We Belong Together

By Ellen Stumbo

     The pediatrician’s words taunted Fear. The same Fear that had showed up with Nichole’s first breath. Fear sat on my shoulder, arms wrapped tight around my neck, almost choking me. Its voice, whispering in my ear, trying to seduce me. Don’t you see, Down syndrome is something bad, really bad. Everyone will be sorry for you, like this smart doctor who knows all about this condition. Break down. Cry. Say it is not fair. Be angry.

     I stared at the man who looked at Andy and I with pity. It would be so easy to believe Fear. It would be so easy to feel sorry for myself and for my baby. However, God had spoken to me while Nichole was in my womb. I don’t make mistakes.

     As Fear whispered to me, so did God. A reminder of who I belonged to, and whom my baby belonged to.

     I don’t make mistakes.

     “Don’t say you are sorry.” I responded to the pediatrician. “Our baby is exactly who she is meant to be. God does not make mistakes.”

     He took a deep breath, and said slowly, “You religious people take things better.”

     His reply felt patronizing. Being called “religious,” while trying to understand my feelings, and trying to hold on to God’s truth made me feel like a child. Yet, it was all I had.

     Andy talked to pediatrician about Nichole’s heart condition and what it meant. They discussed some other health issues and things that maybe we should be keeping an eye on.

     When the doctor left, a nurse brought Nichole over to me so that I could nurse her. The matching electronic bracelets that Nichole and I wore “sang” when they were close in proximity.

     “We belong together” I whispered to Nichole.

     We belong together.

     Somehow, and for some reason, we belonged together. I believed that God did not make mistakes. I knew that Nichole was exactly who she was meant to be. Every single chromosome in her body was fearfully and wonderfully created by God. I knew it. But I did not understand it.

     “She looks just like Jennifer” I said to Andy as I thought about our friend's daughter who has Down syndrome.

     “I think she looks a lot like Ellie” he responded.

     Andy and I stared at our baby. We examined every part of her body. Taking note of all the characteristic physical features of Down syndrome.

     “Do you think God is punishing us?” Andy confessed.


     “I don’t think so either. I just had to say that aloud because I know God does not work that way. He gives good gifts, and children are a blessing. She will be a blessing in our lives.”

     We belong together.

     Nichole was having trouble nursing. I did not feel she was successfully sucking, yet the nurse insisted she was doing just fine. After my baby was fed and changed, we started snapping more pictures of her. Then we asked one of the nurses to do the one thing that we had forgotten. The one thing that was a symbol of celebration, although I did not know how to celebrate yet. We asked her to take a family picture.

     We belong together.

     A phrase that would become my mantra at the hospital. Words that I would work and work like a hard piece of clay that needed to be softened. A truth that I needed to remind myself of. A statement that I needed to believe.

     We belong together.

Next: A New Family

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