The Encouragement I Have Received from the People that Know Best

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He likes beignets

In my experience, when your child ends up having Down syndrome, people often have some thoughts to share with you. Some people say misguided things like, “I’m sorry.” Some well-intentioned people say interesting things like, “Your baby will be like the angels.” Some people say something that you might say falls between those two extremes. And then there are those who have no idea what to say at all.

We’ve heard a lot of different things from a lot of different people. While some of those things have been less than helpful, some of them have been very beneficial and encouraging. It’s not surprising that some of the most helpful comments I have heard came from the parents of children with Down syndrome. I’d like to share some of that wisdom with you.

While everyone’s experience is different, these statements have been so very uplifting to me. I hope that they encourage you as well.*

“Take the words ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ out of your vocabulary, and never set limitations on what your child will achieve no matter the age.” – April Naretto, William’s mom

“Life with Victoria has been an unexpected journey with unimaginable blessings!” – Heather Messick, Victoria’s mom

www.heathermessick.com

“Set your expectations high; you’ll be amazed at what your child is capable of doing.” – Hilary Case Bordelon, Morgan’s mom

“If you think you had a joyous life before this child, just wait. He will bring joy in your life on a whole new level that you never knew existed.” – Amanda, Eli’s mom

Follow  them over at Raising Eli

“You got the Rolls-Royce of children.”

“We always focus and choose to celebrate what our child CAN do because Stasyia CAN do so much!” – Cori-Anne Richardson, Stasyia’s mom

Follow them over at Stasyia’s Story

“He will be the heart of your family.” – Jim Robinson, Helen’s dad

When we found out about Jude having Down syndrome, we were asked if we wanted to continue with the pregnancy. Such a question would never have been asked if he were a typical baby. The fact that the question gets asked demonstrates that many people still negatively view having children with special needs. That makes me very sad.

If you just found out that your child has an extra chromosome or that he or she will have a life that is a little different from his or her peers, please be encouraged by the words of these parents. I will never forget the day I was told that Jude will be the heart of my family. I thank God for the dad who said that to me.

He made me excited for the journey of finding out exactly what he meant.

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*These statements came at various times, some of which where in person and some of which were through correspondence. I did not have a notebook on hand to write some of them down as soon as they were said, so they have been included here based upon my memory. Some of the statements came unsolicited, while others came at my request.

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The Time When I Worried that My Son Might Not Have Down Syndrome

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Upon learning that my son probably had Down syndrome, I went through a brief period of denial. Soon after, that diagnosis actually ended up feeling like good news. We had already lost one baby to miscarriage, so knowing that the abnormalities shown on an ultrasound were most likely linked to Down syndrome gave us peace of mind. We would not lose another baby. He would be just fine.

The test that was done to determine his diagnosis did not actually carry a 100% guarantee, though. According to Nicole’s doctor, there was a 99% probability that he had Down syndrome, but to know with absolute certainly would require an amniocentesis. We decided to forgo that procedure after learning of the potential risks. And in the experience of these doctors, in some 1,000 instances the test we had already done had only been wrong 3 times. They seemed certain that it was the correct diagnosis, so we proceeded with the assumption that they were right.

Over the next couple of months, we learned more about Trisomy 21, met people with it, talked to their families, and embraced a better understanding of what life might look like for our family. It was an interesting time for me, personally. To think that I had at first seen the diagnosis as a negative thing, then came to accept it as good news, to finally find myself excited about it is quite something. If nothing else, I hope that my personal journey encourages people to be slow to make drastic decisions when it comes to prenatal diagnoses. You may be surprised by how much your heart can change.

I didn’t realize how much mine had changed until Jude was born.

Nicole and I were looking through Jude’s discharge papers from the hospital the other day. He was born 10 weeks early and spent the first 44 days of his life in the NICU. As you can imagine, there were quite a few pages to look through. One of them reminded me of something. His karyotype (which showed his extra copy of chromosome 21) took me back to the Wednesday afternoon (on the 4th day of his life) when we were given the confirmation that he does have Down syndrome. As I thought about that day, I was reminded of the days leading up to it.

Following his delivery, Jude had an echocardiogram to make sure that his heart did not have any defects (a common issue for babies with Down syndrome). When it revealed a healthy heart, one of the members of the NICU team came to give us the good news. While he was there, I must have said something that tipped him off to the fact that we had not actually confirmed the diagnosis yet. Clearly, it was news to him. I remember seeing a look on his face that seemed to indicate that he was not sure if Jude actually had Down syndrome. That, perhaps, his heart looked fine because he didn’t have a syndrome which often affects the heart in a negative way.

