Introducing my daughter
One of my daughters was born with Down syndrome. She is two now, but the picture above shows her when she was aged one (click for a larger look). We knew about her condition before she was born — in fact we were told a highly exaggerated story about how disabled she would be, but that’s a tale for another time.
She’s a wonderful kid, curious and cheeky in a very cute way, with a big infectious laugh and an almost outrageous enthusiasm for life that frequently bubbles over and draws in the people around her. And she has a special place in her heart for me — she’s a ‘Daddy’s girl’. Of course she loves her mother deeply (as do we all), but when she’s upset it’s me she turns to first for comfort. And when we’re out, she and I are a team.
Jesus’ commando raid
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night… 2 Peter 3:10
I perfectly understand why parents-to-be feel unable to bear a disabled child, I was horrified and terrified when I found out my daughter would be intellectually disabled. I felt sadness, disgust, anger, humiliation, guilt — every selfish and stupid emotion a man can feel. I’d love to say ‘I’m not ashamed to admit’ how I felt, but the truth is I am deeply ashamed of the awful things I thought.
But in that darkness, in the darkness one night, Jesus blessed me with a single grain of sense and, contrary to all that
was going on in my mind, I found myself praying to God to help me love my daughter, and that if he didn’t reject me, then to make me able to not reject her. I prayed, ‘Lord, just put the love into my heart!’
My daughter is the second of non-identical twins, and there is a lengthy tale behind her first few days in the world, involving ambulances, incubators and misleading diagnoses, but I will cover that another time. Nevertheless, much had been going on, and I had been able to maintain an emotional and physical distance from her for a long period of time. It wasn’t until several days after she was born that my wife, who could see what was happening, told me gently but firmly that it was time to stop keeping myself apart from our daughter, and suggested, ‘why don’t you bath her’.
I undressed her and there she was, pale, naked and limp like a little rag doll. I looked into her eyes, and it seemed that they were searching — searching for someone to love her. And as I recall it, perhaps a voice inside me whispered, ‘man, look at this child, she needs a mother and father to love her, can it be you?’
Then I felt something happen in my heart. Like a commando in one of those old war movies, Jesus had placed a bomb in the huge concrete dam I had built around my heart. First there was a faint rumble, then a little crack, then a trickle, then as the warm water splashed gently on my daughter’s skin, a great flood of love began pouring out.
…as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.The Gospel of St John 13:34
God has blessed me with so much love for my special little darling that my heart nearly bursts with it — and he filled her with more love for me than I ever imagined such a little vessel could hold. And out of his grace, and without needing to be asked, he blessed us with much joy and laughter too.
When we were trying to come to terms with the imminent prospect of a disabled daughter, some people told us ‘It won’t be as bad as you expect’, but for me that doesn’t begin to describe it. A better explanation would have been, ‘it’s going to be better than you could ever have imagined.’