I read Mark Leach’s article just a couple of days after talking with a young man I know who is about to have his first child. When I asked how his wife was doing, he said that they had just been talking about my family as they wondered about their own baby. They talked about the possibility of disability – and the fact that they want this child in their lives however he or she comes. That was a moment of sobering joy for me.
Knowing this young man the way I do, I have no doubt he would welcome his child if he had disabilities “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing” even if he didn’t know me or Paul. He is much more grounded in the sovereignty of God over all things than I was at his age. But I also believe that God uses my Paul to prepare others for the potential reality of disability in ways that are encouraging, even as we don’t even attempt to hide how difficult some aspects of our lives are.
I know church can be hard, but if at all possible, show up. Attempting to ‘do’ church with a child with disabilities is complicated, sometimes frustrating, and even overwhelming. Yet the very presence of our families makes a difference! When Paul was really little and we returned to church, I watched one family from afar who have a child with Down syndrome. I never even approached them. Paul doesn’t have Down syndrome, but just knowing there was another dad walking around with a disabled child was a comfort. It was only recently that I had the chance to tell that dad the impact he had.
Our children matter, and people can see that when we show up with all our complications and embarrassing behaviors and strange noises. And by doing so we help plant different seeds in people’s minds.
We must plant those seeds, we simply must, as Mark Leach pointed out in his article:
Mothers who have terminated following a prenatal diagnosis overwhelmingly (97 percent) report that these are wanted pregnancies. Furthermore, they say that they consider themselves to be, in fact, mothers, and that their fetus is not simply a fetus, but their child. Yet they still go through with aborting their child.
The challenge is not convincing mothers that their child prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome is in fact a child, having moral status, and therefore having the same right to life as any other human being. Consider why these mothers say they aborted: the burden on their other children; the burden on the child itself; fear that they could not care for the child; and fear that society would not support their child. One study found that “the lack of access to care was often given priority over strongly held ethical positions, such as those on abortion.”
They wanted their children, but they were afraid. Nobody I know will say that the burden isn’t real; that would be both false and foolish. And the fears are real as well. The happier statistics Mr. Leach quotes elsewhere in his article pale in comparison to those darker images virtually everyone has about disability.
But that dark hole of assumptions is missing a key ingredient – an actual living human being who we can touch and observe and engage, and real siblings who have to live a different kind of life, but not necessarily a bad life, and the realization that society really isn’t interested in that child, but that God is intensely interested and ready to “supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
So, if you can, show up and demonstrate how big God is and pray for God to do something we might never know about. May God use us to drive down that statistic of wanted-but-aborted children, even one at a time.