I really like this I have a say campaign. Fr. John Hollowell has been posting courageous stories of pro-life women (and their families) who have a say in response to Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, and her "I have a say" campaign. I've always been pro-life. My heart aches for those who are pro-choice, for those who choose abortion. I have a say.. Having two kids with genetic illnesses and having had 18 pregnancy losses gives me a lot to say!
Little did I know that my pro-life views would be put to the test. I didn't know back then what God would allow to happen or that it would draw me closer to Him and the Catholic Church After my third son was born, we lost our fourth child, who is buried in San Antonio. I was 14 weeks pregnant. We battled to keep his body. It was a difficult time. You can read about our journey with Thomas here.
Around the same time as we lost Thomas, my middle son was diagnosed with a genetic disorder. A few years, several pregnancy losses later, my youngest son was diagnosed with the same genetic disease. In 2000, doctors felt my boys might be headed to bone marrow transplant. My oldest, non-affected son was a perfect match for Sean, but my youngest, Joseph, did not have a sibling match. Back in 2000, we were told that without a sibling donor, they would not consider Joseph for transplant because only 50% of the SDS kids with sibling transplants survived, and they had no survivors from unrelated transplants. That is when we entered the world of fertility treatment.
I still remember the look on the fertility specialist's face when we sat to talk to him. I remember telling him that we would only opt for fertility treatments that were in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church. He asked, "You already have three children why would you want more?" When we explained that we had two sons with a genetic illness, he couldn't believe we wanted more and that we would CHOOSE to chance having another child with the same illness.
We had several more early losses and then we were blessed with twins. At eight weeks, we saw their hearts beating. One of the twin's had a slower heart rate and there was concern that the baby might not survive. I was transferred to the care of a regular OB/GYN. (once a heartbeat is established, the chance of miscarriage is reported to be 2%, so a very low risk). We lost the twins when I was around 13 weeks. After a few more tries and a few more losses, we decided that we'd just leave it to God. We went through the roller coaster of fertility treatments for two years. You can read about our twins here.
In 2006, the doctors felt that Joseph was headed to transplant again. This time, they felt the need was urgent, so they did a preliminary search of the bone marrow donor databases. Joseph doesn't have a match - he was run against 6.5 million people and has no match. He has a rare allele, B3901, and his alleles are combined in such a way that make his haplotype rare. While both boys still have myelodysplatic bone marrow, the clone percentages have gone down and we continue to monitor their marrow for leukemic changes. We are at peace and know that God will provide.
We also lost several babies at home -- a wonderful priest friend helped us to bury one. So many of our losses were very early-- 6-7 weeks and we didn't have bodies to bury. The last pregnancy I lost in September of 2009, was probably the worst one for me psychologically. We saw the heartbeat at 6 1/2 weeks and really felt God was going to perform a miracle. The baby's heartbeat was a little slower than it should have been. The doctors gave us hope that it could all be due to me having the wrong date. Once the baby died, it was a month long trial and his body was reabsorbed by the time doctors decided inducing "labor" over an entire month wasn't working. You can read about these precious ones here.
I used to be angry with women who chose abortions because they CHOSE to kill their babies, and I didn't have a choice. My babies died. On the advice of a priest friend, I attended a Rachel's Vineyard retreat and came to realize that instead of anger, I should be compassionate. The women I met had an extra burden to carry-- they killed their children. The pain these women were living with humbled me. I pray for the mothers who choose abortions. Those women have a say-- and they said a lot to me. They changed my life and enabled me to get back into pro-life work (a bit, I am still working on it!)
My husband and I always thought we'd have a large family, but God had other plans. My heart has been broken and mended (by God) and we have 19 little ones in heaven. Even with all of our losses, we choose not to use any form of contraception and are still open to life. I think this is one thing that people often find to be amazing-- that we choose to be open to life even after all of the pain and loss. They can't believe that we still trust God with this "issue". We have been blessed with each new life that God has allowed to be conceived. He did not have to allow these babies to be conceived because He already knew them before he knit them in my womb. We have been blessed because we have grown closer to God and to each other during these trials. My husband has a say because he chooses not to use contraception, too. My husband has a say because these precious babies of ours affected his life-- men also experience the loss of babies in the womb. My husband has a say because he is still open to life!
I pray for the mothers and fathers who don't understand how precious life is and what a MIRACLE being able to conceive and carry a child is. Every single day of my life is different than it would have been had I been blessed with the miracle to carry those precious babies to term. My heart aches contemplating the women who do not see this precious, wonderful aspect of womanhood as a blessing! I am filled with joy when I see pregnant women or babies. Life is precious. Life is a miracle. The birth of a baby is a miracle.
We have also been blessed beyond measure with two boys with chronic genetic illnesses. We spend a lot of time in the hospital, clinics and at the doctor. We do medical treatments at home. We love them and would willingly accept ANY child God allows. I pray that all those who support eugenics will come to realize that we all have genetic flaws...none of us is perfect, but we are ALL God's children and HE has a plan for each one of us. My boys have all brought great joys and blessings to my life. I cannot imagine a world without Matthew, Sean or Joseph. Certainly, the medical trials have been hard-- but it is there in those trials that we find Jesus Christ. Sean and Joseph have a say because they are the ones Margaret Sanger wanted snuffed out! They have a say because they are created in the image and likeness of God and are fulfilling HIS plan.
I have a voice and I am going to use it! I have a say, my husband and my 3 boys have a say! We are all pro-life, practicing Catholics! Here comes the Catholic Church! Our voices will WILL be heard as we each have our say.