The Sanctity of Life
St. Augustine once wrote about a fire in which gold will gleam, and chaff will smoke. The same heated situation can clarify the good and exterminate the wicked. Trials in my life have been similar. Things that were of no value were soon gone, but my trust and security in Jesus Christ came out purified and of higher value to me.
Now I share with you one of my fiery trials.
In a routine ultrasound for our 5th child, my husband Brad and I found out our baby had all the markers for the chromosome abnormality Trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is like Downs Syndrome, where there are three chromosomes present instead of two, but Trisomy 18 is much harsher in its overall prognosis and death rate. We went to a follow-up appointment with a geneticist who told us that this extra chromosome was a “fatal fetal abnormality” and that our daughter was “incompatible with life.” The geneticist strongly recommended we get prenatal testing to verify our daughter’s disability. I had investigated prenatal testing before the appointment and noted that there was a possibility that the test would cause a miscarriage and declined the testing.
The doctor continued to press us into genetic testing until finally, my husband, Brad, asked, “If we get this test is there anything you can do to help our daughter?” The doctor replied they could not do anything. He made it clear the only reason for the test was to identify her for abortion. In unplanned unison, my husband and I quickly responded, “That is not an option!”
He made it clear the only reason for the test was to identify her for abortion. In unplanned unison, my husband and I quickly responded, ‘That is not an option!’
The doctor continued to pressure us as he told us our daughter’s life and disability would ruin our marriage, the lives of our four other children, and our finances. He gave us the information that only 5–10% of children born alive live past their first birthday, and even if our daughter lived, she would not live long and would be severely handicapped. She would not have a life worth living. (I did not know at the time that 90% of children with Trisomy 18 are aborted.) This heavy hand of pressure from this doctor to abort our daughter and the dismissive attitude toward the value of a child with a disability made my husband so visibly angry that I had to cut short the appointment. I walked out crying, and my husband was fuming. Our immediate emotions were different, but we were both resolved that we would love, fight for, and treat our baby girl the same as we would for our four older children.
Faith was born loved, wanted, and yes, disabled. As I have told many people, there are worse things than having a disability. Every child has special needs, just some special needs are easier to see. Can you imagine if prenatal testing identified character traits? What a heartbreak it would be to hear, “I am sorry your child is a liar, cheat, greedy, unkind…” No one would be safe from being deemed as better off dead. The geneticist was right about Faith’s disability, but wrong about everything else. Some people who, like Faith, are fragile treasures, whether for their entire lives or periods, need to be cared for and carefully guarded. An Almighty God created her undeniable worth and value, and it could never be diminished or denied by a doctor, legislator, or even her mom and dad.
An Almighty God created her undeniable worth and value, and it could never be diminished or denied by a doctor, legislator, or even her mom and dad.
It appalled me that as Faith got older, her disability and “quality of life” were used as excuses by some medical professionals to deny surgery and treatment. I have, at times, reminded physicians at first appointments with my daughter that the caloric chart should not be used as a how-to-guide to starvation while treating my daughter. It turns out that cruelty and discrimination are not rare. Yes, Faith would not be alive without good doctors who not only did their job well but loved our daughter. Yet, there is a sick and jaundiced view in this world that only some people are worthy of life and proper treatment. This view will not surprise the Christian who knows in the mighty battle with evil we do not fight flesh and blood but powers, principalities, and rulers.
Faith is now a smiley and sweet 11 year-old. She obviously can no longer be called a fatal fetal abnormality, and her life is compatible with the great love of God. Faith was not a threat to my marriage, other children, or finances, but a blessing to each. Brad and I became firm in our commitment to each other and raising our children to love God and all the precious people He created. Our four older children gained the compassion I wished to teach them from time in the hospital with Faith and visiting other children like her.
Nothing has come easy, and I probably spent the first two years of Faith’s life alternating between cursing and praying. (Yes, I too am reminded of the Scripture that says that both bitter and sweet water cannot come from the fountain; it was one of the verses that convicted me.) God has been refining my heart and tongue while He continues to teach me to pray. Even if the only prayer I could pray in my exhaustion and frustration was, “O Lord, help!”
I decided to fight every battle for Faith out of love and not to give bitterness a foothold in my heart. I could be, by God’s grace, both truthful and bold in confrontation to the doctor who refused to give my daughter care while remembering God’s great compassion and mercy for me when I refused to be of help to others. God graciously used every part of those early years spent in and out of the hospital for Faith’s surgeries and sickness to open doors of ministry to my family and for my family to minister to others.
One of the great things about Faith is that when she smiles at you, she gives you everything she has. She can provide you that costly gift because God set Brad, me, her siblings, and family around her to guard her life. We have taken quite literally the command God gave us to…
1️⃣ Defend the rights of the afflicted and oppressed
2️⃣ Rescue the weak and needy from the hand of the wicked
It is a humbling and tough call to be the hands and feet of Christ upon this earth to defend the abused, marginalized, forgotten, and mistreated. In our family of God, as well as within my natural family, we have a compelling reason to answer the call of God to protect and stand for others with, “Here am I. Send me!”