When our sweet Elizabeth Clare entered the world on August 10, 2011 and we heard her cry, I wept and wept and wept. I wept in joy and in relief. After losing our dear Andrew Jon two days after his birth at 26 weeks gestation almost two years earlier, this was a very hard pregnancy. I was always waiting for the bad news to come. Waiting for the doctor to come in after one of our many ultrasounds and say, “I’m so sorry...” Waiting anxiously to see if we would hear the baby’s heartbeat at the regular check ups. Waiting in fear that I would lose this baby too. It was so hard to trust in the Lord and to wait in hope. To hear her cry was the greatest sound in the world!
I knew something was wrong when two nurses came in the next morning and told me they had talked to my doctor and that I should call her once my husband and I were together. Not able to wait, I called right away. “What do you see when you look at Elizabeth?” my doctor asked. And I started to cry. I told her the things I’d noticed that morning as I took the hat off to get a good look at my beautiful girl...small ears, different shaped eyes, something different with the shape of her head and her nose...yes, the nurses had noticed those things too, along with some other physical markers that were consistent with Down Syndrome and they wanted to do a blood test to be sure. More tears. Tears for the dreams I didn’t even know I had for her that now seemed to die with those words. Fear of the unknown; what will her life look like?...will she have friends?...what kind of care will she need?...tears. And then, immediately after that I heard the words: “She has been chosen for us and we have been chosen for her” and “I’m going to learn to love in a whole new way” go through my mind and heart.
I called a dear friend from the hospital. Getting her voice mail, I left a message. She called back a little while later saying, “When I heard your message I thought ‘The Lord loves the Lichty’s so much. They have a Saint in Heaven and a saint on earth!’” And I was so blessed by her beautiful response. Her joy and excitement helped to ease my fears. She knew, in loving their precious son with special needs, what a gift we were being given.
When my husband Joe, got to the hospital later and I told him about Elizabeth’s diagnosis, his response was, “I don’t care, she’s my daughter!” He immediately picked her up and snuggled his precious little girl. We shared the news with people by saying that Elizabeth was born with an “extra chromosome of love!” And it’s so true!
We love loving her! Her older brothers delight in delighting her. She makes us all better and we want to be better for her! She has brought a new joy and a new spirit to our home. We don’t know what the future will hold or what challenges we will face, but that is just as true for all of our children. Our job is to love her and help her reach the potential God has for her, just as it is for each of our children. When we say our family prayers more than one brother always prays, “Thank You God for Elizabeth and the joy she brings us!”
How do I respond to people who share that we “have already been through so much?” and “Why did this happen to you?” I tell them, “We are the blessed ones! Don’t feel sorry for us! We love her so much! We can’t imagine life without Elizabeth!”
Yes, there are doctor appointments and specialists. And there is therapy and interventions through the school district. Yes, there are days of anxiety and fear. Yes, there are questions and stares. Yes, there is all that...but there is so much more focus on the life and the love and the joy and the laughter that makes our home and our family complete. Don’t be afraid! We never lose when we choose to love!!
We wouldn’t trade Elizabeth for anything! I can’t look at her and not smile. Her life is a gift, a precious gift, and she is going to teach us about life and love and God in ways we can’t even imagine! Thank You Lord, for the treasure You have given us in Elizabeth. We are blessed!
About the author: Shelly Lichty has been married to the love of her life, Joe, for twelve years. She is a homeschooling, tea drinking, card playing, girlfriend loving, mom of six children. The oldest five are boys-Lawrence, Michael, James, Philip, and Andrew-who is in Heaven and their youngest is sweet Elizabeth.