• Natalie Maxwell

Give Them Life

Birthdays are about celebrating an individuals life and the ripple effects that one life can have on so many. It's not about presents or cake or fancy parties, but rather about the message you send with your words and actions to let the individual know they are loved and valued and their life has worth and meaning.

Our daughter Emarie recently turned seven. Birthdays for our adopted kids always bring with them an extra depth of thoughts and memories. In every moment of joy, if I allow myself to acknowledge it, there is also sadness.

I tried so hard to keep my focus on Emarie this year, but it's impossible for me to think of the blessing of her birth without thinking of the one who holds the answers to my unknowns. The one who knows what her pregnancy was like and felt her little feet kicking from the inside. The one who knows what time the contractions started. The one who bore the pain that would give way to the beauty that is our daughter. The one who was the first recipient of the love that shines through her almond shaped eyes.

I tell myself not to go there, but I can't help but wonder when the joy of her birth turned into a pain more unbearable than the labor pains, a pain that I wonder if she's ever been able to let go of. We were told that her birth parents wanted to keep her, but knew that they couldn't, whether that was because of others opinions or Emarie's health concerns I do not know, all I know is my heart breaks for my child's first mother.

I realize that just as she holds pieces to my daughters story that I wish so badly I knew, I hold pieces that she may desperately want. There's the knowledge that she is safe and loved and thriving, but there's also the knowledge that she loves to help in the kitchen, adores babies, wants to do everything on her own, and does everything in her power to snuff out the sadness of those around her.

I get the privilege of knowing my daughter because her birth mother chose to give her life.

It breaks my heart that the country of opportunity we brought our daughter home to would not have seen her worth in the womb just as her birth country did not see it after her birth. Everyday a mother is told that she is justified in choosing her life and pursuits over her child's all because of one extra chromosome. They are told to think about what is best for their other children. They are told all of the things that their child may not be able to do, instead of all of the things that their child may overcome.

I was hoping to include a video so you could see the moment for yourself, but alas technology and I do not always get along so you will have to settle for my verbal depiction.

After we ate dinner Ryan secretly put together one last present for Emarie, it was the cutest rocking chair with hand paintings on it of a frog and a butterfly, sent from her grandparents. We knew she would love it, which she did, but she wasn't the only one... Vienna began to cry when she saw that this gift was for Emma and that she couldn't sit in it that very moment. We all ignored her crying, everyone except her big sister. I watched with such pride as Emma got out of her new chair and went over to hug her sister and rub her back. At one point she stepped back, cupped Vienna's face in her hands and "spoke" to her. She is nonverbal so most would only hear babbles, but for those of us who are blessed to know Emma we knew exactly what she was saying, she was telling her sister that everything was okay.

Later that evening when I was still pondering that special moment, I thought of the other siblings Emarie has across the ocean. I wondered if they even know about her and the truth of what happened after she was born. I thought of how her birth parents probably thought they were doing what is best for them by shielding them from the life of having a sibling with a disability, but the truth is they have missed out on being the recipients of the love we saw in that special moment shared by two sisters.

I know one of the driving factors when women choose to abort their babies with Down Syndrome is the fear of how that child will change their life, it's ironic that if you ask those of us who parent these children, the majority of us would tell you that the greatest blessings have come about because these special kiddos have changed us for the better.

I'm saying this not as a mother of a child who has beat all of the statistics of the struggles someone with Down Syndrome may face, I'm saying this as a mother who has walked through the hardships and will continue to, but even in the hard there is joy... such indescribable joy!!

I have come to believe that a child's worth does not waver by the amount of difficulty it takes to raise them. Our daughter is worthy of life not because she learned to walk. She will not be more worthy of our love if she one day begins to talk or learns to read, she is worthy because God created her and knit her together in first mama's womb and He knew what he was doing when He chose to give her one extra chromosome. She is worthy because she is Emarie, loved and worthy just as she is.

He knew our family and our world needed her light and I will forever praise him for that!

If I could talk to our daughters first mama on that day, I would tell her that she could do it. I would tell her that few things would come easy except the most important thing and that's loving her. I would tell her that if she opened herself up to that kind of love than no amount of hardship would be able to overcome their family. I would encourage her to hold her and study her and find features of her and her husband in our daughter. I would tell her that she may not feel strong enough to face her future that day, but that each day would bring with it the necessary strength and that she only need to focus on loving her and meeting her needs that day, that moment. I would tell her that people often tell us that we are special or extra strong and that's why God gave us special kids. I would admit that I hate when people say that, but I've come to realize that even though it wasn't true in the beginning, there is a special strength and blessing that comes from having Emarie (and her siblings) in our life. With tears streaming down my face, I would beg her to embrace her daughter for the precious and perfect blessing she is.

If after all of that she still didn't feel that she could raise our Emma, I would assure her that we would love her with everything we have and that we would never lose sight of the gift we have been given because she chose life for her.

I may not be able to go back in time and tell our daughters birth mother these things, but I hope and pray that this message reaches the eyes of some precious mama who is wrestling with whether or not to choose life for their baby. I would tell you all of the things I said above and if after that you still didn't believe that raising this child would be in your baby's best interest then I would beg you to give your child the most precious gift you could give them, a gift that will bless them every second of everyday...

give them life and allow them to be adopted.

Give them a chance to love and be loved. Give them the chance to shine their light and change the darkness and sadness around them. Give them the opportunity to fail and struggle and grow. Give them the chance to become all that they were created to be.

Give them life.

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