I don’t know whether or not he was actually thinking that. What I know is that, for a few days, I worried that Jude didn’t have Down syndrome after all. It’s hard to explain how I felt. I can only describe the feeling as disappointment.

But why would that disappoint me? Considering my initial feelings about the diagnosis, you’d think I would have felt something closer to hope. That’s not how I felt, though. While thinking about that afternoon, I have wondered why.

I recently read a blog by the mother of a woman with Down syndrome. In it, she challenges the use of “people-first language” when it comes to Down syndrome because, like the color of her daughter’s hair or eyes, her extra chromosome is a beautiful part of who she is. Rather than some negative thing, it is something to celebrate and cherish. It is part of what makes her who she is. I found the blog helpful (ironically, I am about 100% sure it was written in response to one of my own posts) in thinking through my feelings on the days following Jude’s birth. Why would I have been disappointed if he had been a typical baby? Because I had come to love him for who he is.

Does that mean he would have been loved less if he ended up not having Down syndrome? Of course not. But it’s really an irrelevant question in my mind for an important reason: I believe that God had guided our hearts toward loving the baby that He did indeed create to be our son. Jude was planned and carefully created with an extra copy of chromosome 21, and that is part of what makes him who he is.

Full discloser, I still advocate for people-first language. Jude is the same kind of human as any other child, and I think that is worth intentionally pointing out. But please understand that his extra 21 chromosome is an important part of his humanity, not an unfortunate addition to it. It’s something that makes him the beautifully unique individual that we are so blessed to call our son. It’s something that we love about him. It’s something that we would miss if it somehow went away. Without it, our son would not be the same person.

Here’s what I believe: People, with or without special needs, are special. Every individual is made the way that God planned. That means the design of God should be embraced and celebrated. Because I had grown to love that aspect of Jude’s design that we call “Down syndrome”, I was sad at the thought of losing it.

When Jude’s doctor came to tell us the results of his genetic testing on that Wednesday afternoon, the confirmation of his Down syndrome was anything but the bad news that many people would think it should have been. I’m not sure if his doctor understood how good her news actually was. Truth be told, even in my relief on that day, I had no idea just how good her news was, either. Down syndrome had first felt like good news to us when we thought it simply meant that Jude would live. We didn’t consider at the time that it was good news for another reason. Down syndrome itself was good news for us because it meant getting the son that we love and cherish.

That he would live was certainly good news, but that he would live with Down syndrome was good news as well. I get that now, and I am understanding it better with each passing day.

We Should Love the People We Tend to Hate

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Who doesn’t love Super Bowl commercials? Everybody enjoys a good twist, and those ads pretty much only exist to surprise us. This year, we were introduced to a prenatal baby with an appetite for Doritos. It doesn’t get any more surprising than that. For me though, the real surprise came afterward. I heard the next day that NARAL had criticized the ad because, among other things, it used what they deemed an “antichoice tactic of humanizing a fetus.”

I am opposed to abortion on the grounds that it ends a human life. At the same time, I do understand that there are those on the other side of the aisle who truly believe that my position is a problem for a host of reasons. And while I believe that they are dead wrong, I also believe that if we do not truly listen to one other, we will never be able to bring one another over to our way of thinking. So I try my hardest to listen to the other side with sincerity and deal with what they say charitably.

Even so, I could not help but scratch my head at this one. The complaint wasn’t about Doritos calling abortion murder. How could it have been? The ad wasn’t about abortion at all. It was about an unborn baby who apparently had x-ray vision and an appetite for processed foods. NARAL’s problem? The human fetus was humanized.

I recently heard more complaints about humanizing. This time it was directed at Jimmy Fallon’s treatment of Donald Trump. As the two men interacted during an interview on The Tonight Show, Jimmy was given permission to mess up Trump’s famous comb over. It was a light-hearted exchange that many found to be humorous.

But some people criticized Fallon. Some thought he was too easy on Trump. Some thought he should have scrutinized the candidate. Some on the Left went so far as to accuse Fallon of humanizing the Donald.

A human being was humanized, and people were mad about it.

At this point, it may be tempting for some to accuse the Left of intentionally dehumanizing others when it suits their agenda. I have to admit, my mind went in that direction for a little while. And to an extent, I think that there is some of that going on (intentional or not). But as I have thought about it more, I’ve had to admit that this is a tactic that is used by the Right as well.

