“You will know the tree
by the fruit that it produces….”
I often wonder, in the end, what my family will look
like. I thought by now I would know. But now instead
of having my own plans, I do know that it is God who
is in control and that His plan for my family is prefect.
And now I know that the only thing that really matters
is that my family bears everlasting fruit.
It took a lot of God’s
grace to get me to this point and I want to share how
it happened. This may initially appear to be a tragic
part of our family’s story, but it is, in reality,
a love story. A story of God’s infinite goodness
and faithfulness. This is the story of my beautiful
Mary Therese and her 38 weeks with us in my womb and
her glorious 10 hours with us on the outside.
We named her before she was
even conceived. After my fourth miscarriage, I asked
for Our Mother’s intercession. I bargained with
Our Lady and told her I would name my child in her honor
in exchange for her intercession. The day I found out
I was having a girl was the day my baby girl received
a fatal diagnosis. I was 16 weeks pregnant.
Anencephaly, anencephaly, anencephaly.
I woke up in the middle of the night and repeated this
word over and over in my head. I wanted to remember
it and get it right. But more than that, I wanted to
go back to the previous day before I had ever heard
this word. Before Mary had been given her death sentence.
Before my heart was pierced.
My husband and I googled “miracles
and anencephaly”. The only result we found was
the miracle of a baby living 10 days. There has never
been a reported case (that we could find) where an anencephalic
baby survived more than days, weeks, and maybe months.
This is why the American Catholic
Bishops chose to issue a document giving guidance to
parents who have received this diagnosis for their child.
Since there is no chance of survival, it is the most
extreme form of birth defect and therefore should give
guidance for all other adverse diagnoses. In their wisdom,
they concluded that parents are obligated to carry these
babies to full term. Their reasoning (as I understand
it) is that God has destined this baby to die from anencephaly,
not from complications due to premature birth and definitely,
not from the hands of a doctor in the form of an abortion.
What wisdom our Church has.
I was living in darkness those first few days and I
thank God that He gave me guidance through our Church
when I needed it most. When all I wanted was to be done
with this pregnancy. To go to sleep and wake up on the
other side. I think of all of the graces I would have
thrown away, graces that will, in the end, help my family’s
tree become a tree that bears everlasting fruit.
I am ashamed of all of the thoughts
I had over those first days and weeks after her diagnosis.
I hoped for a miscarriage. I hid at home, not wanting
anyone to see and know that I was pregnant and ask all
of the questions that would open the floodgate of tears.
I cried and I mourned. I mourned the loss of my hope
for a big family. This was my 6th pregnancy and I had
only one child, Katie who was now 16 months old. I mourned
for Katie’s loss of her sister and life-long best
friend. But mostly, I mourned for my loss of Mary. For
all of the lost hopes and dreams I had for this child.
For the piano recitals and soccer games that I would
never see. For the songs she would never sing and the
books she would never read. For all of this life that
I wanted to share with her and would never have the
chance. I once heard someone say that when you lose
a parent, you lose your past. When you lose a spouse,
you lose your present. When you lose a child, you lose
I believe it was the countless
people’s prayers that made me wake up one day
and know that I could not continue mourning while she
was still with me. This was my daughter’s life.
This was the only time she had on this earth. This was
the only time I would have her with me. I had to call
on the strength of God and I had to start finding joy
in the time that God gave us together. I had to learn
to rejoice that I was going to meet her face to face
on this earth and be able to kiss her cheeks and hold
her hands and hopefully see her smile. And by God’s
grace learn to accept this time with my child as the
gift that it was.
We took her to Lourdes and
to Paris. We prayed for a miracle but I knew in my heart
of hearts that the miracle would not be in the form
of a physical healing for her. I knew that this was
God’s will for her life and for our family. The
miracle came in the fact that we found God’s peace
and joy in the midst of all of the sorrow. That we were
able to find such beauty and see God’s goodness
in her short life. That countless others were touched
by the hand of God through her little life.
She was born via c-section on
June 8, 2008 at 6:45 a.m. There was no one present who
was left untouched from the anesthesiologist who wiped
my tears to the labor and delivery nurse who asked if
she could stay for the Baptism. There was a peace in
our crowded room as we took turns holding her not knowing
how long we had. Later a friend commented that it was
holy ground that could be felt immediately upon entering
the hospital room.
At 5:00 p.m. her labored breathing
was suddenly silent. I hadn’t realized how loud
it was or how much it comforted me while at the same
time bringing me pain knowing that not one of her breaths
came without effort. I told her to run to Jesus. She
had earned her crown.
Three different friends had
visions of our Mary after her death. In one vision Jesus
was holding her as an infant and he wanted this friend
to call us and let us know that she was with Him. In
another vision, an old family friend woke up in the
middle of the night and saw my deceased father holding
her as a toddler and beaming. It had always been a regret
of mine that my father wouldn’t know any of my
children and my children wouldn’t know him.
The third vision was of my Mary
standing with Our Lady of Sorrows. My Mary was a young
woman and was reported to look just like me. Our Lady
said, “Whether you hold your child for only an
hour or see your Child crucified to a cross, the depth
of the sorrow is the same”. Then my Mary said
to thank her parents for giving her eternal life. My
child is a handmaiden to Our Lady! What more could a
mother ask for?
God is faithful. As promised,
he brings joy after the rain. We buried Mary next to
my father in Louisiana and came home to a glorious summer
in the mountains of Utah. I was able to find renewed
joy in being Katie’s mom and in spending my days
playing with her. And I saw Mary everywhere I went.
She was the hawk that followed us when we were out for
our daily hike. I watched her soar and fly effortlessly
as she would dip down to check in on us and I was a
And now she goes with me everywhere.
She is the young woman in the vision and she is my friend
and she intercedes for us and I know that she will continue
to help me on the road to my salvation and that she
will be looking out for her father and her sister as
well as her brothers and sisters to come. She is a vessel
of God’s grace for us all.
I am writing this almost ten
months after her death and I want to share God’s
goodness. “If you in your sinfulness know how
to give your children good things, how much more does
our Heavenly Father know how to give you good things?”.
I am currently 29 weeks pregnant with a beautiful, healthy
baby girl. This baby will be born within a couple of
weeks of Mary’s birth. She will, in no way, be
a replacement for Mary. No one could replace my beautiful
daughter. This baby is a unique and beautiful gift from
God just like Mary was.
So I will soon have a better
picture of what my family is going to look like. I feel
like a kid a Christmas. God is taking care of the details
and I believe our Mary is sitting on His lap and smiling
as His plan unfolds before our eyes.
God is good!
A Tribute to Mary
Thank you for being here today
to celebrate the life of our child. A child who was
created exactly the way our Creator designed and in
His eyes was perfect. She was “knitted in my womb”
and was “fearfully and wonderfully made”.
And since meeting my beautiful daughter, I would not
want any other child than the Mary that God gave to
us. As a proud mother, I want to share just a few of
the many powerful lessons that my child, who never spoke
a word, has taught me.
First, Mary taught me a lesson
in the value of life.
Many in our world say that
our Mary’s life had no value or meaning and should
have been ended earlier to spare us the heartache. We
are here today because we know that is not true. There
is nothing that she could have done to earn her value
or to earn God’s love. Her value lay in the fact
that she was a child of God who was fashioned in the
image and likeness of Him. She is the daughter of the
Most High King.
This fact made me think how
this is true for each and every one of us. There is
nothing we can do to earn our own value or to earn the
love of God. He loves us because we are His. We can
do things to make Him a proud or disappointed Father,
but nothing we can do can make Him love us any more
or any less.
How often we run around feeling
pressure to do something to try to make a difference
in this world, and somehow leave it a better place.
Then there is Mary, whose life touched so many lives
in ways that are beyond reason and understanding, and
all because she was a child of God and was fulfilling
His Will for her life. I can only hope that my relatively
long life will have the impact that hers did. Second,
Mary taught me a lesson in trust.
Mary has taught both me and
Joe how to “walk by faith and not by sight”.
We have learned to trust that God has a better plan
for our family and for our lives, and the lives of our
children; than we have for ourselves. Learning to trust
that God is in control of every situation, even when
our human hearts are pierced and broken. If we look
with eyes of faith, we know that our suffering is fashioned
to draw us closer to God and secure for us eternal life
with Him. This trust has the power to banish all fear,
and all feelings of self-pity, and turn our weeping
The following scripture verse
from Habakkuk was given to me by a friend, when Mary
was first diagnosed. It is one I’ve prayed throughout
this journey. First I prayed it through tears of sorrow,
not understanding completely. But after a while I was
able to pray it with conviction and it has brought me
to a place of deeper trust:
the fig tree blossom not, nor fruit be on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces
produce no nourishment,
Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there
be no herd in the stalls,
Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving
God, my Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet swift
as those of hinds
And enables me to go upon the heights.”
Third, Mary taught me a lesson
Someone said to me that this
journey would be life-defining for me and Joe. What
I’ve found is that I am not as strong as I once
believed. Through this journey if I ever took my eyes
off of God and His Will, I sunk to the depths and nothing
made sense. God is my strength. Without His Grace, I
am weak and have nothing to give. With His Grace, I
am upheld in the darkest days.
One night I had an image of
Joe and I standing at a crossroads. There were two paths.
One was a straight path that looked easy to walk but
immediately entered a place of darkness where frightening,
unknowns lurked. The other path was a rocky hard climb
up a mountain, which also led to the unknown, but there
was light at the top. We could only see the first few
steps of the climb, but knew that it didn’t get
easier, and to reach to top would be a daunting task.
Neither path looked inviting, and we were both afraid.
But we knew that there was really no choice. We had
to climb the mountain. God had backed us into a corner.
And I thank Him for that because He knows us so well
and loves us so much. He knew we would never attempt
such an ascent if we had an easier choice.
So when people comment on how
strong we are, I am humbled, because all we are doing
is putting one foot in front of the other down a path
that God has laid before us, often mumbling complaints
along the way. I wish I could say we were running and
skipping up the mountain and singing joyfully. But maybe
this is preparing us for other mountains, and we will
be in better shape to climb them.
Joe and I were also humbled
by the countless number of people who reached out to
us, and those who kept us in their constant prayers
– sometimes total strangers. I learned that the
saying “it is easier to give than to receive”
is true. Joe and I were awed by the outpouring of help
and support of so many wonderful people and humbly accepted
the help in our ascent knowing we couldn’t make
it on our own. These past five months we’ve experienced
the mystical Body of Christ present and among us, and
working today, and it is beautiful to behold.
Last, Mary taught me a lesson
in life and death.
“Oh death where is your
sting?” Mary’s life and death taught us
that our own lives are but a “flash in the pan”
and it has been a constant reminder that we are living
this life to get to our eternal destination.
There is nothing more Joe or
I can do for our child here on earth. In my humanness,
I feel so inadequate because I could not do more for
Mary. But our job as parents is to get our children
to heaven. God, in His wisdom, has taken care of Mary
for us. I know that she was greeted by my earthly father,
and that she is whole now and is dancing and playing
like a little girl should, and that she is united with
her other siblings who we never got the privilege of
meeting. And I know that she will be one of the first
to greet me when I get there, and she will present me
to Our Lord, and we will be forever reunited. Until
that moment, I believe my heart will never cease to
ache and I will be homesick for my eternal home.
I thank God for allowing me
and trusting me to be the mother of Mary, for the lessons
her life has taught me and her father, and for the lessons
she has taught many others who were touched by her life.
I call her “our” Mary because she is part
of all of you that have walked this journey with us.
Our lives are irrevocably changed because of the brief
encounter with our beautiful child. And for that, I
am a very proud mother.
to Anencephaly Stories
-The support, information and encouragement provided by the PPFL parents is not meant to take the place of medical advice by a medical professional. Any specific questions about care should be directed to a health care professional familiar with the situation.