Cowen-Zanders is a Salvation Army captain and pastor with her husband, Kevin, in Masillon, Ohio. At the time she wrote this piece, she was in training to become an officer.
In early January 2005, I received a phone call from my doctor. Routine blood tests revealed that the daughter I was carrying, Zoe, might have a chromosomal abnormality, with the likely culprit being Down Syndrome.
I felt as if I had been kicked in the gut. My "perfect life" threatened to come down around me. I had a husband and child who adored me and friends who treasured me. I was immersed in a life of ministry. In a few short months, as a family, we would embark on our first assignment. Now a "chromosomal abnormality" was trying to invade my world.
I went through all of the stages of mourning. First, I was in shock as I tried to gather information from the doctor. What are our chances? What were my levels? What are the next steps? And on and on and on.... [Back home], Kevin took Kaleb, our son, to a friend, and when he returned, we just held each other and wept. [At the training school], we were immediately enveloped in a cocoon of love that we will never forget.
As the days progressed, we attended genetic counseling and scheduled appointments. Interestingly enough, Kevin, the quiet one, sought comfort in community. I withdrew and [talked with only] a selected few.... Community conversations became meaningless. As I listened to people talking, I just wanted to shout: "Who cares if we were served rice again for dinner! My baby may never be able to eat rice!" Except for required activities, I stayed in my room, praying that everything would be OK. I just could not engage.
Next I got angry. I shouted at God: "How could you let this happen? I am giving my life to you. I take care of myself; I have even given up diet soda and feta cheese." Then I cried, "How can I have a baby with Down Syndrome? School comes easy to me. How could I have a child that may never be able to write her name? WHY? WHY? WHY?"
Then it happened. I suddenly came to the realization that this was not about me. It was about God—the One who had always done what was best for me, the One who had given me all of my blessings, the One who had led me during the darkest periods of my life—and His perfect plan. How dare I think that I should not have a baby with Down Syndrome? As Scripture says, the rain falls on the just as well as the wicked. Why can't this happen to me? Why do I think I am so special? OUCH!
If I truly trusted Him, then I would trust Him with this too. I had to redefine what that "OK" outcome meant. It meant "whatever God had planned." If I had a child with Down Syndrome, I would face it with dignity and integrity. In fact, this precious baby would have more than many "normal" babies have: two parents who deeply love God, each other, and their family. She would have a father with gentle, deep strength; a mother who would advocate on her behalf, making sure that she had every possible opportunity; and a brute of a big brother who would protect her at all costs.
In the parking lot outside of the amniocentesis clinic, Kevin and I gave it all over to God, whatever may come. As Kevin read "He Giveth More Grace" from our songbook, I placed myself in the palm of God's hand, and I have snuggled there ever since.
For those who are wondering, my initial test was a "false positive." Zoe does not have Down Syndrome. But I know now that if she did, I could confidently say that it would be OK. My life, everything about my life, is in His hands.