One of my 2014 highlights: while sitting with Adam on the back porch one evening, he looked out at Isaac crawling through the grass and suddenly said, “I love Isaac’s little hand. It’s part of him and I love it. I think it’s awesome.” (Is it weird to be married eleven years and still think your husband is too good to be true?) We all have our quirks. And you know what? When I stop and think about them—the birthmark on Micah’s leg, the little jump-hop-hand-shake thing Sky does when she’s excited—they’re actually endearing.
I’m starting to figure out that Isaac doesn’t need more protection than our other kids. Maybe even the opposite. I fell in love with each of our children in their newborn days, but with Isaac that love felt different. It was tearful and fierce and anxious about the future. I admit I still have moments when I want him to stay safe and little in my arms forever. But I’m learning those feelings are worth fighting against. God gave us Isaac to raise, hopefully into a brave, confident man who believes he can do whatever God puts on his heart.
I’m learning to be oh-so-careful with my thoughts about the hard things other families are facing. Because here’s the thing: most of the time, having a child with a special kind of challenge is tough, but it’s not a tragedy. Death is tragic. A limb difference like Isaac’s is not. And there are lots of challenges that fall into that same nuanced space. A wise friend told me she’d never wish away her son’s Downs Syndrome because “that would change who he is!” She doesn’t want sympathy. She wants people to see that her son is tremendous just as he is, a total delight in her life, even though they have their share of unique struggles. Another wise friend pointed out that no one wants others to look at their child and think, “Well, at least we don’t have it as bad as they do!” I’m learning to see different situations less in terms of good and bad and instead find myself more interested in the story God is writing in their lives.
I’ve also learned there is a special sort of pain that comes with having a baby who doesn’t get a quick “all is well!” on the day of his birth. It’s one thing for your child to get sick or hurt or come up against a big obstacle at some point in his life. It’s something else when that challenge happens while he’s still growing inside your body. I’ve learned it’s not always easy to leave your pregnancy in the past. Sometimes it haunts you even as your hold your baby in your arms, regardless of how many doctors have told you it’s not your fault. But I’m also learning it’s possible to be happy even when your questions are not answered. It’s possible to take your complicated mess of emotions to God, to cry a little and sit with Him in the silence, and then somehow get up feeling better, filled with gratitude for your precious baby and the way God is trustworthy no matter what.
Isaac’s moving past his baby days now into life as a toddler and we’ve all entered a new year. For lots of people it’s a time to make resolutions and set goals and do better and blah, blah, blah. But for us, 2015 is about the opposite of all that. It’s about the happiness that fills you when you’re not trying to change everything, when you gratefully receive the life God has given you just as it is, with all of its mess and noise and imperfection. When it’s raining, Ad tells me not to use an umbrella. “Rub your nose in it!” he always says. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m learning.