Yesterday was the craziest day of our lives. Lisa had been having pregnancy issues, and we knew this was going to be a high risk birth, but over the last couple weeks and especially during the delivery, I occasionally caught pauses or furtive glances among the medical staff that made me wonder if something else might be going on that they were not wanting to say and worry us with. Perhaps it was nothing. Perhaps it was new dad paranoia.
As the labor grew in intensity yesterday morning, tensions continued to mount in the room. Extra staff was called in. Eyes were glued to the monitors. But all of the tension subsided for us the moment Lucette Ana Gungor entered the world. It was beautiful. Lisa was amazing. Matthew Perryman Jones’ ‘Land of the Living’ was playing from my fairly obsessed over iTunes playlist. There’s nothing like welcoming a new life into the world. The magic, the beauty, the absurdity of it. Lisa held our little, purple, crying Lucy to her chest as tears streamed down all of our faces. But the bliss soon gave way to panic as we began to realize something was wrong.
The doctors took Lucy from Lisa and to the table in the corner to check her more thoroughly. I followed them, and as I stared at her crying face, something about it seemed a little unusual. That same pit of worry began to grow in my stomach again, only this time, even more intensely. In a few minutes, the nurse confirmed to Lisa and I what I had suspected at that table and it knocked the air out of me.
Lucette has Down Syndrome.
The nurse continued to speak, but I couldn't fully understand the noises coming from her mouth. I was like a spirit no longer present with my body, floating there in the hospital room, not sure where to go or what to do. If I could have spoken, I might have said something like:
‘What do you mean Down Syndrome? That’s not us… That’s not our lives… Parenting a person with special needs… Our lives are too complicated now as they are. This just can’t be…’
But words don’t come easily to disembodied spirits. So I just stared blankly out of the void at the nurse making the meaningless sounds.
Even though this is only yesterday that this happened, I don’t really remember the next hour or two very clearly. It felt like some bizarre nightmare where I wandered around aimlessly in a dark and lonely fog.
I looked at Lisa, who had tears in her eyes but did not seem to know how to process the information any better than I did.
We sat in the room for awhile and held the baby. People said things.
The ache and fear continued to grow in my gut. I was devastated. I couldn’t see anything but how hard this was going to be. The limitations. The costs. The dangers. And then the guilt for feeling the things I was feeling. Shouldn’t I just be excited for this little girl after all? Dread, sadness and guilt are not the sort of emotions one wants to feel upon the birth of his beautiful new daughter.
The world was spinning. I needed some fresh air.
I took a walk around the block. I felt such grief, anger, confusion, and would occasionally be paralyzed as I bent over in heaving cries. I called my sister.
She told me that this baby was precious and loved and that this was going to be a beautiful experience. She told me that we were going to be the perfect parents for Lucy, and that she was fearfully and wonderfully made.
I made more calls.
Everyone was so supportive and positive and compassionate. Slowly, the lonely, shadowy darkness that I was wandering through began to lighten. Our amazing family and friends began to surround us and mend flesh back to spirit. The love of those around us was the realization that we were not in fact, solitary ghosts. We were not alone in this. I cannot tell you how wonderful people were to us yesterday. Family that was not already here dropped everything to start making their way here. Friends drove and sent loving texts and encouragement. Even the doctors and nurses were especially present and kind to us. Love really is a powerful force.
Our heads began to clear. We were surrounded by all of these amazing people and their overwhelming support, but Lisa and I hadn’t yet had a moment alone. So I asked everybody to leave the room for a bit.
When the room was empty, we just held each other and wept. Deep, guttural crying. When we had no more tears left to cry, I felt inspired to do something that is kind of odd for me to do these days.
Honestly, my personal relationship with the Bible has not been great over the last few years. I find it to be such a difficult and misused book that I often just avoid it. But somehow in the middle of this very real pain, I was struck by that phrase my sister had used.
'Fearfully and wonderfully made.'
So I took out my phone and googled Psalm 139. I placed my hand on Lisa’s belly and read: “You created her inmost being;”
That phrase unearthed a new reservoir of tears for both Lisa and I. It took a long time before I could gain composure to continue reading. But eventually the words washed over us like a waterfall.
'You knit her together in her mother’s womb.
We praise you because she is fearfully and wonderfully made
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Her frame was not hidden from you
When she was made in the secret place,
When she was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw her unformed body;
All the days ordained for her were written in your book
Before one of them came to be.
How precious are your thoughts of her oh God
How vast is the sum of them
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand’
I began to see that this precious life that had been given to us was indeed a gift. Even though it might not have come in the expected packaging with the exact kind of bow and wrapping paper that we are accustomed to, it was no less of a gift. Life is a gift. Period.
Life is more than salary levels or grade point averages. Life is more than rankings on a chart. Life is about things like love, wonder and joy. And let me tell you, this girl is going to be loved. And while I don’t know that much about Down Syndrome (DS) yet, the people with DS that I have seen certainly seem to know how to experience some very real joy and wonder.
Life is a gift. Lucy is a gift.
We know we have a challenging road ahead of us. We have been informed, for instance, that Lucy is going to need a couple of major heart surgeries in the next six months. This is not going to be easy.
But we also believe its going to be an amazing adventure. As I watch Lisa and Amelie (our other daughter) hold and kiss this precious little girl of ours, I already am more in love with this family of mine. Together, we are going to learn and experience love and joy in new ways. We already are. We are already connected with our friends and family in a deeper way. And Lucette is gorgeous. Her name means light, and we know she is going to continue to bring so much light to a world that needs it. Welcome to the world, Lucy. We are so grateful for the gift that you are. You are and will always be loved.