A note of encouragement to Samuel Forrest, the young father who was recently given an ultimatum regarding his newborn son who has Down syndrome: as the father of five children, I know what it feels like to welcome children into this world, and the wonder and anxiety that accompany such moments. I also know what it feels like to be informed that you need to let your baby go.
In 2010, my wife was just about to begin her breast cancer treatments when we discovered she was pregnant with our third child. A pre-eminent breast cancer specialist told us that our best course of action was to terminate the child immediately, as the baby would likely not survive chemotherapy, and would only complicate my wife’s treatment and recovery.
The doctor was not incorrect. This baby would indeed make things much more complicated for us. We would have to make all of our decisions keeping in mind not just the health and welfare of my wife, but our unborn child as well. It would have been far simpler to terminate the pregnancy and move forward with treatment. But just because a decision makes things less complicated, it doesn’t make that decision the right one. And so even though keeping the child would complicate our situation considerably, we decided to go ahead with the pregnancy while my wife underwent chemotherapy. We felt that God had given us this child for a reason, although we didn’t understand what that reason was.
For months, toxic chemotherapy drugs coursed through my wife and my unborn son. But later that year, we welcomed my newborn son into the world in perfect health, all ten fingers, and all ten toes. And just weeks after his birth, a new study was released that indicated that women who are pregnant while they have breast cancer have significantly higher survival rates than women who are not pregnant. So my son was not a “complication”, but a precious gift who had had helped fight his mother’s cancer.
Samuel, the path you have chosen is not the easy one, but it was the right one. Yes, it’s true that your son will make your life much more complicated, as is the case with all children. But it is equally true that he is a blessing and a gift, probably the most wonderful gift you will ever receive. And I hope and pray that your wife might come to that same realization as well.
Peter Chin is a pastor, columnist for Christianity Today and author of Blindsided by God: Disappointment, Suffering and the Untamable Goodness of God (Bethany House, Feb. 2015), and his work in multi-ethnic and urban churches has been featured by NPR, CBS, and the Washington Post. He currently pastors Rainier Avenue Church, a multi-ethnic congregation located in Seattle, Washington, where he lives with his wife, Carol, and their five children. Learn more at www.peterwchin.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PeterWChin