It’s an incredible honor to introduce you to Gloria who’s sharing her unique journey to and through motherhood as part of our month-long guest post series, Special Mamas. Gloria lives in Taiwan and is a mom of four boys. Her youngest son, Russell, has Down syndrome. This is the first time Gloria is publicly writing the story of Russell’s birth and how God prepared their family for a child with Down syndrome. When I first read this post, I got goose bumps. And I’ve cried both times I’ve watched the video of Gloria and Russell at the end. Not only do I adore children with Down syndrome, but I adore Gloria’s heart. What a beautiful woman and mama she is. I’ve never met Gloria, and I’d never engaged with her online prior to this series, but I’m convinced our paths were destined to cross. Enjoy, friends. This is one special mama.
“Today is the last day before we know for sure if our son has Down syndrome.”
This was the opening line of my journal entry on September 20, 2013. This was the journal entry where I was going to pour my heart out about all that God had done in the previous nine days of waiting. I intentionally did not journal during those ten days, because I wanted to be focused on intimacy with God alone. I had begged God to let those ten days be a time of true and raw emotion. I wanted to experience any grief, any joy, any pain. God answered this prayer and allowed me to feel emotion in ways that would leave me feeling exposed and protected all at the same time. God knew I needed this. He had proven Himself to be infinitely more gentle and tender than I could have ever imagined prior to walking this journey of Russell. God showed me treasures about Himself that I had not yet experienced in my walk with Him. He showed me that there is no Scripture, no promise, no miracle that is unattainable for me as His child. God, in His great love and for His glory, started preparing our hearts for the arrival of our fourth son, Russell, long before I was even pregnant with him.
Back in the summer of 2012, I read a blog post that changed my life and my heart forever, If Not Us…Then Who? This is the post that God used to open my eyes. The scales fell off – hard. And so began my unexpected heart’s journey to orphans with special needs, specifically those who have Down syndrome. I was wrecked for good after reading that gut-wrenching post. That summer, God continued to pummel (destroy, really) my heart for children with Down syndrome. Clive and I saw children and adults with Down syndrome everywhere in America that summer. Water parks, baseball games, Sunday school, concerts. It was almost becoming comical. I journaled on June 11, 2012: “So, it’s been a little weird…everything I have heard, seen, and come across. Maybe God is just softening our hearts to Down syndrome and special needs…who knows. I no longer want to say, ‘I could never adopt a special needs child.’ I now want to say, ‘Lord we want whatever you have for our family, and we trust that you will teach us, guide us, and take care of us.’” Little did we know what God was up to and how much He was going to enrich our lives.
In 2012, during my pregnancy with Russell, God started giving me glimpses and stirrings of what He might be preparing our hearts for. One of the greatest miracles was that when I was just six weeks pregnant with Russell, Clive spoke in high school chapel and publicly surrendered his heart about special needs adoption to God. Neither of us would have imagined that, inside of me, God was already growing our own precious son with Down syndrome.
On April 16, 2013, I wrote: “This past Sunday, my friend said that she wanted to remind me that even though this is a fourth boy, this a NEW season, and that this boy is so special. It brought tears to my eyes as she prayed for me. It still freaks me out a little bit though, the urgency with which she has been praying for me and this baby, and the “new” thing….just still wondering about Down syndrome.”
That same friend emailed later with “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
On April 18, 2013, I journaled: “Clive and I keep talking about how we can’t help but wonder about this child having Down syndrome with all that God has done, the prayers, etc. I am even hesitant to journal about it, because I don’t want to imagine what God is up to. His ways are so far above mine. But I just know that if this baby is healthy or not, it feels like God is preparing us….for what, I don’t know. Again, it’s hard for me to write about. I have chills as I write it. I told Clive I don’t EXPECT our child to have Down syndrome, but it’s more that it wouldn’t come as a shock if he did. And I will be a little surprised if he doesn’t? I know that sounds crazy. I am just amazed at the ways that God has shown us His love for us this year. He keeps blowing me away and I am so thankful it never gets old to Him.”
Prior to Russell’s birth, we had two possible names. One was for our son if he didn’t have Down syndrome. My husband picked that name, and it is the name he ended up with – Russell. The other name was the name we would give him if he had Down syndrome. Russell was born on September 5, 2013. You might have heard my screams of pain all the way in America when he was coming. The symbolism of the brief labor (only 5 hours) and intense pain, followed by sheer joy and contentment is not lost on me. It mirrors what I have experienced in my journey of Russell after he was born. When Russell came into the world, he did not look like he had Down syndrome. I looked at Clive in the recovery room and said, “He doesn’t have Down syndrome.” Clive said, “Oh Fred” (that’s my nickname) and smiled at me, like he was saying, “Of course he doesn’t.” I asked three doctors in the next couple of days if they were sure he didn’t have Down syndrome. They would all do a quick top-to-toe scan with their eyes, look at the palms of his hands, look at his eyes and ears, and confidently assure me that he did not have Down syndrome. So, after 24 hours of waiting to decide on his name, we named him Russell. Because our son did not have Down syndrome.
