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Published: January 25, 2013 6:21 pm to Opinion Column

“High risk” mother chooses life for her daughter, despite diagnosis of severe genetic abnormalities

Editor’s Note: This article is written by Janene Baadsgaard and first appeared on the author’s blog on January 22, 2013. It is reprinted with permission.

Thirteen years ago today my daughter Alisa was born.

I was 46 years old and knew to the core of my soul that her conception and birth was a gift from God. It was not an easy pregnancy. We had one scare after another with bleeding so bed rest was ordered. Medical professionals labeled me “high risk” because of my age and ordered several tests.

Janene Baadsgaard and her daughter Alisa

Janene Baadsgaard and her daughter Alisa

One doctor reported the results of one test to me over the phone. He said that it was almost certain that my baby had severe genetic abnormalities and told me to consider an abortion. He said I should consider the life altering consequences of a deformed child not just for me but for my entire family if the pregnancy wasn’t terminated. To me, this doctor’s words felt dark, hollow and devoid of hope.

How could he declare my child as deserving or undeserving of life? I knew this new life inside me was sacred and precious. When I told my husband the doctor’s warning he simply replied, “It doesn’t matter to me what shape our daughter is in. I’ll always love her and take good care of her.”

The medical professionals shook their heads and made notations on my chart. The nurse who assisted with the emergency c-section read my chart and whispered in my ear, “It says here that your baby probably has Downs. I have a little Downs boy at home and I’ll tell you as soon as I see her.”

As they raised my daughter Alisa in the air, the doctor said, “The placenta isn’t even attached. I don’t know how she could be alive.” But I knew. Alisa was and is a miracle. Each child who is born is a miracle. “She’s fine,” the nurse said as she whispered in my ear. “She’s beautiful.”

I fully expected to receive a child into my heart and into my home that would need special care. That she was declared fine wasn’t a relief, but a surprise.

Years later my daughter April called me after an ultrasound and said, “Mom, I’m going to have little boy but they can’t find his brain.” My daughter received the same advice as I did years earlier. She also decided to listen to her heart. When Caleb was born on my birthday, he was welcomed with love.

April and Caleb

April and Caleb

His birth, life, and mission proved to be life altering for our entire extended family in a deeply spiritual way. I can’t fully describe the profound effect Caleb had on so many people. From Caleb we learned that the sacred gift of life should never be taken for granted. We learned that we are valuable and loved not just for what we do but for who we are. We know that the spirit inside our bodies is eternal – has existed before we were born and will exist again after we die.

One day I was visiting with a friend who is a nurse in labor and delivery and telling her about the profound positive impact Caleb had on our family. She went white. “I follow doctor’s orders to end pregnancies with children like Caleb all the time,” she said. “Oh I wish those scared women could talk to you or your daughter before they make their decision.”

So today as I celebrate Alisa’s 13th birthday and think about my precious grandson Caleb who lived seven miraculous years – I am filled with deep gratitude and joy. If we had listened to the wisdom of the world, my daughter and I would not have been the recipients of a sacred gift that has filled our lives with deep meaning and lasting joy.

All life is reason for great celebration.

You can read April and Caleb’s story here, in April’s words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashley.whalen.92 Ashley Whalen

    That made me happy to see that they both kept their babies and both children both were given a chance at life :)
    God bless and good night

  • Tadgh

    Beannacht Dé oraibh go léir.