We don’t need to worry about the refugees, they are probably terrorists.

We don’t need mourn with the families of dead inner-city youth, they are thugs.

We don’t need to respect President Obama, he’s a liberal.

Conservatives and liberals may have some commonalities after all. Like the Left, the Right dehumanizes people all of the time (intentionally or not). It’s an easy thing to do. Just throw some derogatory title on someone and they have been demoted from human to less than human.

That tendency should be of grave concern for us all. But it should especially be troubling for those of us who follow Jesus. After all, he famously commanded that we love our enemies. It’s a very difficult mandate. Perhaps more difficult than we even realize.

There’s a familiar story in the Bible known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. While many have heard it, fewer know why it was told in the first place. The story is shared by Jesus in response to a question. After establishing that the second greatest commandment in the Torah (there are 613 of them!) is to love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus is asked who exactly qualifies as a “neighbor”. The implication of the question is that there are some worthy of neighbor status, and some who are not. So Jesus tells the tale of a man who saves the life of a cultural adversary (the Samaritans and the Jewish people had major problems with each other), pointing out that he acted as a neighbor to that man. Then Jesus tells his questioner to go and do likewise.

So then, loving one’s enemy means treating them as a neighbor. And the love that we are to show neighbors ought to mirror the love we desire for ourselves.

Not everyone on the Right is a Christian. Not everyone on the Left is a Christian. But to those believers on both sides (and in the middle), please be sure to view other people as neighbors. And be sure to love those neighbors as yourself.

The only way to do so is to recognize the humanity of everyone. The humanity created in the image of God. The humanity for whom Jesus bled and died. The humanity from whom you are called to make disciples.

If you call yourself pro-life, recognizing humanity is certainly a prerequisite. But if you call yourself a Christian, truly loving that human as you ought may be very difficult indeed.

The Good Samaritan’s life was certainly made difficult by the love that he showed. But it is exactly that difficult love to which Jesus calls his followers.

Will we be obedient?

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” -Luke 10:36-37

The Danger of Assumptions and the Importance of Awareness

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Photo credit goes to AK Photography

When Jude was given a probable diagnosis of Down syndrome about half-way through Nicole’s pregnancy (we didn’t confirm it until he was born), she and I began doing research. We didn’t know much about it, so learning quickly became a top priority for us. Much to our relief, there is no shortage of educational information when it comes to Down syndrome. What surprised me was the number of websites dedicated to not only educating people on what it is, but also on raising awareness of it. As one who was mostly uneducated and unaware, I (rather ironically) wondered why there was such a concern for “raising awareness”. Aren’t people already aware that Down syndrome is a thing?

What I did not realize is that being aware that Down syndrome is a thing is quite different from understanding it. And even if someone understands the genetic ins and outs of Trisomy 21, they may not understand what it means to have Down syndrome, or how important individuals with it are to the world. I realized the difference following a conversation several months later.

After Jude’s birth, I was walking my dog when I ran into some neighbors. I shared with them that he had arrived and they expressed their excitement for us. As we talked, I revealed that he has Down syndrome. I was surprised by what was expressed next.

“Oh no. He’s Down’s? I’m sorry.”

The statement came with a tone of sincere sympathy. He was truly sorry.

But sorry for what? At the time, I took it to mean that he was sorry we had this kind of baby. He was sorry that we didn’t get a better one. He had just congratulated me, but now it was as if congratulations were no longer in order. We were pitied.

It was one of those moments that I feel like I’ve seen on TV shows. You know, when a character says or does something out of line and is about to learn a valuable lesson? You know the moments I mean. The moments that you kind of roll your eyes at because they never happen in real life.

But it turns out that people really do say such things on occasion. And because it wasn’t what I expected to hear, I was totally unprepared to respond.

I don’t really remember exactly what I said in response. I think it was something like, “Oh, no, we are thankful for him.” And we were. And we certainly still are. And in fairness to my neighbor, I don’t think he had any hurtful intent. I certainly don’t think he intended for me to take it the way that I did. But as I have thought over that conversation since that day, I have had several different feelings. At first, I felt shocked. Then I was angry. More recently, the anger has disappeared and been replaced with empathy. I have come to see that for the better part of my life, I might have felt a little of what my neighbor seemed to express that day.

