During the course of many years of writing for a women’s magazine and then the Amazing Grace (Ascension Press) book series, I have witnessed something over and over again: God grants great blessings and holiness by way of his very special children–those we call disabled. In many ways, their disabilities bring them–and us–closer to God. So, then, are they really disabilities?
I’ve written stories such as one where a child with Down Syndrome reversed his mother’s depression and renewed his parent’s marriage. I’ve seen siblings grow big hearts and see beyond peer pressure, and I learned of a young man who allowed his severely handicapped younger brother help him choose a wife.
After seeing the hand of God in these and other families, it’s clear that the term “disability” is relative, depending on which life we are talking about–this one or the next. Since we have not all been so blessed with a special child, I am glad Leticia Velasquez has written A Special Mother is Born to share these holy moments and special souls with the rest of us.
The Face of God
Years ago, I read an article written by a nun who worked with the developmentally disabled. She said that if there were such a thing as reincarnation, she would want to come back as mentally disabled. Her reason was that they had one foot in heaven and saw the face of God. That’s a concept that comes through clearly in A Special Mother is Born, in which parents share how they have been called to the vocation of parenting a child with special needs.
For Lisa Barker, there were times their baby “Boo” seemed to talk with angels. Boo had a rare illness, Batten Disease, that did not allow for the brain cells to output waste, thereby killing off cells. There was no cure or treatment. The baby went from running and babbling to becoming wheelchair bound within a year, barely able to crawl.
“Before Boo could no longer communicate she used to talk to the angels,” her mother wrote. “That’s what I called it. She would suddenly fix her eyes on the ceiling and her face would totally light up and she’d start cooing and ‘talking’ to things, beings we couldn’t see. This euphoria would last for up to half an hour sometimes….Boo has made us aware that there’s more to life than what mere mortal eyes can see.”
When Eileen Haupt was pregnant with her second baby at the age of 39, considering whether or not to undergo amniocentesis, her husband told her, “Trust Jesus.” At the time, Haupt did not have complete trust—but she does now. She credits Sadie’s birth with being the seed that enlivened her spirit, eventually bringing her back to her Catholic faith, and her husband also joining the Church. It also led Haupt to co-found Keep Infants with Down Syndrome (KIDS) with author Velasquez.
“If only a mother expecting a special needs child could know whom her child really is. If only she could feel the joy and the love that she will feel for her baby if she welcomes her into the world. If only she knew how many hearts would be changed by her special baby’s presence,” Haupt says. “If only she knew, she would never abort.”
Barbara Curtis describes her special son this way: “My son on Jonathan has a little extra. A little extra enthusiasm, a little extra innocence, a little extra charm. Oh, and did I mention an extra chromosome? The one on the twenty-first pair that inspires so much fear in parents-to-be.”
And Jonathan does not keep his little extra to himself. “His preschool teacher named him Ambassador of Goodwill. His public school kindergarten teacher, after 30-plus years of teaching, said she’d never seen children as loving and caring as Jonny’s classmates. The secret, she said, was Jonny.”
Through Jonny, Curtis has become so much wiser. “He’s been a gift I never would have thought to ask for, bringing lessons I never knew I needed to learn. The greatest surprise is this: Our life together has been less about my helping him reach his potential than about him helping me reach mine.” Those words are powerful, but knowing Barbara is the mother of 12 children makes them profound. (Her website is: www.barbaracurtis.com.)
Mary Kellet, the mother of eleven children including Peter—who has Trisomy 18—wrote of her special son: “I call him and other children with special needs, ‘Teachers of our Souls.’ He has taught us to love life in a deeper way and to trust in God’s wisdom and providence. He has taught us that there are many ways to contribute to society, and that he contributes in the most important way possible: by helping us become better, more compassionate, caring people.”
No one says it’s always easy, but Melissa Wiley, a mother of six who endured one child’s leukemia and then the birth of a son with multiple health difficulties, explained it this way: “I hadn’t begun to grasp the meaning of that whole ‘Count it all joy’ business in the book of James until I met these children. Now I get it, or at least I get a glimpse of it. There is immeasurable joy not just in the overcoming of trials, but even—I know it sounds implausible, but it’s true—in each trial itself.
Each story in A Special Mother is Born reflects the gift from God that every soul is—a fact that is often overlooked in our society, where nine out of 10 Down Syndrome babies are aborted. In 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced that they hope to see this increase to 100 percent by increasing prenatal screening for all women in the first trimester, regardless of age.
If, instead of fearing babies with disabilities, expectant parents visited with other parents of special needs children, maybe they would see that special children come with special blessings. While mental and physical abilities below par are seen as a handicap, the world often forgets to weight the power of a loving heart and innocent soul. In such an equation, which of us is really handicapped?
To order, visit Leticia Velasquez’s blog.