What a Little Girl Named Phoebe Can Tell Us About Ourselves

Picture: Linnea Herner (creative commons)

Call me a slow learner, but it’s only recently that I’ve come to realise what a miracle conception is. One sperm out of millions meets one egg out of thousands to produce us. And before that, our parents. And before that, their parents. One different sperm, one different egg in generations of ancestry, and you and I wouldn’t be here.

I got reflecting on this after meeting a guy named Paul one morning, who proudly mentioned that his fourth child was due any day. But there’d been complications…

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Unique Body, Matchless Face

Picture: Jadell Films (creative commons)

My friend DJ and I met Paul on the last day of the pilgrimage that became The Making of Us, the conversation moving to Paul’s family life and the excitement around their new arrival.

“Have you found out the sex of the baby yet?” I asked Paul.

“Yes,” he said, “we’re having a little girl.”

I thought of that little girl with her unique body and matchless face—Dad’s nose perhaps, Mum’s lips, maybe the chin or hair from a great-grandmother somewhere, that unique body and face even now already a someone because of the fabric of relationships she’s woven into. Right now, still unborn, she was a daughter and a sister and a grandchild and a niece, and soon to be a friend, a neighbour and a citizen. 

“Has the pregnancy gone well?” I asked.

“Actually,” Paul said, “it’s been stressful. All the signs are pointing to our little girl having Down syndrome. That’s been hard to face, but the real stress has come from medical staff who’ve treated us with disdain for keeping her, saying we should try again for a ‘normal’ child.”

A normal child?

That little girl, with her unique body and matchless face, would soon be born, given the name Phoebe, and bring all sorts of joy, personality and talent into the world. Without her the world would miss out on a daughter, sister, granddaughter and friend. Scripture describes her as being fearfully and wonderfully made, whatever her physical challenges—reflecting something of God’s own nature, carrying not just human but divine value.

Try again for a ‘normal’ child?

That little girl was sacred.

One Unrepeatable Existence

Picture: Callum Chapman (creative commons)

I was sharing this story at a secular conference for childless couples recently—an audience of men and women wondering what to do with their lives now they may not become parents. After I’d spoken, a woman approached me in tears.

“I’ve been wondering all day why I was supposed to be here, but now I know,” she said. “I needed to hear about Phoebe. I’ve been so focussed on becoming a mother that I’ve forgotten I’m already a daughter, sister and friend. I’ve felt worthless being childless and I needed to hear that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.”

One sperm, one egg, one unrepeatable existence. I believe what’s true of Phoebe is true of all of us:

Unique body, matchless face.

Full of personality and talent.

A son, daughter, sister, friend.

We too are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Whatever we’re lacking.


This story is drawn from The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned. You can get the book here or the audiobook here.

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