I wrote earlier today of the passing into eternity of my friend and 9/11 hero, Kevin McQuade.
I came home tonight to news of another newly minted saint. Baby Emily (name changed), a child born this month with catastrophic developmental anomalies entered into her rest this evening. This is a baby that many in the pro-life movement rallied around when it appeared that the hospital might have been pushing for mom to disconnect life support before the mom was ready.
There is something poignant about baby Emily’s story that I would just like to reflect upon for a moment. In the case of a baby born with catastrophic anomalies, it is important to do research and look for teams that handle the difficulty and seek out second and even third opinions. From what I was able to ascertain, the hospital did this at some point. However, we were able to find a noteworthy team that hadn’t been contacted.
The prognoses were consistent and clear: nothing on earth could be done for this baby.
In such circumstances it is vital, VITAL to bear in mind that there is not one patient, but two, before us. The mother, being postpartum, is also a medical patient. She may be experiencing postpartum depression, exacerbated by the catastrophic circumstances before her. HOW things are handled will determine if the mother lives the next 50 years with second-thoughts and self-loathing, or with a sense of satisfaction that she did all she could for her child.
Over the past few days the baby’s body began to shut down. Her mom was a hero to me, not wanting to quit and working to overturn every stone. I told her of my high esteem for her courage, love, and tenacity. But there comes a point when respirators and other interventions can actually become burdensome to the dying patient, and I explained to mom that the doctors at this point were telling her the truth.
What baby Emily needed now was not mommy the lioness, but just mommy to hold her and comfort her as she finished her brief pilgrimage here among us. I shared this with mom as well.
So, tonight baby Emily died quietly in mommy’s arms, surrounded by a loving family. Her mom emerges from this experience having spent a couple of extra weeks in the NICU than if she had given up on her baby sooner. Perhaps some mothers can process the reality sooner and accept the reality sooner than others.
But Emily’s two extra weeks on the respirator actually aided in buying her mother the time she needed to satisfy herself that indeed there was nothing that could be done. The result? One of the patients went straight to Heaven, and the other went home to live out the rest of her life with a sense of integrity about how she tried to save her baby’s fragile life.
That gets lost in all of the talk about medical economics. However, as the great psychologist Erik Erikson taught us, the end of life is characterized by us evaluating our lives either with a sense of integrity, or despair.
Getting one mother there with integrity?
Please pray for Emily’s family, and for my friend Kevin’s family, who also did it with integrity.
We have two new advocates before the Father tonight.
Many thanks to all of the pro-lifers who helped this family: Alliance Defense Fund, Terri Schiavo Help and Hope Network, Premie Prints, AAPLOG, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, Peg Kolm of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and Be Not Afraid.
The family was lifted up by all of that love and support.