I didn’t realize I’d gone into the hospital with a set of expectations, but I had. I very much had a set of expectations about who our child would be when she was born.
I went to Princeton University, and I was a student at Princeton Seminary at the time that Penny was born 18 years ago. I’ve always been really academic and really loved books and reading. One of the things I didn’t realize until Penny was born and was diagnosed with an intellectual disability was how much I had allowed my love for books and reading and school to become more of an idolatry of books and reading in school. I valued people based on their intelligence.
I had set up a hierarchy of people. I didn’t mean to do that. I didn’t want to do that consciously, but that’s what I had done—an idolatry of intellect. That hierarchy not only was an injustice to people like my daughter, but it narrowed my entire world. I was cutting myself off from fullness and goodness and beauty and joy. There’s a whole world out there of people who actually aren’t just like me. And that world is even richer and fuller than my narrow world of people from my same sociological group.
When I saw the expectations for what they were, I first had to go through a process of grieving the child I thought I was receiving. But that grief turned to joy as I began to recognize the gift we were given in our daughter.
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