Smiling At 7 Weeks
In October of 2001, my husband
and I were confronted with a hard row to hoe: an ultrasound
revealed that something was seriously wrong with our
Aware that we were only weeks
away from the deadline for legal abortion in our state,
our doctor strongly urged us to consider an amniocentesis.
From what he saw on the ultrasound screen, he suspected
our child had a chromosomal disease called Trisomy 13,
which, he told us, "is incompatible with life."
Amniocentesis, the doctor explained,
would let us know for certain whether our child had
a chromosomal abnormality. He added that it also carried
certain risks for the fetus, including miscarriage.
I told the doctor I had come to believe abortion was
a terrible mistake. "Why," I asked him, "should
we risk killing our child merely to satisfy our curiosity?"
Our doctor looked me straight
in the eye. "You are going to get big," he
said, "and people you don't even know will come
up to you in the grocery store. They will be excited
for you and ask when your baby is due. All the while,
you will know the hard truth that your baby is not going
to live." He added compassionately, "You may
not be able to handle that."
My husband, Steve, and I were
shaken. I felt numb. The previous ultrasounds and prenatal
visits had indicated that all was well. We had joyfully
begun preparing the nursery. Nonetheless, I felt the
peace of the Lord, and my resolve was steady. "I
can handle it," I told him.
When my father and a long-time
friend heard that all was not well, they tried to persuade
me to consider abortion. "You don't know what you're
facing," they said. "What if the baby lives
a full life-span and needs total care? What kind of
life will you have?" My father argued, "If
the baby is going to die anyway, why not terminate now?
The longer you carry the child, the harder it will be
Before we ever tried to get
pregnant, Steve and I had discussed abortion. I had
had an abortion as a teenager merely to avoid telling
my parents I was pregnant. In recent years when I began
seeking the Lord, though, I had come to regret my abortion--and
repent for it. Steve thought abortion was sometimes
acceptable, but he was willing to go along with my conviction.
Now that the problems we faced were no longer hypothetical,
however, I raised the issue again. I asked him what
he wanted to do.
For a few days, Steve weighed
the pros and cons of abortion. Then one day, as he was
driving home from work, he heard a radio spot for the
Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children
who have life-threatening illnesses. Steve thought to
himself, "If my baby had one wish, what would it
be?" Instantly, he knew the answer: it would be
to live. From then on, abortion was out of the question
for both of us.
At some point I decided to
research Trisomy 13 on the Internet. The pictures I
saw broke my heart. The afflicted babies were severely
misshapen, sometimes having only one eye, no nose or
a nose on top of the head, malformed genitalia, extra
fingers and toes. That night I told Steve what might
await us. To be honest, I felt shame. "Maybe you
should not come into the birthing room," I suggested.
I pictured myself holding our baby in my arms, not letting
"No," he said. "I
don't care what our baby looks like. I am going to be
there with you, and I am going to love him or her no
Since we believed our baby
would not live long, we tried to make the most out of
every day of the pregnancy. We sat at the piano and
played from a book of children's songs. "Somewhere
over the rainbow way up high, there's a land that I
heard of once in a lullaby." We watched Roadrunner
cartoons and Christmas specials. We rejoiced over every
kick and hiccup.
While the baby was inside me,
my body was doing most of the work. Once the child was
born, however, her organs would not be strong enough
to sustain her. "I wish you could stay pregnant
forever, so our baby could live," Steve said.
Towards the end of the pregnancy,
the doctors convinced us that the risk of miscarriage
was negligible, and an amniocentesis would help them
know whether or not to attempt immediate, surgical procedures.
Since this was for a valid medical reason-not just to
satisfy our curiosity-we agreed. The amnio results arrived
about two weeks later. We learned that we were having
a baby girl; and, sadly, we learned that the initial
diagnosis had been correct: she had Trisomy 13 and was
beyond the help of modern science.
In the early morning of March
4th, my water broke. I woke Steve and told him it was
time for us to go to the hospital. Before we left, we
got down on our knees and prayed. I thanked God for
the privilege of carrying our baby. We asked for a miracle;
we asked for God's comfort and peace; we asked for His
will to be done. On the way to the hospital, we sang
songs to our little Katie. We had been told she might
be stillborn, so we imagined ourselves dancing with
her in a field of daisies.
By the time she was born, Katie
was blue and still. Steve was praying that I would just
get to hold her for a few minutes before she died. The
doctor carried her to the warming table, and she started
to breathe. Finally, they brought her to me.
She seemed perfect, and she
had a a head full of dark hair. My heart skipped a beat.
Had God healed her? I looked down at her hand and started
to count her fingers. "Don't count," my husband
said. Attached to Katie's pinky was a tiny extra finger,
a telltale sign of Trisomy 13.
When Katie showed signs of
hunger, I put her to my breast but could not get her
to suckle. The nurses tried to help, but they finally
told us we might have to choose between an IV, a feeding
tube, or letting her starve to death. Reluctant to cause
our daughter any discomfort, we were not sure what we
should do. Finally, one of the staff suggested we try
a bottle. To our delight, Katie began to suck at the
plastic nipple. We were overjoyed to see her alive and
Since the first indication
of Trisomy 13 in October, we had stopped working on
the nursery and avoided baby stores, for the doctor
had told us she would probably live no more than a few
hours. So it was with great pleasure that Steve walked
into Wal-Mart the next morning and bought four shopping
carts full of baby accessories. He brought the new car
seat into the hospital, and we did what we had never
expected to do: we loaded up our things and took our
We were able to hold, love,
and kiss our daughter for two wonderful months. Steve
took a leave of absence from work so that he could spend
every possible moment with her. We explained to friends
that Katie was a "special needs" child. "She
needs extra kisses," we said; and we gave her all
the kisses we could.
Our precious daughter is gone
now, and we miss her terribly. Katie was a gift from
God, and she changed our lives forever. We have wonderful
memories and hundreds of pictures, and someday we hope
to see her again in heaven.
Those who urged us to consider
abortion did not realize what a huge blessing God had
in store for us. They do not understand that God does
not make mistakes.
A Note from Katie's
My love for Katie has only
grown since we lost her after eight weeks. The love
and happiness that she brought me has far outweighed
the hard parts. I remember talking with my father outside
the delivery room shortly after Katie was born and telling
him that no matter what happened in the future I had
just witnessed the birth of my first child. I told him
that now I was a father too, and that would last forever.
That is something I will always have and will always
be grateful for.
Katie brought a lot of people
together, from different backgrounds, families and religions.
The community we lived in really reached out to us and
our little girl. We would love to talk with other parents
facing Trisomy 13 and offer any support we can.
For support, please
(904) 476-6673 (cell)
Call any time!
to Trisomy 13
You can read more about
Trisomy 13 and receive incredible on-line support through
the private message board on www.livingwithtrisomy13.org.
-The support, information and encouragement provided by the PPFL parents is not meant to take the place of medical advice by a medical professional. Any specific questions about care should be directed to a health care professional familiar with the situation.