By Leticia Velasquez
The time came for little Christina Maria’s arrival. At her birth, the delivery room fell deathly silent. Alarmed, I glanced over at the pink, wriggling baby in the isolette, and asked “What’s the problem?” The doctor didn’t respond. Francisco tried to tell me in Spanish that Christina was a “mongolita” (Spanish for Mongoloid), but I didn’t understand. So, on the way to my room, the nurses circled my gurney and said, “We regret to tell you that this child has symptoms consistent with Down syndrome.”
I was ready with my response. My answer came from a book, Pregnancy Diary, by Mary Arnold, which I had read regularly for inspiration.
“This child will never take drugs, go Goth, or shoot up a schoolroom. She’ll learn the Faith and keep it her whole life. She’s my best chance at getting a daughter to Heaven, and I consider her a special blessing from God.”
But words are cheap. What cost me dearly was watching the other newborns in the nursery and comparing Christina’s weakness to their vitality. I resented the happy chatter of the other Moms in the ward. I was haunted by dark thoughts, and self-pity took hold of me.
Just then, the phone calls began. My mother and homeschooling friends had summoned support from around the country, and I was encircled in love.
I spoke with Marie, a mother from my parish who answered many of my anxious questions and told me what it was like to raise her youngest daughter with Down syndrome. Another friend, the mother of 11, sent an Elizabeth Ministry package for special babies, with a CD and book set titled, Sometimes Miracles Hide, Stirring Letters from Those Who Discovered God’s Blessings in a Special Child, by Bruce Carroll.
That book was a constant companion, reminding me that regardless of how inadequate I felt, God had, indeed, chosen me to mother Christina, and that she would be my means of attaining holiness down the road. God’s favorite road, the Via Dolorosa.
On Mother’s Day, the day of Christina’s Baptism, we shared that song with the over 100 guests who crowded the church. My heart swelled with gratitude to God for choosing my family to raise Christina.
And when her godmother asked what she should pray for, I didn’t ask for a cure from Down syndrome. I was beginning to understand that her “condition” was a blessing, not a curse. Perhaps, as Fr. McCartney had said, Christina pities us for not having the purity of heart to see what she sees.