When the possibility of a Down syndrome diagnosis first came up, I had a brief period of denial. Why? Because I apparently assumed it was something that is undesirable. It was the same assumption that my neighbor apparently had. And whether or not I would have actually said something like that to a new parent, I now realize how ignorance about Down syndrome can lead people to think all kinds of unfortunate things. And I was certainly not immune.

That is why I think it is so important that we raise awareness.

Awareness that people are not “Down’s people”, but first and foremost people who happen to have Down syndrome.

Awareness that the unique challenges that Down syndrome may present are not the only side of the coin.

Awareness that Down syndrome is not a disease or some kind of devastating affliction.

Awareness of the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome (driver’s licenses, degrees, jobs, marriages, etc.).

Awareness that people with Down syndrome bear the image of God along with the rest of humanity and are masterfully crafted by a good and wise Creator.

And on a personal level, awareness that, on most days, I don’t spend most of my time thinking about the fact that my son has Down syndrome. Not because I am still in denial, but because, as many have already pointed out, he and I are more alike than we are different.

Can I ask you a favor? Would you please take a few minutes to explore one or two of the links above and share what you learn with others? You may find out that some of your assumptions about Down syndrome are misguided or even totally wrong.

I know I found that to be the nature of many of my own assumptions. My son is a gift, and there is nothing about him I would desire to change. When I first found out that he might have Down syndrome, that was not the case.

I thank God that I am more aware now.

My Son is Not a “Down’s Baby”: Or Why it is Sometimes Good to be Politically Correct

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Totally inadvertent that 75% of his cutest pictures feature the Broncos logo.

One day I was looking through my Facebook feed when I came across a post by my friend, Mat:

I think the world has gone nuts over being offended. Don’t get me wrong. However, a whole lot of what we call “politically correct” my momma called “manners.” Christians aren’t called to be the common sense police. Christians are called “to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22).

I couldn’t have agreed with him more. The current fad of being “politically incorrect” for the sake of opposing the so called “PC Police” is not a Christian virtue, and this idol of getting to say anything we want really needs to be reexamined. And not because we need to live to please everyone all of the time. As Mat pointed out, yes people have taken it way too far when it comes to how they respond to being offended. It is absolutely unreasonable to expect people to never say something that rubs us the wrong way. And really, I think it is impossible to live and speak in ways that will be 100% acceptable to everyone all of the time. Different values exist across our world, and we are kidding ourselves if we think that there is a way to please everyone.

Still, why do we value the right to offend more than we desire to be kind? For Christians, I think that it is obvious which of those things should take priority over the other. One of them is a fruit of the Spirit. The other is not. The gospel message is certainly offensive, but reserving the right to call people names or use language that others find hurtful are not gospel issues. Our language should always build up (Ephesians 4:29).

I think the problem is with the term “politically correct” itself. It is regrettable that this has become about politics because that’s not really what it’s about. At least, not all of the time. Often, the people who desire that different terms be used are not actually being all that unreasonable. If I find it offensive when someone labels something they find dumb as “retarded”, am I being unreasonable? I don’t think so. It’s easy enough to point out the original meaning of the word and demonstrate how someone equating it to being dumb or stupid or some other negative thing is incredibly dehumanizing to people with special needs. Is the right to use hurtful language really more important than treating one another with kindness? The polite and decent thing to do is to avoid being unnecessarily offensive if you can help it.

Allow me to illustrate what I mean:

My son has Down syndrome. My son is not a “Down’s Baby”. He is a baby who has Down syndrome. It is something that he possesses, but it is not who he is. Does the distinction matter? I believe it does. When someone uses the incorrect term, there is a connotation that suggests that he is not the same kind of human as, say, “normal people.”

To be clear, I am not walking around carrying a grudge against the (several) people who have used “Down’s Baby” during Jude’s short life. I understand that they did not intend any harm. And that is my overall point, I suppose. When people use “politically incorrect” language, they are mostly not trying to be offensive. But the thing is, they nonetheless often are offensive. Do I take it personally when people use the wrong term? Not usually. But I do understand why some people might just take it personally. And I empathize with them.

It’s true, you cannot please everyone. But why not do our best to be polite? I am not suggesting that we walk around on egg shells for the rest of our lives, but I do believe we should think through the things that we say. When it comes to so called “politically incorrect” words, it is possible that people find them offensive for legitimate reasons. And even if we disagree with them, is being right about a word more important than the person challenging our usage of it?

