A card on Mother’s Day brings memories of God’s strength and care.
Today is another Mother’s Day. I am looking forward to seeing the card Brian has picked out for me this year. He picks out the best cards. Sometimes it’s a funny card, and we both share a laugh. Sometimes it is a serious card that brings tears to my eyes, and we share a hug. Either way, he will make the day special for me.
In the quiet hours of this morning, my mind travels back to the time our journey began more than 33 years ago.
Brian was an unexpected pregnancy. Our firstborn was just six months old when we found out we were having another baby.
Two weeks before my due date, I went into labor in the middle of the night. When we arrived at the hospital, we were told this would be an emergency C-section. This was so different for Jim and me than the birth of our first child and not what we had planned.
Jim’s first view of Brian was in an incubator with an oxygen mask on his face. There was mention of something being wrong. The doctor told Jim he suspected the baby might have Down syndrome. Then it was time to tell me. The doctor asked Jim to tell me, and Jim said, “You’re coming with me. You need to tell her.”
As the doctor told me he thought Brian might have Down syndrome, he looked so sad. I felt I needed to comfort him. He explained they would take a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.
My first view of Brian was in the incubator, and I could only touch his hand through the opening. That first night I cried all night. I felt confused by my emotions. I wanted to feel happy to have a baby like the other moms, but I felt like a death had happened. Having a child with a disability was not what I had planned.
Seven long days later, test results did confirm what the doctor had suspected. Most of our friends and relatives didn’t know what to do or say. Jim and I felt isolated. A woman that worked at the hospital who also had a son with Down syndrome visited me. Her words of empathy and encouragement helped. She gave us the name of a learning center to take Brian for therapy. Jim immediately visited the center and met the staff while Brian and I were still in the hospital. They were excited to meet us! Jim and I felt some hope.
It was time to take our baby home. I’m glad our firstborn Brad was so young (14 months old) because he loved Brian the minute he saw him. I cried more and told my mom I didn’t think I knew how to be Brian’s mom.
For weeks I carried a lot of sadness, fear, and guilt that I had done something to cause this terrible thing. Some well-meaning relatives and friends tried to comfort and encourage us by saying, “God only gives these children to special people.” No, that didn’t make sense to me. My God doesn’t sit in heaven pointing out who gets the deaf child or the blind child or the cognitively-impaired child. And I sure didn’t feel special!
At about six weeks, Brian began attending programs at the learning center. Our family was welcomed with open arms, and the staff gushed over our newborn. We felt completely accepted, and our healing began. I don’t think the therapists realized that as they worked on strengthening Brian’s muscles, Jim and I were also being emotionally strengthened. We were learning how to help Brian. We felt less isolated as we met other families with children with special needs. I was crying less and laughing more, enjoying this gift from God. When Brian smiled at me for the first time, I felt like he was telling me, “We’ll be okay, Mom. We can do this.”
I finally realized I didn’t have to have all the answers. God didn’t want Brian to have Down syndrome any more than I did. Brian was his child, and he would not abandon him. We live in an imperfect world where things go wrong. But God promised to be with me, and he would guide me in what to do for Brian.
So while we listened to what the “experts” suggested for Brian, we didn’t always follow what they expected us to do but allowed God to lead us down other paths, trusting in his guidance as he led us to people who supported Brian’s independence. Brian participated in Sunday school. He attended our church’s school for four years without special education services. He was completely integrated in all classes and activities during those years. I watched one teacher mentor the next teacher to take on this challenge for which they had not been trained. Brian played on the boys’ basketball team. A kind-hearted coach developed the “Brian play” to give Brian the best chance to make a basket. When he did, both sides of the gym cheered. I assisted the pastor with confirmation instruction, and Brian was confirmed.
As I look back over the past 33 years, I see God’s hand in everything. God brought people into our lives just when we needed them. He gave us answers to our questions. I came to expect and even demand God’s help. And help was there even when I didn’t ask for it.
Brian now works at the local YMCA, so proud to have his own cleaning cart and walkie-talkie. He lives independently with support. He is an active member at our church as an usher and contributes in other ways.
Jim and I often say how blessed we are because of Brian, how much we have learned from this unexpected journey. I believe God blessed Brian with a personality that draws people to him, and thereby he receives the help and support he needs. I also believe God has used Brian to move people’s hearts and change society’s mind one person at a time so that they see him and all children with special needs as people first—God’s children whose lives have purpose and a plan.
The sound of a door closing brings me back to the present. It’s Brian, holding an envelope. He has walked the few blocks that separate his apartment from our home. “Hi Mom,” he greets me. “Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Oh, hi, Brian. Thank you. How are you?” I ask, as we hug.
“Awesome,” he replies.
Yes, you are. My eyes fill with tears, but these are tears of pride in the man he has grown to be and of gratefulness to an awesome God for his love, protection, and guidance.
Beverly Fulmer is a member at St. Matthew, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
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Author: Beverly Fulmer
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017
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