Down’s Syndrome. I had heard of it, seen people who had it and been around other folks who had children or grandchildren with Down’s but on a personal level, had no real understanding of it. At least not until the birth of my youngest niece, Gracie. Gracie came into the world nearly eight weeks early and spent the first two months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NIC-U). She had tubes in her nose and mouth, IV lines in her veins and spent much of her time in a special incubator that kept her body temperature regulated. There was great excitement at each wet or dirty diaper and each dropper of formula that she was able to swallow. The doctors said over and over to not get our hopes up, that there could be many things wrong and that she would likely be brain damaged, a near-vegetable. They told of the horrors of holes in her heart and dysfunctional kidneys, blindness and the inability to walk, talk or do many of the activities that other children do. Their faces serious and their prognosis dire, they didn’t know what we did.
That God was already working in that little life and had been even before she was conceived. They didn’t know that this child was a miracle in the making, a blessing that would far exceed any of our imaginings. As her little body rested in the incubator, her lungs strengthening with each breath, her muscles growing with each kick, her eyes, unfocused and blurry beginning to gaze directly into ours, we prayed. Our friends and families prayed, our sister churches prayed and an ever-faithful, merciful and loving God gathered the prayers together and let His blessings flow, falling like the gentle rains of springtime. When Gracie came home from the hospital, the nurses rejoiced that she was well enough to leave and cried that she would no longer be a part of their everyday lives. At first, we handled her like a fragile china doll, afraid that the slightest touch would break her. So tiny was she that our hands could cover her entire body. But she didn’t stay tiny for long. She grew and she thrived, she looked and she learned and she brought joy into all of our hearts that we had never known before. With each milestone, she would smile and clap, then watch and wait for her fans to clap with her. Watching Gracie grow is one of our most cherished blessings and I, for one, am grateful that this beautiful child graced our lives. Not surprisingly, she has made her way on to numerous greeting cards, most recently, a Nurses Day card for Oncology Nurses. Her love, light and laughter is contagious and I hope everyone catches a little bit of it. I pray that God will continue to bless our sweet Gracie-Bell all of the days of her life.