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The Gift I Feared

By Thomas G. Mahala

(Excerpt from Big Hearted)

-By Patti Armstrong and Theresa Thomas


It’s a girl!” The nurse announced. After the birth of seven healthy sons, those words should have brought great joy. Under different circumstances, I would have done back flips. Instead, as I caught a glimpse of my daughter’s face, I scrutinized her eyes. She was what I had feared. When I saw her almond-shaped eyes, my heart froze—Down’s syndrome.

Fiening happiness was beyond my acting ability so instead, I tried miserably to hide my emotions. Bonnie looked searchingly into my eyes. She could not get sight of the baby who had just been whisked away. The absence of joyful excitement and a pensive look on my face told Bonnie what she was wondering—this was the baby we had feared that God would give us. The wait was over. Now we knew. Bonnie silently wept.

Instead of anguish, the news prompted a somber reflection…if she dies as a result of her surgery the pain will be over for all of us, we thought.

“You would think that getting an extra chromosome would be a good thing,” my oldest son Thomas commented, “like scoring one more run in a game.” We discussed how to respond to people with questions about Grace. It didn’t seem right to say, we had a girl, but she has Down Syndrome. We decided it would be best to just say we had a girl and if anyone asked how she was doing, we would explain, “She has a heart issue which is very common for babies born with Down Syndrome.”

I was disappointed that my love for my daughter was not coming as easily. Why couldn’t I love her the way she is? Why couldn’t I be as happy about her as I was trying to convince my children to be?

I simply told our youngest sons that they had a sister and her name was Grace. They went bananas jumping up and down. “It’s a girl, it’s a girl!” they yelled. Lord help me to love like these little ones, I prayed.

As Grace approached her five-month birthday and her impending open-heart surgery, mixed emotions plagued me.

In a very subtle way, a feeling of compassion for our little Grace flickered in my heart. She was only ten pounds--so little to face such a life-threatening surgery.

As I held Grace in the early morning hours prior to her surgery, and then eventually walked down to the operating room with her, my heart swelled with emotion. I was falling in love. Suddenly, I couldn’t imagine losing my little baby girl and my heart ached for the pain she would have to go through. When I laid her on that operating table and they began to administer anesthesia, I prayed and cried for my little angel! I didn’t want to lose her!

Her little personality began to captivate us and all the boys fell deeply in love with their little sister. They treat Grace differently than their brothers. I believe it is because through Grace, our hearts have grown. Her brothers constantly hug and kiss her and tell her they love her. The boys were gifted athletically, while Grace, who cannot even run or jump is gifted in love.

Bonnie and I rejoice in Grace and thank God for sending her to heal our own special needs. We cannot imagine wanting any other little girl more than her.


This is a short Excerpt from Big Hearted. If you would like to read the full story, and many others like it, you can purchase the book by clicking the banner below.

Big Hearted gives you an inside look into the triumphs, struggles, joys and sorrows of ordinary families with generous hearts. It invites you to witness extraordinary love in ordinary moments like the simple cooking of a meal or the hug between a teenaged brother and his baby sister. Just like your family, these families experience pain, setbacks, and challenges. And just like your family, they also experience love and immeasurable blessing through their commitment and care for each other.

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