Redefining Perfect: Meeting God in the Midst of an Adverse Diagnosis

Concerned-looking husband and wife looking at each other while being consulted by their doctor Bialasiewicz
Ron and Genie’s third pregnancy was something of a surprise, and they chose to recognize it as a blessing. But then the concerns started piling up, including markers for Down syndrome and significant heart defects.

Genie and Ron Marklund were pretty content with their family. They had an outgoing 10-year-old daughter and a sweet 8-year-old son. Ron’s career as a CPA was stable and successful. Genie’s musical talents and love for the Lord had led to a full‐time position at their church.

Thus Genie’s third pregnancy was something of a surprise. While it took both Genie and Ron a while to wrap their minds around this unexpected turn in their lives, they chose to recognize it as a blessing from the Lord.

But then the concerns started piling up. A routine 21-week ultrasound came back with markers for Down syndrome. Then there were the heart problems: two separate defects, both significant. The prognosis was somewhat unknown. The doctor told them that in Illinois they could only have an abortion through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, so if they wanted to confirm the Down syndrome diagnosis in order to make their decision, they would need to do it soon.

Genie and Ron, however, were firm in their conviction to choose life for their baby. It was hard at first. Genie remembers kneeling at the front of their church and weeping for a long time. She poured out her heart to the Lord. 

I don’t know if I can do this, God. I don’t know if I can do this.

What Does ‘Perfect’ Really Mean?

As Ron considered the way God had diverted him from his stereotypical, accountant‐minded plans for a new house, financial progress and a safe future, he found himself praying a lot. In quiet moments during his work commute, Ron was reminded that God wants us to talk to Him.

“I’ve learned that no matter our circumstances,” Ron says, “we can thrive when we focus on God.”

The Marklunds prepared to welcome their blessing into the world, and they chose the name Samuel Benjamin. But this delivery would be different than their others. The couple toured a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where Samuel would spend his first days and weeks after birth. They attended appointments with high-risk doctors and cardiologists.

Through it all, they chose to focus on what God was doing in their lives.

“Walking through the NICU for a tour is really hard,” Genie says. “God is there, too. He is with those babies. He is with those parents.”

Genie has seen how often well-wishers describe a newborn as “just perfect,” but she says her belief that all life is sacred has reframed the way she views perfect.

“A good definition of perfect is when something does what it is designed to do,” she says. “My cellphone is perfect because it does exactly what it was created to do. It sends and receives calls and texts and emails. In the same way, Sammy is perfect because he is exactly who God has created him to be and he is going to fulfill God’s purpose in creating him.”

No Less Value or Purpose

Samuel was born with Down syndrome and multiple heart defects. While the heart defects were more extensive than they had anticipated, Samuel was able to have successful open heart surgery when
he was several months old.

“Does he have some problems with his heart and an extra chromosome? Yes, but that does not mean that God created him with any less value or purpose in life,” Genie says. “He will just have a different life than that of my other two kids. I still mourned the loss of my dreams and ideals for my baby, but in their
place God has given me new dreams and visions of what Sammy’s life can and will mean.”

After 23 days in the hospital, Sammy came home to be loved and held by his big sister, big brother and adoring grandparents. As they awaited their baby’s first open-heart surgery, Genie and Ron chose to meditate on the truth of Psalm 91.

“If I live in the shadow of the Most High, then I can find peace and rest no matter what the circumstances are that are taking place around me,” Genie says. “I see in Psalm 91 that there is no guarantee that hard things won’t happen to us. But because of my relationship with Jesus, I don’t need to fear these things.”

While the Marklunds continue to navigate the reality of Samuel’s day-to-day therapies and care – and an unknown future regarding additional surgeries – they walk in the knowledge and hope that an all-knowing, loving God is with them every step of the way.

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