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Charity Matthews (3/6/2000 - 6/9/2000)

Tim Matthews   Reprinted with the permission of the author

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you for your thoughts and prayers during the recent days for our family, especially for Cynde and Charity. We cannot explain how fully God has supported us through what the world thinks is "horrible news". Unfortunately many people don't know how to respond in time of crisis. We may not know how to respond, but we do know to whom we should respond. For that reason, you will continue to find us as we have been in the past - in church every time the doors are open, fulfilling our privilege to serve God with you. Please understand, we love Fairview Baptist Church and that means that we love each of you. It would break our hearts for anyone to not attend Fairview or be in their place of service out of a "fear" about being around Charity. Our intention in writing this note is to make sure that no one feels any hesitation about our family or about asking us any questions. Most of you know us fairly well and are genuinely concerned about us so let me take this chance to tell you what we have been told.

Our daughter's name is Charity Leigh Matthews. She was born March 16, 2000 at 8:24 pm. 6 pounds 2 ounces and 19 inches long. This picture was taken when she was about 15 minutes old. (I apologize if you're seeing her picture in black and white. She's really beautiful in color!)

Charity Matthews You can see from the picture that she's beautiful to look at. I can tell you from experience that she's also a delight to hold. She rarely cries and when she does, it's a "soft" cry - unlike her big sister Abigail. Cynde wound up having an unplanned C-Section but other than that, there were no complications during delivery.

I stayed with Cynde for a few minutes and then went to check on Charity in the next room. The Pediatric Doctor and two nurses were checking her out thoroughly. As I waited there for some kind of "reassurance" that every parent needs to hear, the doctor said "Step on in, we have to talk." He showed me Charity's left hand and pointed to the crease running across her palm. "She has one crease, normal people have two" (Yes, go ahead and check your left hand now, I know most of you will.)

He then pointed to her neck; "It's shorter than normal and these folds of skin on each side of her neck aren't usual." I looked at her and asked, "well, she looks normal other than that, is there a problem?" He said, "I'm almost certain that your daughter has Down syndrome. Were you expecting that as a possibility or do you even know what it is?" Talk about a "bombshell", now I had to go tell Cynde what I knew.

We'll, here is a brief summary of what we've learned since Charity's birth. This is not an exhaustive list but it will give you a good general idea of our situation. The medical profession defines Down syndrome as "a combination of birth defects including mental retardation. Many have heart abnormalities and frequently other problems as well". So much for encouragement from Doctors....

Scientifically, Down syndrome is this: "Each of our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes. When we were created, we received one set of 23 chromosomes in each cell from our Mom and one set from our Dad; these combine to give us 23 pair of chromosomes. The "dominant" chromosome is what causes us to look like the rest of our family (our heredity - things like hair color, eye color, skin color, and hand size). Scientists have identified each of our chromosome pairs by a number (1 through 23). Once in every 1,000 births the 21st chromosome has not combined properly. The result is that the total chromosomes are 47 instead of the normal 46. The extra chromosome causes the mental and physical characteristics of Down syndrome. This cause of Down syndrome is called "trisomy 21" because of the presence of three #21 chromosomes." Most people think that the extra chromosome causes defects to occur. That is not true, actually the extra chromosome causes major organs to not develop all of the way.

Now let me give you our perspective. First, the birth of Charity was not an "accident". We've always wanted to have 6 children. Second, God has never made a mistake or been caught by surprise. He isn't required to check with us to see if his plans are okay. We regret the doctor's use of the term birth "defect". Charity is not defective. She is the way God planned her. Psalms 139:14-16 states "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

We are proud that Charity is ours. Because of ultrasound tests, we have known for the last two weeks that there may be something "not normal" about her. Our prayer since has been "Lord, if that is your will, okay, but we would prefer that she not have any physical problems that would require lots of surgery or cause her pain or discomfort." Based on the medical and scientific fields, a foolish request. Based on faith in our Father in Heaven "who created the world and all therin", it is just a minor detail. We've received mostly good news from the doctors since Charity was transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital. Based on the tests they've done so far: Charity's brain is normal in size. Her heart is perfect. They expect her lungs to continue to develop and pose no problem (she currently breathes like a "preemie" baby). They'll begin feeding her "solid food" at about 4 days of age (I hope they mean formula and not "steak and potatoes"). God answers prayer!

Many have asked us "what can we do to help?" Most of the time we're not sure how to answer that question. For those of you who wish to provide food, we appreciate any thing you do (Tim doesn't look like he's picky about what he eats). If food can be provided on plates, bowls or containers that don't have to be returned it will be much easier. Most of the ladies think Tim can't cook. We know he can't wash dishes. Lots of you have offered to "watch the kids". However, 5 kids plus your family is more than most people can legally carry in their vehicle. We really do have good kids and hope that they're on their best behavior when they stay with someone else. We all need life to be as normal as possible in the near future, so we'll continue to try to keep us all together. The next couple of weeks may be extremely trying. I can assure you that we'll ask you for help with the kids whenever we really need it.

Please take the time to explain to your children that Charity doesn't have a "disease" that they can catch. We don't want them to be afraid of her. As she gets older, it will be their support and friendship that mean the most to her (just like we do to each other). What she has is a "syndrome". It is the way God made her. She's just as special as all the other children in our church. She has a soul and we pray that she will be saved at an early age and grow up to serve God with her life.

Most of all, do pray. Do call us. Do help however you think the Lord wants you too. And please, deal with us and react to us like you always have. Nothing's changed so nothing needs to change.

Revised: August 21, 2000.