After we took him home, there was still a gnawing in our hearts. He didn’t latch on for breastfeeding well. He had extremely low muscle tone. He never cried. After having three other children, I knew that was out of the ordinary! And the more he was opening his eyes, the more we were noticing the almond shape that was just a little more upturned than his Asian-American brothers. One day, I was holding him on my lap and looking up symptoms of Down syndrome. While reading, I didn’t feel overly concerned. Then I got to the last sign. A sandal gap. I had never heard of it. So, I looked it up. A larger than normal gap between the first and second toes. I unsnapped his sleeper and held his feet up. And my world stopped. He had it. On both feet. Oh. My. Word. My son has Down syndrome. This IS what God was preparing us for. He WAS speaking to us! It felt surreal.
Ten days after Russell was born, we headed to the hospital for the test results. We had prayed together and read Scripture together before leaving the house. We were nervous. But yet, we also were about 95% sure. I cried the whole way to the hospital. This was our last day to hold Russell as our son without Down syndrome. I didn’t want to step over the fragile boundary of time into knowing our Russell with Down syndrome. I cried the whole way home from the hospital too. But they were tears of complete awe and praise of God. I remember how when I was pregnant, I told Clive that if we found out our son had Down syndrome, my awe of God and all that He had done for us would overshadow any other emotion I would have. And I felt that so much as we were driving home together. Clive felt the same way too. God had given me this verse on September 16th while we waited for Russell’s test results: “Give thanks to the Lord, call on His Name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him, tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His Name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the works He has done, His miracles…” I Chronicles 16:8-12. I knew this this verse was going to be our story and I couldn’t wait to make His name known.
Russell was no less perfect with Down syndrome. He was even more breathtaking actually. And our love for him felt tender and fierce at the same time. We had no context for who Russell with Down syndrome was going to be. But then he smiled for the first time. And laughed for the first time. And those waves of suffocation turned into breaths of fresh air and rejoicing. We can’t believe he is ours. He brings us pure joy—our whole family. His brothers adore him and he adores them. God adores Him.
On my balcony reading my Bible one day soon after finding out Russell had Down syndrome, I read Isaiah 41:20: “so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Another verse He blew me away with was Isaiah 42:9: “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” God had prepared our hearts! It seemed too good to be true. And I told Clive that I felt like God’s favorite. I truly did. And I realized that that’s how God WANTS me to feel! You are God’s favorite too, you know? Know that whatever He is doing in your life, whatever He is preparing you for – nothing is wasted. None of it. Russell is our constant reminder of God’s goodness, of God’s love, of God’s gentle voice. Russell has changed our lives forever. For the much, much better. Truly, there are no words. There is SO much more to this story, but those stories will have to wait for another time. For now, be encouraged by God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and His promise to speak to us.
Our Facebook post on September 29, 2013, said: “Love, joy, and sorrow meet as we let family and friends know that our son, Russell, was born with Down syndrome. We are so in love with him and in awe of God, who miraculously, gently, and lovingly prepared our hearts and our family for Russell.”
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
“Nothing exceeds thy power, nothing is too great for thee to do, nothing too good for thee to give. I ask great things of a great God.” ~The Valley of Vision
Gloria Hsu is married to her middle school sweetheart who she met at an international school in Taiwan. She was a family nurse practitioner while living in the U.S. She and her husband moved back to Taiwan five years ago, where her husband is a high school guidance counselor at the school they grew up at, and Gloria is the co-founder and director of Pregnancy Support Center (PSC) in Taichung. Taiwan has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, and is a nation in great need of healing and freedom. Gloria loves being a mother to four boys, all of whom God has gifted uniquely. Her fourth son has Down syndrome. It is no coincidence that God gave them a child with Down syndrome in a country where over 95% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted. Gloria’s passion is hearing God speak and seeing Him move in her own life and in the lives of others. You can join her Facebook page at Unseen to read and share everyday stories of God speaking and moving. Visit her PSC website at pregnancysupport.tw (currently under construction) and PSC Facebook page. You can also visit her blog that will be up and running soon with more about the journey of Russell, PSC and adoption at lifeisamist.wordpress.com.
This post is part of a month-long guest post series titled Special Mamas. The series runs all May and is in honor of moms who have unique journeys to and through motherhood. To read all 13 posts in the Special Mamas series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the introductory post. At the bottom of the post, you’ll find all guest posts listed and linked for easy reading!