HOPES AND DREAMS

The “barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink” taunts from the boys in school never received the desired response from me. That was my dream! My coveted goal in life was to be a wife and mother of many children!

I completed high school and my life long dream was not realized. To fill in time, I worked as a nanny in New Zealand. Still waiting for “the One,” I traveled to Hong Kong and worked in an orphanage. As a young girl I had penned in my Bible, "When I grow up I want to do what God wants me to do, and work in an orphanage." I was in my element!

I had always planned on adopting a child some day but while in Hong Kong I fine-tuned my plan. I saw the "normal" children find homes easily, but the special needs children waited endlessly. I decided I would like to adopt a special needs child, and more specifically - a child like the many I took care of - one with Down syndrome.

It was while in Hong Kong that I met my "Marine in Dress Blues”! Finally, at what I thought was the old-maid age of 22, I was married! As per "the plan," I became pregnant right away. It was all so unbelievably perfect and easy, just like I had dreamed. At sixteen weeks I awoke to my waters breaking and our precious first child going on ahead to the Maker. Four tiny siblings soon followed - two more miscarriages, plus two ectopic pregnancies.

How could this happen to good little Christian me? It was all so unfair! Even drug addicts had babies! My body had betrayed me! This was not what I had planned! As unjust as I felt God was being, it was to Him, the God of all comfort that I turned. Through the gamut of emotions, I came to the realization of a truth that is beyond all feelings. I began to see life in the scheme of eternity, to really fathom how incredibly short and fleeting our time on earth is.

The Bible is right, my life is a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes! This was really a revelation for me. So what if I never have children! So what if my life doesn't unfold the way I had planned.  It's not all about me! I want my life to be for God's glory! I can have joy even if I never have children! Now true peace and healing began.

We decided to go ahead with adoption proceedings. After all, this had been on our hearts since our youth. Then I became pregnant again. Oh no! Human as I am, and in spite of all my lessons learnt, I dragged myself with weary despondency to the doctor's office. Imagine my unbelievable joy and the tears that flowed when I saw the little miracle heartbeat in my womb! We were so sure of the inevitable bad news that my husband hadn't even bothered to come with me! I came home waving the ultrasound picture. He grabbed me and we fell to our knees in the doorway praising and thanking God. He truly does give us more than we can ask or imagine!

I had a wonderful pregnancy, morning sickness and all! My labor was quick, though intense, bringing into the world our firstborn son! Nineteen months later we had another two-hour labor water birth producing another son! God wasn't finished yet. Again, nineteen months later I was in my third labor. Six hours later, out popped our darling daughter! Oh rapturous joy! A girl! The midwife put her straight into my arms and as she gazed up at me I cried out, "Oh, you are soooo beautiful!"

Shortly, the midwife came to my side. Very awkwardly she explained that she had called the doctors to look at the baby as "she had some characteristics conducive with..."

"Do you think she has Down syndrome?" I interjected.

"Yes," she said, with obvious relief I had confessed the words.

I felt no fear, no panic, and no grief.

"Oh, well, it's no big deal if she does,” I replied.

I told my husband and he had the same reaction. The doctors found no internal problems, gave no prognosis and moved onto the more serious issue of trying to prevent us from leaving the hospital so soon after birth! Having moved with the military to Hawaii and not finding any birthing centers, this was our first (and Lord willing) only hospital experience. We were even threatened with emergency lockdown of the hospital if we ventured an escape! Now I see God's tender compassion in the doctors’ "blindness" of the succeeding months, as the Down syndrome was not noticed.

It wasn't until our daughter was five months old that we were prompted to have her tested Down syndrome. Having worked with Down syndrome children in Hong Kong, I don't know how I didn't see it all those months. I love how God put the blinders on us during that precious time so we could enjoy our little lady in blissful, ignorant normality!

My husband had always said he didn't want to adopt a child with special needs (like Down Syndrome). However, Jahna is the pure joy of his life! She is three years old now and the absolute love of our lives! My heart bursts with pride over the things she does. To us she is an exceptionally cute little girl who loves shoes, dresses, dollies and puppies. She has the most innocent and ready giggle imaginable; she is so sweet and trusting; she is adored by her brothers and all who meet her. We know she has Down syndrome, but like at the beginning, we are almost blessedly ignorant. To us she is normal! She is Jahna!

I am now expecting our ninth baby early in 2010. Oh what sweet joy there is in knowing that the God of the universe is taking care of me and fashioning my life for His glory.    I hope that you too will be encouraged to abandon all to God – your hopes, dreams and plans.

MELISSA CALHOON

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