so grateful for that gift, and all that I can feel for someone who chose otherwise is sympathy and deep, deep sadness - because Leo's mommy missed out on so much.

Leo's daddy was overwhelmed by the support of strangers all around the world ... so much so that he is donating back the excess to orphanages in Armenia to help care for the forgotten treasures there.

Would Lily's readers help me rally around - and spread the word for - some other forgotten treasures across the ocean ?

My sweet friend Julia Nalle and her husband are adopting a beautiful little girl with special needs named Harper from overseas, and there is an auction going on to assist them in the costs of doing so.

I'm going to be honest here - I have backed off in the past year or more from asking you all to donate to adoptions. I've had many inquiries as to why I have done so - in the past, Lily's readers have raised multiplied thousand of dollars to help bring orphans home to their new families. Although I truly believe that we should not withhold giving to strangers because we can't "guarantee" the outcome of what will happen when we do... I felt it best to take a time away from fundraising to think and pray about what I was asking people to do.

Here is my thinking on this- and it is going to sound oversimplified, because I don't want to hurt anyone in a lengthy explanation. There are going to be times when Sam and I give to something where we don't absolutely 100% know how the funds are being handled. We believe that God blesses our gift, and we give when we feel directed by Him to give, and we leave the rest to Him.

However... it is another thing when I am asking others to give.

I've seen some amazing and miraculous and truly wonderful things happen when people band together and give until it hurts to help another family adopt an orphan.

I've also seen some truly sucky and outrageous and unfair and I-can't-believe-they-just-said-or-did-that things happen with a family or two - when I did everything in my power to rally people to someone's adoption. I'm talking absolutely lying, unfair, thanks for the money, stick-a-knife-in-my-back kind of stuff. When my family sacrificed so hard to bless a stranger. And I can handle that - and I do believe God honors our giving even when others blow it and are unrighteous. But I'm not going to ask Lily's readers to do the same. I'm not going to ask you to risk and give and possibly get burned, because I am willing to do so. That's just not something I'm willing to do anymore. Cast stones if you like, but until you've walked a mile in my shoes...

Having said all that (aren't you glad I reduced it to a "simple" explanation ??:))  ...

I trust Julia Nalle. This is a family I believe in, and that I know is doing every single thing they can to raise their OWN money for an adoption, and giving to probably every other adoption on the planet they possibly could have given to as well.

The Nalles are stellar. They've been down this road before, and I have zero qualms about asking readers to go check out the auction being held to help them raise funds for the last portion of their adoption.

I don't - and I won't - say that about everybody. But I know Julia Nalle. She is a trustworthy woman of God, and she is completely deserving of whatever blessings come her way financially.

Will you go help Julia and her husband bring their little treasure home ?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart .


Wednesday, February 4, 2015


I flipped through a magazine this morning and saw: pretty faces with no wrinkles or age spots, toned and tanned bodies that never knew a stretch mark, carefully planned outfits, stain and spit-up free... 

I peeked in on Pinterest and observed : fifty ways to (re)decorate my house, how to plan the perfect dinner party, strategies for getting sexy legs in sixty days, dozens of exotic places I've never had the chance to see.

I gazed out my window just now and noticed: my neighbor's perfectly manicured lawns, flower beds without a hint of weeds, trimmed bushes and tidy trees and not a stray toy to be found anywhere in sight. 

And I thought about my crazy, messy, slightly-un-trendy, definitely-not-sexy, stretched-out, stained, spit-up-on, far-from-exotic little life ... and I looked across the room and smiled.... 

...because I wouldn't change a thing :)