Gift of Faith

by Paulette Beurrier, as told to Ava Pennington

"Oh, no! That can’t be right!” I stared, disbelieving, as the test strip turned blue.

I had spent my life trying to follow God’s rules, being a good wife to my husband Jim, and a good mother to Joy and Tim. I attended church every Sunday, and volunteered in the nursery. But when I needed Him most, it seemed God had failed me.

Menopause or Morning Sickness?
By the time my two children were teenagers, I looked forward to new paths of serving God. My high-school kids didn’t need me as much, and after years of volunteering with children, I considered teaching adults, writing, a prayer ministry … so many options. Finally, I could serve God in a capacity that didn’t involve the title “Mom.”

That summer I felt closer to God than ever.

A few months later, physical changes at age 42 fueled suspicions of the onset of menopause. After three months of morning sickness and fatigue, I faced reality. I had expected to be diagnosed with hot flashes. Instead, I was diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy.

I could reach only one conclusion: God was punishing me. I sought validation from friends. What they called encouragement (“We’ll pray for you,” “Eventually you’ll see God’s will in this”) I found annoying. No one commiserated with my irritation at God’s timing. In fact, everyone else viewed this turn of events as a blessing.

Life or Death?
Although unhappy about my pregnancy, I never considered other options. Even Jim immediately understood that this baby was a gift from God. We needed to accept her, no matter what. A battery of tests, therefore, seemed unnecessary, despite my age. The birthing center, however, refused to proceed without a “normal” amniocentesis. The results arrived by telephone, blunt and to the point: “The baby is a girl. Unfortunately, she has Down Syndrome.”

That afternoon we sat with the midwife at the Women’s Center. Knowing she was a Christian didn’t make her words any easier to hear. “I know you’re not interested, but I’m required to offer termination.”

I can’t begin to describe my feelings as I sat there with a 28-week-old baby growing inside me, feeling her move and kick, knowing she had everything she needed to live, and yet hearing her “termination” discussed — a euphemism for killing my baby.

The midwife reassured us that our child would be able to grow and develop; she could have her own future, and that future could include living on her own.

The termination offer marked the low point of my pregnancy. I have never gotten over the irony that once you say “no” to termination, the medical community goes into overdrive to protect a high-risk pregnancy.

Interventions and Complications
Faith entered our world weighing three pounds via an emergency Cesarean section. I strained to hear her first cry — it sounded more like the mew of a baby kitten. She spent her first five weeks in the hospital.

Physical and speech therapy began soon after her homecoming. Physical therapy strengthened weak muscle tone, teaching her how to roll over and how to hold her head up. Mouth exercises helped her eat, correcting a weak suck and preventing food from dribbling out of her mouth. Faith also had a heart problem requiring two surgeries in her first eight months.

A “normal” life — if there is such a thing — had been torn from me. I felt ill-prepared for what replaced it. I needed to learn so much. How would we pay the medical bills? What did “early intervention therapy” mean? When the experts disagreed, how would I know what my baby needed? I became an amateur cardiologist, physical therapist, speech therapist and nutritional therapist overnight.

It seemed the God I loved and served had turned on me. He had failed to protect my unborn child from an extra chromosome that permanently labels her “disabled.” Angry with God, I experienced a huge spiritual deficit. I stopped going to church. I felt spiritually empty.

But God knew I couldn’t just walk away. I stayed in a mom’s prayer group. Even though I refused to talk to God, I asked other people to pray for Faith. Anger with God consumed me, but I thought good Christian women didn’t say those things. The stigma of publicly declaring that God had failed me quickly passed, however, after I first spoke the words and realized I wouldn’t be hit by lightning. God was big enough to handle my anger.

Things moved from bad to worse by the time Faith turned 3 years old. The federal program paying for her therapies ended. The public school’s developmentally-delayed program arranged to take over, but lacked the resources to meet Faith’s needs. Medical deductibles ate up the little we had set aside for Joy’s education. Then Jim lost his job after more than 26 years. Our health insurance vanished.

Why Me?
I shook my spiritual fist at God. How much more did He think we could handle? I thought I had Him pegged.

But then ... Medicaid covered Faith’s therapies. She received free health insurance. Joy’s college provided a full scholarship, based on family income. Jim found a better job than the one he lost. God showed us, over and over again, that no matter what the circumstances He never lets go of His children.

My relationship with God is much more transparent. “Churchianity” has been stripped away. I cry out to Him in honest emotion on a daily basis, aware that I cannot handle the responsibility He has entrusted to me. The best thing I can do is simply admit that I can’t handle it, but God can … and does … and will.

Tiny, three-pound baby Faith pushed her way into our hearts 10 years ago. She belongs to us — on loan from God. It doesn’t matter what our life was like before she arrived. What matters most is that she’s here, she’s a treasured part of our family, and we love her.

For the first three years of Faith’s life, I asked, “Why me?” I thought God was punishing me, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. He wasn’t punishing me. He was — and is — entrusting me with the precious gift of Faith.


JaybirdNWA said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for your transparency here. I very much enjoyed reading your story; it reveals the very character of the God we serve. It is good to be in the fight with you.

Monica @ Monkey Musings said...

Beautiful and honest post. I'm glad I found it...

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