In January of 2021 I discovered that I was pregnant. The emotion was huge. We could not believe that soon we would be a family of five.
The normal symptoms of pregnancy began. Nausea, insomnia, sleepiness… the “normal” and “expected.” During the 10th week, we went to the doctor and in the ultrasound we could see the heart of the baby and everything was “normal” and “expected.” We shared the news with our girls, the family and friends. We were all very happy.
In the twelfth week, exactly on the first of March, we received the news that changed the way we would see life forever. I arrived at my appointment in order to see the “normal” and the “expected.” I went alone because with COVID precautions, my husband could not accompany me to my appointments. A thing that was already frustrating with a “normal” pregnancy.
By the face of the woman who performed my ultrasound and her few words, I sensed that something was not good. Something in me knew. In a very grim manner, she only told me: “I already know what it is. Do you want me to tell you? It is a boy.” I felt a great emotion because deep within I was dying with the desire that it would be a boy. They sent me to a room to speak with the doctor and I knew that what was happening in that moment was not the “normal” or the “expected,” but the opposite. I began to sweat, I could not breathe through my mask. Then the doctor came in. He pulled out a chair and sat next to me. In that moment I knew that my life was about to change forever. I said to him, “Is it bad? Very bad?”
With tears in his eyes and with a hug, he answered me with what a father and mother NEVER would want to hear: “You baby is very sick. He has a chromosmatic condition. I do not know the exact details, but there is a specialist who can receive you at this moment.”
I don’t remember well what happened afterward. I entered into a different state of consciousness – between sleep, wakefulness, trauma, shock… The doctor had to speak to my husband to explain to him what was happening because I could not even pick up the telephone. But in spite of all his insistence, there was no way that my husband could enter into the hospital to be with me. I know that we are all sick and tired of COVID, but I was never so tired of it as on that day.
Alone and as I could, I went to see the specialist. I remember thinking as I was driving, he has Down’s syndrome. It will be difficult, but not impossible. With God’s help we will get through this as a family. I tried to find comfort and think positively.
The doctor quickly received me and upon seeing the ultrasound confirmed the gravity of the matter. He told me that the baby had a syndrome called Trisomia 18 or Edwards’s Syndrome, and that it was, sadly, incompatible with life. I still do not remember well the details. I only know that the words “incompatible with life” will never be erased from my head. I went home with a stack of papers to “inform us” about the problem that the baby had and with the words from the doctor: “Talk with your husband and see what you decide. In these cases, the great majority decide to terminate the pregnancy, since the baby does not have a probability of surviving.”
I arrived home and my husband was waiting for me on the stairs of the entrance. We gave each other the biggest embrace that we had given in our lives. We cried for hours. After the shock, we began to read the papers with the information.
My husband and I decided to continue with the pregnancy. We knew that it was not going to be an easy decision and that we were going to face a great challenge, but we were willing to leave the decision to God and that our baby would be with us the time that He wished. Without a doubt, we knew that we had to put ourselves in God’s hands and trust.
It is not easy. We always say that as Catholics we have faith. Daily, we pray the Our Father, repeating the words “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” But, do we really think about it? Do we really put our lives in His hands? Or do we just repeat the phrase that we learned as children without understanding its meaning? Only on that day did I know how complicated it was for human beings to accept the will of God and even less to trust that He does everything for a reason and that we must be at peace with this.
Many people told me that we had chosen the most difficult path. They questioned us, especially me, about why we wanted to go through all this, the pregnancy, the hope of our daughters as they saw my belly grow, to see our baby suffer upon being born, etc. We thought completely the opposite. For us it was going to be much more difficult to live thinking that we had not given our son the opportunity to be with us the time that he would desire to be.
We knew that this decision would give us peace over the years. It was the moment to teach our daughters respect and love for life. And we had the great opportunity of doing it without words, without using examples from Disney movies that had a “pretty message,” without using books that at the end had a “great teaching.” It was the opportunity to teach them with our example that love for the family and the children is the most important, that a faithful marriage is being together in good times and bad, in the health of the children and also in their illness. That life is loved and respected. Emilio put in our hands the opportunity of teaching the virtues of patience, faith, hope, and charity in a direct way.
Because if we had to do anything during 24 weeks, it was to be patient, live today and in the present without allowing our thoughts to fly into the future. If this happened, we tried to immediately return to the here and now. Through Emilio we could teach them that life is not easy, but that we must be brave and trust in God. That they may see that, as the mothers they will be, if they so decide, physical pain and discomfort have a sense beyond this earthly life, and that the tests that God places before us will give fruit that will be seen throughout our lives, fruits that without a doubt will be multiplied in eternal life. Finally… so many things that a pregnancy “incompatible with life” like Emilio’s can teach us.
We were told that the majority of these babies are lost at some point during the second trimester of pregnancy. But this did not happen. The uncertainty continued for 24 more weeks. Twenty-four weeks full of pain and anguish, during which we could not avoid asking ourselves, why? Why us? And we focused on what we have always been told, better to ask, for what purpose?
We tried to live a “normal” life, following the routine and activities of the girls, always with the anguish of not knowing at what moment we would lose the baby. It was a constant thought.
But it was not all bad. Without a doubt during these 24 weeks we could rethink many things. We realized that having two healthy children was a true miracle. That we had much to be thankful for, principally for the affection and love of our families and friends, that never stopped being shown throughout this painful process. We learned to enjoy life more and the small things that make us happy. We realized that happiness is in truth a choice, and that pain, as they say, is inevitable, but suffering is optional. We suffered, yes, of course we suffered, but we never let ourselves fall. We held the hands of God and the Virgin Mary. We got through it for our three children. I was able to get through it for them and for the great human being that I have at my side, the father of my children. He was my greatest blessing within this so painful chapter. The loss of a child is the unique sorrow that you can live together as parents. It is something that unites you in a different and very special way. Even so, each one lived it in a different way, with our own processes, but without a doubt we became closer, something for which I do not stop giving thanks. We had to grow on a spiritual level and in our marriage in a “forced march.” Nobody asked us if we wanted to go through this, however we did it in the best way we could, and I believe that we did not do so badly given the circumstances.
Now I believe more than ever in the sentence: “God does not send you anything that you cannot bear.” During those 24 weeks I thought that I was not going to be able to do more, that at some point I would become crazy or that the moment would come when I would not be able to get out of bed because of the sadness. I thought I would not be able to face the birth and to carry on. But it was not so. God gave us the necessary strength to go through with it.
When the moment came to know Emilio in week 36, it was curiously the day that I was more at peace and tranquil. I was afraid, but definitely it was not the lowest point of the last 6 months. Emilio, whose name means “kind,” was all this and more that day. He was born without life after an easy birth without pain. We were able to baptize him, to know him, carry and embrace him. His sisters could put a face to him and say goodbye to him.
Emilio will always be with us. We will never forget his passage through this world, though brief. He taught us what we could never have learned through years.
Thank you, chamaquito (little one) as his Daddy says. Thank you, Emilio, our great teacher.