The verse that Mat referenced in his post comes from one of Paul’s letters. Paul argues that Christians lay aside the secondary things in order to get into the lives of people and, hopefully, win them over to the faith. Of course, we should never compromise on the truth of God’s word. As we share the gospel, we will without a doubt say things that people do not want to hear. They may even find what we say to be very offensive. That should be expected. However, if the way that we talk about other things turns people off, then maybe we need to change the way that we talk.

John MacArthur put it this way:

[Paul] did not compromise the gospel…But he would condescend in any way for anyone if that would in any way help bring him to Christ…If a person is offended by God’s Word, that is his problem…But if he is offended by our unnecessary behavior or practices—no matter how good and acceptable those may be in themselves—his problem becomes our problem.

Christians, let’s be slow to speak. Let’s listen to people. We may just realize that the language that they find offensive is seen that way for a good reason. And even if they are totally wrong about the terms we like to use, is that more important than our witness?

The way that we talk is a big part of how we show love to our neighbors. Let’s be sure to love them well.

Our 3rd Anniversary

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Photo credit goes to Michelle Taulbee Photography

In November of 2010 I was selected for a team that would go on a mission trip to the Philippines the following summer. I knew a couple of the people on that team before the roster was announced, but there were a couple of people I had not met. The day that the team was announced, I met those people. One of them, Sam, would become a good friend. The other, Nicole, would become my wife.

We began dating shortly after returning from the Philippines, were engaged a year later, and got married the year after that. Today, August 3, marks 3 years of marriage for us. I have not been married long enough to write one of those, “Here’s what I have learned from marriage” posts. I feel like that’s one of those 20th anniversary kinds of posts. However, I do want to take a moment to honor my best friend on this special occasion.

There is a lot I could say about her. I could write about all of the reasons I admire her. Her beauty. Her hard work. Her dedication. Her kindness. The way that she keeps the details of our lives in order (my lack of organization would ruin us if she wasn’t on top of it all). Her faith in Christ and commitment to Him. The list goes on and on.

As I look back on another year together, I am thankful that she is my wife for a lot of reasons. But there is one reason that stands out today. It is one that I have this year that I didn’t have last year.

I am thankful for her because she is the best mother I could ever imagine for our son.

I suppose I imagined things would go well when we had kids. I knew that the qualities I mentioned above would make her a good mother. Over the last six months, I have discovered that I didn’t have a clue how right I was about her. She is a wonderful mother. She is a beautiful person who glows when she is holding our son. She works so hard to make sure that he is taken care of and is dedicated to giving him more than he needs. Her kindness is magnified by the way that she gently interacts with him and meets his needs. The diaper bag is always ready to go, bottles are always filled, and his therapy and doctor’s appointments are always on the calendar.

Her faith in Christ and commitment to Him have been demonstrated anew as well. Jude’s entrance into the world was not what we would call ideal. There were many moments of uncertainty for us as he spent his first 44 days in the hospital. That season was physically and emotionally draining. It was sad. It was frustrating. Through it all, she was strong, determined, and dependent upon the One who she knew was able.

Parenthood hasn’t gone exactly how I imagined it would. Nonetheless, I am beyond grateful that I get to navigate it with Nicole by my side. 3 years ago, when we said our vows and exchanged our rings, I knew that I was a very blessed man. Today, as I look back, I have a much better understanding of how blessed I truly am.

Happy anniversary, Nicole. I love you.

Miscarriage and God’s Grace

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I went home from work one day to find Nicole with a smile on her face and a gift bag in her hand. I opened my present to find a baby outfit that said, “I love daddy” on it. At that point, I had a smile on my face as well. Just like that, I was a dad. We were so happy. We wanted to tell everyone, but we decided to wait until Nicole was 12 weeks pregnant to make any announcements. We knew why we were waiting, but we didn’t really think through the implications of why we were waiting. In our minds, our baby would arrive on schedule. We had no real concerns about the pregnancy. Looking back, the 12 weeks thing could have almost been called a formality as far as I was concerned.

I remember going to Nicole’s first prenatal checkup. Sure enough, she really was pregnant. They estimated that she was about 9 weeks at that point. Unfortunately, due to being in the sweet spot between insurance coverages, we had to wait for our first ultrasound.

We went back for our ultrasound two weeks later. The screen came on, the familiar sonogram image popped up, and there was our baby. Words cannot describe how I felt at that moment. With tears welling up in our eyes, we looked at our child. I have always made fun of the way that parents get about their sonogram images. I mean, come on, they all look exactly the same. Except this one looked totally different. This one showed my baby. It was beautiful.

