The top of my OB-Gyn's appointment record reads: “Elderly Multigravida.”
If someone my age weren't already having a mid-life crisis, that might spark one. I'm well aware that I'm getting older, but “elderly”? It's a bit much. I may be pregnant at an older age than is common, but it's not like I'm an octogenarian.
And what about “multigravidas”? That sounds like my situation is grave in multiple ways. But I learned the other day that it merely means I've had at least one child before this pregnancy.
It shouldn't surprise me then, I suppose, if it colors how the medical staff treat me. The push for contraception, for instance. I thought that might diminish over time, but no. Even after I told one doctor that natural family planning has worked very well for us (after all, there's a seven-year gap between this pregnancy and my last one), he still said, “Well, if you change your mind and want your tubes tied, just let me know.” If we've been happy with NFP all this time, why would I get my tubes tied now? Especially with menopause looming? If we could handle NFP for 22 years, I think we can manage it for a few more. I guess he forgot how “elderly” I am.
They remembered my age, however, in their consistent pressure about testing. Though I repeatedly said I wasn't interested in the various tests for abnormalities, they kept offering me not only the ordinary tests but also the super-duper sonogram and a visit to the genetic counselor. One OB thought I just didn't get it, and she had to spell out for me that the chances of “problems” were much higher at my age. So I had to spell out to her: it doesn't matter if the child has Down syndrome or any other “problems”; we're not going to abort her, period.
I heard on the radio shortly afterward that 90% of Down-syndrome babies are aborted. I guess that explains their persistence. But how terribly sad.
I have friends whose children have Down syndrome, and they're wonderful. One of them is so sweet and friendly. Instead of calling me “Mrs. Flood,” he says, “Hi, Flood!” which always brings a smile to my face. Another boy is so affectionate, it's not enough for him to hug people, those around him have to hug each other too. So whenever we visit them, he's always making sure we hug his parents numerous times. And this is typical of Down's children—they are notoriously loving and lovable. If such a child came into our family—one who would help us to remember the big picture and the importance of loving each other—we would rejoice.
Of course, it wouldn't always be easy. Down's children also present certain challenges. But then every child presents challenges, and from a spiritual perspective, sometimes much more serious ones.
And of course, I may very well have a child with more severe difficulties. Or one that will die soon after birth. We may very well have some intense suffering ahead of us. I'm not blind to this; I just don't see the point in worrying about it.
You see, the Lord taught me a lesson about this a long time ago that thankfully in this case I haven't forgotten. My husband was suffering from a severe nerve condition in both arms that kept him from doing the simplest tasks—even buttoning his own shirt or washing his hair. I had to do everything for him, as well as take care of our two small children. We went to Mass every day, though, and were amazed at the power of God's grace to get us through this daunting period. Even when we heard that my husband might become paralyzed, we had peace—the peace that only He can give.
It was when I heard that the condition might spread and leave his legs paralyzed too that I collapsed. I told the Lord I didn't see how I could handle that. And I got an answer. He showed me that before we had gone through all this, I would have said the same; back then I couldn't have imagined the graces He had in store for us. Similarly here, I couldn't imagine handling that cross because He hadn't yet given me the grace to do so. It was like trying to cross a bridge before you got to it. If our path led to that bridge, His grace would be waiting there for us. I didn't have it now because I didn't need it yet, and might never need it.
(And thanks be to God, I never did—not only that, but my husband now has nearly full use of arms again.)
So I'm not worried about what kind of baby God sends us. Every baby is a blessing. What He wants me to be concerned about is what kind of mother I'll be, that I'll live up to the honor He's giving me of parenting this child, and her siblings.
And that will depend on how much I depend on Him.