What would you do if you had to choose between your life and your baby’s life?
I never really thought I would have to choose. Since college it was always just a hypothetical question to me. Up to that point in my life, I had even heard most pro-life supporters affirm that abortion is always wrong—with the exception of the mother’s life being in jeopardy. That exception had always troubled me. In college I decided that if I ever had to choose, I’d go with the baby and trust God. I never thought I’d actually have to make that choice.
Fast forward four years and 25 weeks. The dark ultrasound room was quiet. My ultra-normal, 25-week pregnancy was falling to pieces before my eyes. When the doctor finally broke the silence, “Katie, we’re concerned about your baby,” my heart was crushed. My doctor explained that our sweet daughter’s body was badly deformed. Our daughter had no left arm. She had no right leg. Her left leg was badly clubbed and her right arm seemed atrophied. The doctor feared Eve’s brain and organs could not sustain her outside the womb.
Instantly, my heart encountered shock, terror and sorrow like I have never known. They allowed my husband and me to have a moment alone to absorb the news before meeting privately with our doctor to discuss our options.
My heart sunk further as I listened to the doctor’s “medical opinion.” She never said the word “abortion,” but the suggestion had been made perfectly clear. It was posed with such delicate phrases: “My concern is to keep Katie as safe as possible. ... We need to think about what a delivery could mean for Katie.” I could hardly listen; I was consumed with begging God to spare my daughter. Was my doctor really telling me my daughter wasn’t worth saving? As soon as I realized her suggestion, I remembered that I had made this choice long ago.
Suddenly, amidst my sorrow, I knew that God had been preparing me for this moment, in this doctor’s office, for years. I suddenly found myself thankful as I unhesitatingly responded: “I want to save my daughter.”
My choice didn’t make the coming days easier. I had limitless questions of every possible “why” and “how.” I wasn’t mad at God, but I was frustrated. I felt like David when he cried out to God, begging him to come in and make sense of the mess. I experienced pain that is too deep for words. I know I am not the first, or unfortunately, the last woman to experience sorrow of this nature. It comes in all different shapes and sizes, but ultimately has the same root issue—the effects of sin had corrupted something that was supposed to be beautiful.
I received a lot of different advice and words of wisdom from many women during those days—some good advice, some not so good. As I went through my own struggles, I couldn’t help but realize that there were certain truths that applied not only to me, but to every woman who has experienced the pain of something beautiful being affected by a fallen world:
—I learned that I needed to allow grief. Too often, when Christian women hear of a crisis in someone’s life they actually ignore that it’s a crisis and essentially discourage grieving. It’s well meaning, but unbiblical (Romans 12:15). Cry out to God, not to undermine or question his Sovereignty, but in order to understand his will. It’s okay to be honest if you don’t understand what he’s doing. My daughter’s tragedy incapacitated me. No one was counseling me just to cry and grieve, but that’s all I could do—cry out to the Lord (Romans 8:26). My intense grief and groanings for my daughter brought me to the deepest connection I’ve ever had with God. This newfound intimacy enabled me to be able to trust him regardless of the storm (Psalm 34:18).
—I learned to accept that while sin may cause evil, nothing my baby did was sinful. Neither the man of John 9 nor his parents had caused his blindness, although he was blind as a consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve. This difference is so crucial! No one grieves the effects of sin for their children more than God the Father. Yet he worked through the fall to transform us into his daughters and heirs of the promise (Romans 8:17). For me, that means I can weep guilt-free with my daughter when she cries because of her differences. It means I can confidently teach her that God is powerful enough to take any effect of the fall and display his glorious work through it (John 9:3).
—I learned the importance of depending entirely on God’s strength. Shortly after I delivered my daughter, I received a sweet note from a wise woman. She told me she would be praying for me as I discovered God’s strength for my journey. I simply couldn’t phrase it any better. Throughout the pregnancy my husband read Psalm 91 out loud to me. I started to visualize myself as a wounded and weak soldier, too tired to go on and ready for death but suddenly finding myself completely covered under God’s impenetrable shelter. Nothing about me had changed; I was still weak and ready to die. The only thing that had changed was that Someone was protecting me from the continual onslaught. I wasn’t being strong at all; I knew that for sure. Instead, I was learning to discover just how powerful God’s strength is. When I realized how limited my strength was, I was able to fully learn what it means to hide in the cleft of the rock.
There’s no way I could have known in college the emotional and spiritual battle that choosing life would entail. But I’m incredibly thankful that God is sovereign and helped strengthen me for the challenge, years before I knew I needed it.
We had a difficult pregnancy that entailed bi-weekly ultrasounds, lots of blood work, prayers and tears. After 37 weeks, our beautiful, healthy daughter was born. She is still missing two limbs, but her arm isn’t atrophied at all. The children’s hospital has been correcting her foot since she was four weeks old, and she just got her first prosthetic leg! She’s also unbelievably cute and smart with eyes as blue as the ocean.
I know we still have trials ahead of us. Eventually she will realize she’s different and will weep because of it. My prayer is that she will persevere because of the same truths I have come to embrace. Our fallen world hurts, but God is more powerful and is a shelter like no other.