There aren't many things that make a mother feel more guilty than when you are told your child is going to be born with a birth defect or some other medical issue. What is even harder is admitting to family and friends that your unborn baby has issues.
For me, there was an incredible amount of shame that came with Eli's diagnosis. I wanted to cry (and often times did) after I was finally able to tell people about Eli's health issues because that person would follow up with the dreaded question, "What causes that to happen?" Their questions somehow implied it was something I did in my pregnancy to make this happen to my child. That I didn't do what I was supposed to prenatally to give my child the best shot at a healthy life.
I thought I did everything possible to insure I had the perfect pregnancy. I stopped taking the medication I was prescribed for my epilepsy because of the risk of birth defects that are associated with it. I went to my first prenatal appointment 2 days after I found out I was pregnant (I was THAT excited!) and just 5 weeks along. I took my prenatal vitamins, I followed a very strict pregnancy diet, and gave up my Starbucks habit.
Spiritually, I thought I had crossed every T and dotted every I. Just one year earlier, I went on a 10 day mission trip to Mamelodi, South Africa. An experience that dramatically changed the course of our families spending, the way we lived out our families legacy, and my life forever.
I was part of not one but two small groups. My husband and I committed a substantial amount of money to our church's campaign to help fund rescuing girls from sex slavery, helping our friends in South Africa get the healthcare they need, and help our neighbors in Cincinnati get out of poverty. Both my husband and I spend time volunteering and pouring into others.
Surely after all of this God owed us a perfect baby and a perfect pregnancy right?
Truth is, God doesn't work on a barter system. If we do X God doesn't guarantee Y. We live in a messed up broken world.
I have had to learn and accept that God's grace is enough.
It's by His grace that Eli "only" has clubfoot. It's by His grace that Eli was healed from the potentially life threatening kidney problems he was diagnosed with. It's by His grace that we were able to have the best doctor in the delivery room, at the perfect time, to save Eli from dying during delivery.
We were given the perfect baby. He was just wrapped in a different package.
It wasn't until recently that I was able to admit to my husband the guilt I carried throughout our pregnancy and the embarrassment I felt for having a baby with a birth defect.
I was even reluctant to post pictures of Eli on facebook that showed his feet for fear of judgement from others.
I had some deep rooted guilt/shame/fear going on.
Once I accepted that we live in a broken and fallen world and that God really does love Eli more than I could possibly ever imagine, I was able to let go of some of that guilt.
I'd be lying if I said that I still don't feel those twinges of guilt each time we have to put Eli's braces on and he cries. When those moments arise I have to remind myself, as hard as it is for me to imagine, that God loves me and Eli far more than I ever could and that He is using this for something amazing.
And for our family, that is enough.