This is Ace. Ace Christopher Evans.
He's named Ace after Batman's dog. At least that's what August (our six year old) told us a couple of months ago after we'd already been referring to him as "Ace" in the womb for months. Back in November, August had finally given us his blessing on this new member of our family. "If it's a girl, name it Sarah. And if it's a boy, Ace."
Listen, I had no intention of naming my baby Ace. But it was a cute nickname. And somehow, two days after his birth, when he still didn't have an official name, and the hospital staff and all our friends were referring to him as Ace, making his big brother's wishes come true felt like the exact sort of thing Ace would want. He's just cool like that. He's tops; he's aces.
He was born 10 days ago, on Saturday April 11, at 2:07 in the afternoon. I was in labor for 27 hours, mostly at home. He weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 18 1/4 inches long. And my body and baby were kind enough to wait for my mom's flight to land halfway through my labor. (She'd already planned to arrive that day.) Ace was born at 38 weeks, which felt like a miracle. He was born without my having to be induced (despite my rocky last few weeks leading up to his birth, and our constant concern about some complications he faced in the womb). He was my first birth without an epidural, with a doula and my super-husband cheering me on to the finish line.
He was born with Down syndrome.
This wasn't a surprise. Chris and I learned that Ace had a 99.75 percent chance of having Down syndrome back in December. We chose not to have the amniocentesis that would make our prenatal diagnosis certain and we went into the rest of my pregnancy with a mix of foggy sadness and hope. See, I had never imagined this for my family. (Who does?) But I'd also grown up the child of a mother who for thirty years taught deaf and hearing impaired children who often had additional special needs. I'd volunteered in her classroom in my teens, and known the folks in my church's special needs ministry growing up.
When the woman on the other end of the line told me that my child would most likely have Down syndrome, I was pushing Brooks in a stroller on the way to gymnastics. I made the call for the test results convinced that if I called nonchalantly, if I called on the way to somewhere, alone with my 3-year-old, it couldn't be hard news. I'd breathe a sigh of relief and continue on my day. Instead, that Tuesday morning in early December I cried in the corner of the bleachers during the 3-year-olds gymnastics class. I called my husband on the phone, trying to make out the words, The test came back positive, stunned.
I couldn't tell you about it then, readers. I had to keep it close all these months. It was too heavy, too real. Instead, in December I wrote about good gifts. Ace was that gift.
"This past week has reminded me that God’s good gifts are not always easy. They are often complicated, prickly things that must be held carefully with tender hands. They are often painful and beautiful at the same time. They are unknown. The best gifts God offers us are often the very gifts that have the potential to completely upend our stories, change the direction our lives were going. It hurts to change direction."
All these months, Chris and I have cried and looked again at our hearts, asked God to show us our motives and our assumptions about our family. We have imagined life with a little boy who has Down syndrome. We've imagined the gift he will be to our older boys, the way God will shape their souls through this child, the reality that when I pray for my older sons to grow up to be men of compassion and gentleness, courage and kindness, that this little brother of theirs might just be the way God chooses to answer my prayers.
We have dreamed and laughed together about this new life we are entering. And we have remembered that, really, this is not a new life at all. It's simply the road we've been walking all along, and we just didn't know it yet. That's how grace usually works, isn't it?
Ace was born 10 days ago, and the moment I held him in my arms, I looked at my husband. And we both smiled. "Look at that face," I said. "This sweet baby has Down syndrome." And Chris touched his head. "Yeah," he smiled at me. "He does." And---by the blessing of God---that is how we knew. There were no solemn doctor diagnoses. There was no secret whispering among the nurses. We received him, met him, and knew.
And the grief and the fear didn't disappear. But it did feel like that grief, the fear that had moved in months ago, that had taken up residence for a while, was now content to scoot down the bench in order for something better to sit beside us: Love, and sweet dreams for Ace's life, and relief that God has given us the better gift, even if we don't yet know what that gift will look like.
This is what I wrote last December, when Ace was a tiny baby in an ultrasound, a positive result on a chromosomal test:
"The good, hard gifts don’t usually come with explanation. They don’t come with instructions, or future promises of ease. And still they come and ask us to hold them, to say “Yes” along with Mary: to receive, not because we know what awaits us, but because we trust the goodness of the One who gives."
This is Ace. He has Down syndrome. I'll tell you more about him as I learn him, as I walk through this new experience of being his mom. But for now, Chris and I are honored to be his parents. And his brothers kiss those fat little cheeks and call him perfect.