I noticed that the ultrasound technician was pretty silent during the whole thing. I assumed that was because she was focused on recording measurements and whatever else she had to do. She sent us to the waiting room where we sat until Nicole’s doctor was ready for us. We were so excited to discuss everything with her. But as we sat in the waiting room watching some version of “House Hunters”, I had a thought: Weren’t we supposed to hear the heartbeat today? I dismissed it. I must have been mistaken. Maybe that was later.

Our excitement crumbled just as fast as it had arisen. Nicole’s doctor broke the news to us that they had attempted to find the baby’s heartbeat, but were unsuccessful. She wanted us to go to another office and have a second ultrasound done to be sure. After the longest afternoon of our lives, we received the terrible confirmation that our baby had probably passed away a week or so prior. What we thought would be a wonderful day ended up being one of the worst days of our lives. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the awfulness of that day decided to linger for a while. It was during that difficult season of grief that we received great support and love. Those with whom we shared the news of the miscarriage were often very encouraging. However, not everything that we were told was very helpful. Indeed, not everything that we were told was even right.

One well-intentioned person attempted to make me feel better by assuring me that we would have another child. I get what they were trying to say, and I don’t hold it against them at all. However, in my mind, they were treating my baby as a very replaceable commodity. Another person asked, “Don’t you know that it happens to a lot of couples?” That one seemed pretty calloused. It was as if we needed to just get over it and things would be better. The problem is that the “it” we needed to get over was a baby.

In both cases, the people meant well. In both cases, the people were trying to be helpful. I believe that life begins at conception, so I approach this subject with that bias. However, if those on the other side of the aisle are correct, that what exists in the womb is simply a potential human, then I think that these people were technically right (albeit unhelpful) to say what they did . After all, maybe we would get another shot at having a kid (we did, by the way), so maybe we could get over the one that we lost (we haven’t, by the way). However, if my belief (which was shared by those who made these statements) about the nature of the unborn is correct, then my baby’s death was just as much of a loss as the death of any child.

That is not to say that I have experienced the same level of grief as a parent who loses a child who has been born. I would have to be very thoughtless to believe that. Those who have lost children after they were born have experienced grief that I dare not claim to have felt. I only mean that in both cases, a child was lost. In both cases, a child should be mourned. In both cases, it is neither helpful nor right to suggest that a new baby will replace the one that was lost and that the parents should just get over it.

A few weeks after the miscarriage, we got a puppy. I remember visiting with a friend who didn’t know what had happened and telling him that we got a dog. He laughed and said something about how that is the normal order: Get married, get a dog, then have kids. I smiled and changed the subject. He had no idea that we had gotten the dog on a whim in an attempt to fill a hole.

Of course no dog could fill the hole left by the loss of our baby. Because nothing could fill that hole. Nothing replaces a person. Not even another person can do that. When we found out that Nicole was pregnant with Jude, I thought back to the person who said we would have another child. For a moment, I entertained the idea that Jude was the replacement for our first baby. But Jude is not a replacement for the baby we lost. Jude is a unique gift just like our first baby was a unique gift.

As I write this, I am watching my soon to be 6 month old son enjoy some time in his swing, looking around the room with fascinated wide eyes. I am thankful to God for him. Right now he is smirking at something that I am unable to identify. It may have been the ceiling fan. It might have been the dog walking by (I’m glad we got him, even if my reason for doing so was misguided). Whatever it is that has him entertained, I am glad that it exists. That smile is, if I may be sappy, heart-melting. Nicole and I are still new to parenting, but even now we cannot imagine our lives without Jude.

People experience the grace of God in common ways all of the time: The sun rising each day; the rain that falls when we need it. Parenthood is another example of God’s common grace. An example of His love for people manifested in a gift that we do not deserve. I always knew that I wanted to be a dad, but I never really knew what a gift it would be until I saw my son for the first time. Of course, a lot of painful things occurred before that could happen.

But even though so much pain surrounds the memory of our first baby, I know that we had a special gift in the brief life of that child as well. The joy that came with knowing that God had placed our baby on this earth. The excitement that came with wondering if we would have a boy or a girl. The way that expecting a baby brought Nicole and I closer together. The brief life was certainly a meaningful one. And I know that God loves our first kid just as much as He loves anyone else, and we look forward to the day when we will meet that child, learn their gender and name, and join with them in worshipping our Lord in a place where death and pain are no more. Until then, we will miss that baby, hold on tight to Jude and each other, and thank God for the gracious gifts that our children are.