When it comes to the issue of life, there are two competing cultures in our world: the culture of life that says every human being has value and deserves protection; and the culture of death that says the only human beings who have value are the ones who are wanted, convenient, desirable, and who can have a “quality” life.
For the last 50 years, the culture of death has overtaken most of our society. With the help of the multi-billion-dollar abortion industry peddling their destructive messaging and fooling the public through marketing, abortion has not only become accepted, but celebrated.
This has especially been true when preborn children are diagnosed with Down syndrome.
With increased access to prenatal testing, Down syndrome abortions are skyrocketing worldwide. In the United States, the best estimate is that 67% of pregnancies end in abortion when the preborn child is diagnosed with Down syndrome.
In other countries, the situation is even worse. In France, 77% of preborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. In Denmark, it’s 98%. And in Iceland, 99% of preborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. The idea of “eradicating Down syndrome” has even become a source of national pride in some countries.
Despite this messaging spreading around the world, as Christians, we know that a diagnosis of Down syndrome – or any other medical or chromosomal condition – doesn’t change the value of life in the womb. Every human being was made in the image of God with intrinsic value from the moment of conception.
And God doesn’t make mistakes.
I was faced with this truth firsthand, because in the spring of 2020, my wife and I found out that our daughter had both a medical and chromosomal condition that the culture of death would have deemed unwanted.
God Will Add
I never believed that I would have a child with special needs.
In fact, when I got married, I told my wife that I didn’t think God would ever give me a child with special needs, because He knew that I couldn’t handle it.
However, over the next seven years, we were blessed to be surrounded by a culture of life, instead of the prevailing culture of death. In that time, God worked on my heart.
Through my church community and work community, I came into contact with families like Barry Moerschell’s, who had shared how much their children had learned from their son with Down syndrome. I learned about families like Sean Martin’s, who shared about adopting children with special needs and finding joy despite the challenges.
I began to truly understand the value that having a child with special needs could bring in the family. And I realized that I could handle anything God sent my way – because it would be His plan and He would be with me.
Fast forward to Christmas of 2019. My wife and I already had two children, and were both on the fence about whether to have another. But God had a special gift for us that Christmas… and we found out that my wife was pregnant with our third child.
We were excited! God had made the decision to grow our family for us and pushed us off the fence and into another pregnancy. We were surrounded with a culture of life that celebrated this gift with us and would support us and be there for us. Because God doesn’t make mistakes.
Then, a few months later, we received the news that our baby – our little girl – had a congenital heart defect.
That was one of the hardest days of my life. We had no idea what the future would hold or if our baby would even make it to term. And if she did make it to term, the doctors believed she would need open heart surgery within the first seven days of life.
But in that moment of fear, the truth that God doesn’t make mistakes became very real to me. It was one of those indescribable moments where a calm came over me. I began to sob in my vehicle, knowing that God crafted her heart exactly the way He had for a reason. No matter what happened or how much time we would have with her, I knew that God was good.
A month later, the doctors called us again with more news. This time, they told us that our daughter had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
For so many around the world, if the heart condition wasn’t enough, a Down syndrome diagnosis would almost certainly push them toward abortion. But for my wife and I, because of the work God had been doing for the past seven years preparing my heart for this moment, our response was excited!
We were excited for the richness and depth our daughter would bring to our family, no matter what happened after she was born. We were excited at the idea of our children growing up with a sibling with special needs. And we were excited that God was trusting us and blessing us with such a special and unique child.
Even better, the culture of life around us continued to stand with us.
Everyone around us shared our excitement. At no point did anyone ever suggest that abortion should be on the table.
In the months that followed, we began to prepare for the birth of our daughter. We gave her the name Josie – which means “God will add.” God added an extra child to our family. God added an extra chromosome to Josie’s DNA. God added depth to our family.
A few weeks before her due date, Josie took us by surprise once again and made her arrival early. Thankfully, she didn’t need heart surgery right away, and we spent the next few months learning how to take care of a child with Down syndrome.
I won’t mask the truth here – there were certainly challenging moments. Things that we had mastered after having two children, we had to learn all over again for Josie. But every challenge we faced was overshadowed by the immeasurable joy of having her in our life.
By December 2020, the time came for her to have open-heart surgery.
My wife and I had our fair share of fears and anxieties. But it always came back to the fact that God doesn’t make mistakes.
On surgery day, the biggest hurdle we had to overcome was knowing that we had to be at peace with whatever happened in the operating room. God didn’t promise an easy road. He didn’t promise good health or even life for Josie. But we knew we had to leave the hospital, with or without Josie, knowing that God was still good.
The Lucky Few
Today, we are so thankful that Josie is with us and thriving!
She gives life to all who are around her. Every time she overcomes her next challenge or accomplishes a milestone, it’s a big celebration for our whole family.
The greatest joy is seeing my other children interact with her. They have learned so much that I never could have taught them because of Josie – and it’s only been a year.
I truly count myself and my family among #TheLuckyFew to have someone with Down syndrome in our life.
We also know that our story ended happier than many other families. I had a stable job, we lived in a good neighborhood, and we had friends nearby to help us with the transition. Moreover, Josie isn’t living in pain or facing a terminal illness.
But even if the circumstances had been different, we still had a culture of life surrounding us, encouraging us, and supporting us every step of the way.
Contrast that with what we would have been hearing if only the culture of death was in our ear.
Josie wasn’t part of our plans, so the culture of death would have told us that if we don’t want another child, we should just abort the “clump of cells.”
Josie had a potential life-threatening heart condition, so the culture of death would have told us that killing “the pregnancy tissue” instantly in the womb would be more convenient and humane.
Josie was diagnosed with Down syndrome, so the culture of death would have told us that since she did not have desirable DNA and would have more challenges, death would be a more desirable outcome.
It’s easy for me to imagine what our world would look like if the culture of death was pushed out by a culture of life.
This would be a culture where all parents are encouraged, empowered, and supported, instead of told that they don’t have what it takes to bring a child into the world.We would celebrate all life, instead of only celebrating some lives. All children would know how special and valuable they are, instead of telling some that the world doesn’t want them.
I have experienced a culture of life, and I can attest that it’s a better way.
Through the work of Human Coalition and so many other incredible organizations, I hope to see the culture change in America and around the world. I hope more families get to experience the kind of support my family did. And I hope more children with special needs will be given the life they deserve… the life that God planned for them.
Because God doesn’t make mistakes.