BROTHER, SISTER, BROTHER STORY
New baby brother is resting in his sister’s lap. His brother takes his turn. Their mother had been strongly advised to “terminate the pregnancy”… that is to say, their little brother. Sharing these pictures with me, she said, “I’m always available to share my experience with anyone who wants to hear. Life is something given and taken by God. We are not intended to interfere, at any point.”
Dad, all his grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles were gathered about, quietly talking in the warm sunny room. Mom sat in the chair by the window quietly holding him. He was wrapped in the blue and white blanket Granny knit for him.
“Tommy” had just come home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He was sleeping. Everyone knew their little boy was expected to live only a few more days. They chose to bring him home.
At home they could dress comfortably, receive visitors and rest. Together they loved Tommy, treasuring this interlude with all their strength.
I was a nurse on their hospice team.
A few days later, Tommy died. My team mate, “Jeannie,” was much more experienced in hospice care. She and I made this visit together.
Mom asked me to put a new outfit on her little son. She stayed with me as I washed his face and hands. She put lotion on his arms and legs. I dressed him and wrapped him in his little blanket. Tommy’s Mother went back to the chair by the window and sat down, keeping him in her arms.
Jeannie called the funeral director and gave him specific instructions.
“When you get here, take your time. Let the family help the mother hand you her baby. This will be agony for her. Leave the baby face uncovered, unless the family requests otherwise. Carry the baby gently in your arms when you take him from the house.”
THE TWINS’ STORY
Elvira Parravicini, M.D., wrote “Aspects of Beauty: The Medical Care of Terminally Ill Newborns.” During med school, I decided to become a neonatologist. I had been participating in the meetings for prenatal diagnosis in my hospital. I stopped going to these meetings. It was just too painful. The proposal was always for termination of pregnancy. There was no space for me as neonatologist. I believe that any medical condition can be treated, whether the estimated length of life is ninety years or seven minutes.
One day, I did go to the meeting.
The doctor presented the cases of two women expecting babies with a life-limiting condition. These women did not want to terminate. Who is going to take care of these babies? I raised my hand and said, “We can do comfort care.”
Comfort care is not a matter of trying to be kind to the patient, and not doing anything medical because there is nothing we can do. Because there is no recovery possible, the patient’s comfort becomes the main goal of treatment. Comfort care is a medical and a nursing treatment. To be comfortable a newborn baby needs to be welcomed, clean and warm. The baby should not be thirsty, hungry or in pain.
“Kangaroo care” is a good example of comfort care. These babies get cold easily. In an incubator, the baby cannot be close to parents. Kangaroo care is skin-to-skin contact. Mom and Dad alternately hold baby on their chest. Family can visit. Spending time together the family celebrates the joy of having their baby close.
BABY SIAMESE TWINS
The teenaged parents had tattoos and piercing. Many staff suggested that they should “terminate the pregnancy.” They refused. “These are our babies.”
The babies shared a single heart with severe anomalies. They had to be delivered prematurely because Mom had high blood pressure.
I felt sad in the delivery room. People were saying that this Mom was crazy to bring the babies to term. “She is going to get a cesarean section. This wound will mark all her life. She will possibly have problems having other children.” Some young physicians in training were ready with their cameras to take pictures of the “rare case.”
Finally, here they are! The two beautiful little girls were embracing each other because they had been united by their chest their entire life.
The Father asked me if he could hold them. “Of course,” I said. The babies were just gasping a little bit. Their heart was beating very slowly. Their Father kept reassuring his children. “Don’t worry. Daddy is here!”
I wondered, “Who knows what grades this teenager gets at school? He is a great Father!”
The atmosphere in the delivery room had completely changed. I saw tears. People were embracing this young Father. The cameras were no longer around. The people were the same, but completely changed.
Edited for space
Today, the little brother is 2 years old and keeping his family busy as “he gets into everything.”
The story of the other two families ends differently.
During their short time, the other three babies were surrounded by family, cherished, held, warmed, cuddled, breathed on, smiled at, kissed, hugged, loved … and loved some more.
The dying of the frail babies targeted for termination and the anguish of their parents progresses quite differently. Abortion tears a ghastly hole through which a terrible darkness enters the human heart. It bloodies the baby body. It bloodies the hands of everyone who consents.
God continues to love each and every person guilty of this horror. Fear not little flock. Run to your Father. Tell him about your sin and your anguish. Repent. Run to safety…to the open loving arms of your Father. He knows what to do.
* NOTES FROM THE SIDEWALK *
PAT 7-9 SHIFT MANAGER
I question my sanity on only two mornings each winter. The first is when I wake up and realize that it’s the day of the March for Life. It then hits me that I’m about to face 10 hours in a bus and lots of time outdoors in potentially cold weather in a sea of people. The second is when I wake up and remember that I’ve agreed to take the 7-9 AM 40 DFL shift on a cold Sunday morning. Yet shortly after that realization hit me this morning, I started to reflect on what Nikki wrote in her blog on Wednesday. And it helped. Basically she said that we don’t do what we do because we love doing it. In fact, we’d rather be almost anywhere else. But we do do it because of love.
Today my parish, St. Regis in Trafford, did our part by taking the first of two 2-hour shifts this campaign. And my fears that I might be alone (which I have each time) were put to rest when Rose from the North Hills arrived early. She was followed by my most faithful couple from St. Regis, Yolanda and Albert, who is a brother Knight of Columbus. Then Bill, the Grand Knight for our council, arrived and took his maiden voyage out in front of PP. Shortly after that, we were joined by one of the best prayers 40 DFL has, Vince, also from the North Hills. [Sorry Rose and Vince, but I forgot your respective parishes.] All stayed for the entire two hours as we alternated praying with good conversation.
SUE 9-11 SHIFT MANAGER
My first shift of the vigil was a peaceful blessing. As we prayed, Arlene, Bill, Lisa, and I experienced no negative reactions to our sidewalk presence and many positive ones. Many families with young children were walking by us; there must have been an event in town today geared to families (auto show?). I wonder how many conversations were initiated in those young families by our presence and signs. I hope lots of good ones!
RICHARD AND ROSEANN 11-1 SHIFT MANAGERS
It was cold! Two prayer volunteers joined us for about 11/2 hours. We have been with 40 Days since the beginning. We are glad.
MAGGIE 1-3 SHIFT MANAGER
We had a couple of oddities. However, everything came out well.
On a positive note I had 5 amazing prayers with me and we prayed 3 scriptural rosaries! It was a grand time of prayer!
KEN 3-5 SHIFT MANAGER
I was blessed with plenty of prayer partners at my shift today.
Joe and Kim who prayed on the previous shift with SM Maggie stayed with me well into my first hour. Joe and Karen and their beautiful family from St. Monica Parish responded to the SOS for SM standing alone and prayed with me the entire time. Joining us was our regular Pat from St. Bernadette’s. Also Steve and Denise came from St. Joseph’s and regular Kathy.
There were a few unfriendly remarks or gestures but plenty of hope too. There was a family who stopped for pictures of the fetal models. A young man, Joe came by to say thank you to a SM who answered all his questions in a previous encounter and helped him to see the good in the work that we do at 40 days for life.
JOE 5-7 SHIFT MANAGER
Shared my entire shift with Jim and Cathy from Saint Gregory’s parish in
It was a peaceful shift with peaceful, virtuous company. 40 days seems
to be filled with these wonderful Christians. I hope and pray those
virtues infiltrate my hardened heart.
All glory and praise be to God.
AND GOD SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD