With three health problems, Heather Haskin was told by doctors that she’d never deliver a healthy child.
But Heather “always knew in my heart that I’d be a mommy, so I kept praying and believing.” After many prayers and three miscarriages, Heather proved the doctors wrong with the birth of a son, Justus: “One who worships God.”
Happy with their new child and marriage of four years, the Haskins turned their attention to raising their child and tending her husband Jason’s growing business of painting cars.
“God had other plans,” Heather says. “We weren’t even trying, and I got pregnant again.”
Jason and Heather were excited, even though their doctors remained cautious. They were warned that with Heather’s genetic abnormality, there was a 15 percent chance they’d have a child with Down syndrome. So, they weren’t too surprised when 20 weeks into the pregnancy, a genetics counselor told them the baby had a heart problem, a common indication of Down syndrome.
Ever optimistic, Heather worked for 12 years with special-needs children and was beginning to feel God had prepared her for this road. The counselor suggested a barrage of tests, but Heather declined the tests telling them, “It doesn’t matter. We’re going to take whatever God gives us.”
Still she had some concerns as to how it might affect her marriage. “Please, God,” she prayed, “my husband’s never been around these children. If this is your plan, give us the grace to face it together.”
Heather was sure God had answered that prayer when, three months before delivery, a cardiologist declared their baby would have a healthy heart.
The Haskins breathed a sigh of relief — that is until the day of delivery, March 21, 2005.
“The baby started having breathing problems,” Heather recalls, “and the staff was yelling, ‘come on baby, come on.’ ”
Within a few minutes, nurses whisked the baby to NICU. A few minutes later, Jason returned with the news that their baby had Down syndrome.
“The news hit us like a ton of bricks,” Heather confessed. “We had big dreams, and having a special-needs child wasn’t one of those dreams.” Heather wondered, “Is this more than our marriage can bear? I will have two children, but I’ll end up divorced.”
Despite the tears, the couple felt strongly they were to name their baby, Malachi, which means “God’s messenger.”
Now, more than a year later, Heather says with conviction, “Malachi really is God’s messenger. He came to show us that our marriage could withstand this and that the birth of a child with Downs is not a tragedy.”
Still, many reacted to Malachi’s birth as if it were a tragedy.
“When we had Malachi, it was five days before anyone said ‘congratulations.’ Most of the time, they only said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ ”
Heather knew she had to do something about this “sorry” attitude. On Oct. 3, 2005, she started the National Down Syndrome Coalition to “show families that this is not a tragedy.”
“Down syndrome births occur 1 in every 733, and the way I see it,” Heather adds, “that means that God found me worthy to be Malachi’s momma.”