“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” the saying goes and many times this is true. But I must say during this time of a slower-paced life and staying indoors it has given me an opportunity to learn new things – even when I’m not looking for them. Today I visited the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website to get an update on Holy Week livestreaming events. While on the site I flittered from one link to another gathering tidbits of information that I never knew existed. And then I landed on a video clip that mentioned Lily’s Gift and another aspect of being involved in the pro-life culture was opened to me.
Lily’s Gift is a ministry of parents and medical professionals who work to support parents who have been given a poor prenatal diagnosis. The program is in collaboration with the Archdiocese’s Office of Persons with Disabilities, the Office of Life and Family and Catholic Social Services. It follows the support training of Be Not Afraid (BNA). BNA is a private non-profit organization which provides comprehensive case management to parents carrying to term, rather than terminating the pregnancy, following a poor prenatal diagnosis and follows the ethical teachings of the Catholic Church. The stories and examples of parents who have received a poor prenatal diagnosis are heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. We all know the excitement of learning of a new life and it’s difficult to imagine what it must be like the day you learn that your pregnancy will not be routine and your baby’s life could last just minutes after birth. Below is an excerpt from a mother’s personal narrative about carrying an anencephalic child. Her story is even more touching because this happened to her with two pregnancies and her sister also experienced it with a son.
“There is no way to avoid the sad fact that she cannot live long after birth with this condition, but causing Charlotte to die earlier will not stop this happening. Causing her to die earlier will only take from us the beautiful experience of knowing and loving her.
The tragedy is not the fact that we know our baby will die. The tragedy is that our baby will die. It is not nice to know for months beforehand, but it gives us a chance to appreciate a life so brief, and not to miss a moment.
The value of Thomas Walter, Benedict and Charlotte cannot be measured by the length of their lives – we don’t apply this yardstick to adults, so why should we to babies? A baby is not a possession, an accessory to acquire. A baby is a gift, a new entity, a precious, individual soul loved by God. We are created for a purpose, there is a reason for our being here. Even if that reason is unclear to us most of the time, we are constantly affecting other people in our families, communities etc. Who knows what purpose can be fulfilled in 9 months and one day? I don’t know, but God does.”
There are many obstacles to overcome besides the emotional acceptance of what is to be. Organizations like Lily’s Gift offer support in the preparation of medical decision making and neonatal critical care. One couple offered advice in that they insisted that their child be treated as any other child after birth and they had a birth plan in place. The nurses and doctors were aware that they were not to treat this child with less dignity just because of the lethal diagnosis.
While it is so difficult to imagine these circumstances, it is comforting to know that there are organizations like this out there to offer support, answer questions and walk through this journey with these parents who are adamant about giving their child a right to life, whether it be just a few minutes, a few hours or a few years.
My idle time was well spent today. I was reminded that it is not just about parents who want to end a child’s life. It is also about those parents who are willing to fight for those very few but oh so very, very precious moments of life.