Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
It was 1999, on a warm, late-spring day in London, England. The world was starting to go mad with Y2K dread. I was dealing with fear too.. but while the world was focused on “Y”, I was dealing with “X”. I was wrestling with the possibility that our sixth child might be born with a disability. I was grappling with whether God had stepped in sixteen hours after our child was conceived (almost nine months beforehand) to stop the X chromosome in our child from mutating.
About three years earlier, shortly after the birth of our twin girls (numbers four and five in our family), we found out what was causing the extreme development delays in our son, Benjamin, who was five years old at the time. After extensive testing, the doctor told us, “He has ‘fragile X syndrome.’ Daughters, just like your wife, can have it too, but because a female has two X chromosomes, the healthy X masks most of the negative effects of the mutated X.”
And so we began a journey with an uninvited close companion!
If you don’t have a clue what “fragile X” is, you are in the majority, just like we were before that day. Even though most people don’t know it by name, it’s the most common inherited cause of mental impairment (Down syndrome is the most common, but it is not genetically inherited). This impairment can range from learning disabilities to more severe cognitive or intellectual disabilities. Sometimes referred to as mental retardation, fragile X is the most common known cause of autism or autistic behaviors.
When Joyce and I walked down on the aisle on that November 1984 day, we didn’t stop on our way out of the church to sign up to have special-needs children. We had a loving desire to have children; even before we were married, we talked of our desire to have a large family… a dozen children even! Oh, the joys of naïve innocence and youth!
Shortly after moving to England with our five children in early 1997, in the wake of a devastating disappointment with the musical we were trying to launch, I felt God stirring my heart. It was time for another step of faith. But this step of faith was not a big ministry or music project. It was something much closer to home.
I sensed God inviting us to have another child.
In fact I specifically felt like God wanted to give us another son, one who would not be affected by fragile X syndrome. I shared this with Joyce, and she was experiencing similar stirrings. For months we talked and wrestled in prayer – Was this God or just our own idea? We didn’t want to try to be heroes in our own strength! We didn’t know how we would respond if faced with another devastating disappointment. We were just starting to recover, just starting to pull our heads above water, and we didn’t want to go under again because it might be too much.
Excerpted from Make Love, Make War, by Brian Doerksen (A Survivor book from David C. Cook, 2009).
Faithfulness, Part Two on the blog tomorrow.
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