I absolutely love this “story of Andrew.” He is the son of my friends David and Rhonda Olshine. Andrew is a wonderful, lovely, young man who has Down Syndrome. What a ride! This is an excerpt from David’s brand new book, The Mystery Silence: Making Sense of Life When God Seems Absent, which I totally recommend. And don’t miss our HomeWord webinar, July 19th when I interview David on the topic of his book and then take questions. For more information about David Olshine and his book check out TheMysteryofSilence.com
As we were in the thick of raising a teenage girl, my wife asked me one evening, when Rachel was about sixteen years old, if I still would like another child. I responded, “I’m not sure. We are getting a little bit older.”
We were both in our early forties.
Rhonda proceeded, “I had this inner impression asking me if I wanted another baby, and I said yes.”
(Note: We have had many laughs since that time about why I was not involved in this conversation with her and God).
On December 31, the morning of New Year’s Eve (Y2K), Rhonda was having severe stomach pains for a few days, and I urged her to go see her doctor. Three hours later, I was at the gym, walking on the treadmill. Rhonda came into the gym with a funny look on her face.
She signaled for me to hop off. I told her, “Just a minute.”
She asked again, “Please come here; I need to tell you something.”
Again, I requested just a moment, and then I jumped off the treadmill.
She pulled me close and whispered in my ear these words: “I am pregnant.”
I was in a bit of shock. Stunned, to be honest. Floored.
We hugged each other in the middle of the gym and headed home to process the good news from the deluge of emotions.
Rhonda and I had waited a long time for baby number two. Fifteen years. And now the countdown was on! Nine months to welcome our second child.
Our minds raced with questions like these:
• “What if this is a hard pregnancy?”
• “What if this pregnancy fails?”
Months passed, and finally on August 9, our son arrived. We knew it was a boy, and we named him “Andrew,” meaning “strong one.” His middle name, David (after me), means “beloved.” By 8:30 a.m., Andrew entered our world. He looked like every newborn, in need of love, warmth, and a good cleaning.
An Emerging Storm
I spent most of that day at the hospital and then headed home to shower, take a nap, and call friends and family. At around 6:00 p.m., my cell phone rang. It was Rhonda. I picked up, and I heard her crying.
The nurses and doctors had kept Andrew away in the nursery area all day. Something was wrong.
“Honey, they said Andrew might have Down syndrome.”
“Down what?” I did not know what she meant. Having the word down followed by the word syndrome did not sound good to me. Rhonda said tearfully, “Down syndrome…Downs’ for short. It is a genetic disorder with developmental delays.”
I told Rhonda that Rachel and I would drive back to the hospital immediately. Before I could jump in my car, I fell apart. I cried uncontrollably on my bed for at least ten minutes, maybe more. Rachel started to cry as well, and then she tried to comfort me with the words, “Daddy, it’s going to be okay.”
For fifteen long years, God seemed silent about us having another baby. Now we had a child with a disability.
What is Down syndrome, anyway? It is a cognitive impairment with some possible physical limitations. Trisomy 21 is the official name. Down syndrome is named after the English doctor John Langdon Down, who was the first to categorize the features for the disability. Symptoms vary from person to person.
Our pediatrician told us Andrew would be a gift from God to us, and he encouraged us to learn from him and recognize this was new territory for us as a family. Dr. Tye Whitaker told us that kids with Down’s have an extra chromosome. I asked him, “What does that mean?”
“Kids with Downs have an extra chromosome—most people have twenty, and kids with Down syndrome have twenty-one. I believe that extra chromosome is one of love. These kids know how to love people like nobody else I know,” he said.
“Chromosome of love, huh? That does not sound too bad,” I thought.
I really wanted to have a great attitude about this, but the grief and surprise of having a special-needs child was unnerving and overwhelming at first.
• Was God toying with us?
• Why this, why now?
Oxford professor and apologist C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
God was not silent. He was using his megaphone.
God was about to open a whole new world for us.
My wife and I had no idea what our lives would look like, but we had a feeling it would eventually change us forever, and for the better.
But for the first week of Andrew’s little life, we were not so sure.