Rich Reese

‘We never stopped trusting’: expecting triplets, couple was advised to make a horrifying choice

Rich Reese
By Rich Reese
Image
Image

October 24, 2011 (NCCatholic.org) - It’s 10 a.m. in the Holly Springs, North Carolina home of Erin and Jennifer Conley, and it’s breakfast time for their triplets, Jillian, Rebecca and Sarah. The three nine-month-old girls sit in identical chairs as their mom spoons vegetables and cereal to each in turn. Erin and Jennifer’s 3-year-old son, Adam, sits in the living room with their Labrador Retriever, Madison, surrounded by baby toys.

As the girls have grown, their individual looks and personalities have started to emerge. Rebecca, who was the smallest of the three at birth, is now the biggest, while first-born Jillian, who was the biggest, is now smaller than the other two. Sarah is focused on breakfast, while the other two seem happily curious about the visitors who have come to hear their parents’ story.

What is more heartwarming than the sight of a happy baby? And here there are three! It’s impossible to imagine that anyone could ever have wished them harm. Yet, not long ago a doctor who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth had suggested that one of the girls be “sacrificed.”

Join a Facebook page to end abortion here

At twelve weeks, when it became clear that Jennifer was expecting triplets, her obstetrician referred her to a specialist. The ultrasound showed that the babies, now known as A, B and C, were all doing well. So the parents were shocked when the doctor began to paint a frightening picture.

She recited statistics about the special dangers of pregnancy and fetal development with triplets, the potential birth defects and complications that could attend multiple births. “The glass was always half-empty,” Erin recalled, “never half full.”

“Is there anything wrong with the children?” the parents wanted to know.

“Not at this point,” the doctor said. “But triplets are dangerous. And you know, if they all survive to term, it takes parents more than 24 hours a day to care properly for three infants.”

After listing all the things that could go wrong, the doctor proposed a solution: “Selective reduction.”  By aborting one of the children, she said, there would be more room in the womb for the other two, improving the chances for a “healthy” pregnancy and delivery.

“It didn’t really sink in on me until later,” Erin said, “what she was really suggesting. We had three babies who were doing fine. The doctor recognized that they were living children, our children; they had letter ‘names’ to distinguish them. And she was advising us to kill one of them!”

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Jennifer said. “I let her finish, and then I said there was no way I could permit something like that. It was against my faith.” Not just against her Catholic faith, Jennifer realized, but against her and Erin’s faith in God.

“We didn’t do in vitro,” Erin explains, referring to a procedure where several eggs are fertilized outside the womb and surgically implanted. The Church opposes this procedure because it “dissociates the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2377). “We expected one child. That we had three, they were God’s gift to us. All of them.”

The doctor hadn’t given up, though. “If it developed,” she said, “that one of the babies was threatening the health of the others, would you consider ‘reduction’ at that point?”

Jennifer reiterated her opposition to anything that would harm any of the triplets. “We came out of the office traumatized,” she says. “I don’t think Erin had completely digested what she was saying. Later he called me from work and he was crying.”

“That was my first reaction,” Erin said. “And then I felt incredibly angry.”

The parents returned to the referring physician. “I said that if they couldn’t find a doctor who understood how much these children meant to us, I’d find one myself. My babies were healthy!” Erin said. “Fortunately they referred us to a second specialist who remained totally positive throughout the pregnancy.”

As Jennifer carried the triplets in the ensuing weeks, “God was with us every step of the way,” she said. “My friends at work said, ‘If there’s anyone we know with a strong faith in God, it’s you two, and we know you’re going to make it.’”

Hadn’t the warnings from the first doctor made Erin and Jennifer fearful? “Those things were still in the backs of our minds, of course,” Erin said, “but we never stopped trusting that God would be with us.”

“I’d think of those things,” Jennifer said, “but it would be just passing thoughts. Our faith in God is so strong. We believe in Him and depend on Him in good times and bad, and we thank Him for both, because everything we have is because of God.”

Jennifer also began attending support meetings with Triangle Moms of Twins and Triplets. “It was great going there and seeing what was possible,” Erin said. “I thought if they can do it, why not me?”

When a mother is pregnant with multiples, especially with three or more babies, “making it” comes with slightly limited expectations. The babies will probably be born early, and often require some hospitalization after birth. When Jennifer talked to a nurse about scheduling a C-section, the nurse suggested a “pretend date” at 32 weeks of gestation.  “No one makes that,” she said, “but it’s a goal. If it’s sooner, we can handle it.”

Jennifer made it easily to 32 weeks, then 33 and 34. At 36 weeks, she walked into the hospital. Hours later, her daughters came into the world. Jillian was first, at 6 pounds, 3 ounces; then Rebecca, at five pounds; and finally Sarah, a few ounces short of six pounds.

At home, their family suddenly doubled in size, Erin and Jennifer gratefully welcomed the help of her parents, who came to North Carolina from their home in upstate New York and spent three months helping. They also hired an au pair, Vanessa Fernandez from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Her journey to the Conleys was an answer to Vanessa’s prayers. After signing with an agency that finds employment in the U.S. for au pairs, Vanessa, a devout Catholic, found more than one couple eager to hire her. “We chose her because she was Catholic,” Jennifer said.

While Jennifer was carrying her children, Vanessa was praying for guidance in choosing a family to work for. “When I saw that they would have triplets,” Vanessa said with a smile, “I wasn’t so sure I could handle that.” But when she learned the scheduled date for Jennifer’s C-section in November, 2010, it had a special significance for her. Her father had passed away four years before. She still missed him and prayed for him, and Jennifer’s delivery date turned out to be his birthday.

Erin, Jennifer, Vanessa and all their children make it to Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Cary each Sunday, but they find each day, with its ups and downs, an occasion for thanks, and an affirmation of the trust they continue to place in the Lord.

“It’s kind of strange sometimes, isn’t it,” Jennifer said, “the way God speaks to us? We just have to open our ears, our hearts and our souls and listen.”

Join a Facebook page to end abortion here

Note: Rich Reese is the editor of NC Catholic, the online magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. This article originally appeared in NC Catholic and is reprinted here with the generous permission of Reese.


Advertisement
Featured Image
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

‘It’s a miracle’: Newborn girl survives two days after being abandoned in a field

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

The survival of a baby who was abandoned by her mother and left in a field for two days has been described as "a miracle" by the doctor attending the newborn girl.

"She had been left alone naked, and weighed less than a kilogram, in part because she was so severely dehydrated," said Doctor Barbara Chomik at the hospital in the northern Polish city of Elblag, according to a report from Central European News.

"It is a miracle that she survived under those conditions for so long. It is simply a miracle," Dr. Chomik said.

The report said that the child's mother, Jolanta Czarnecka, 30, of Ilawa in northeastern Poland, had concealed her pregnancy from friends and fellow workers, and had given birth in a field during a lunch break, then returned to work.

When blood was noticed on her clothing, the woman at first claimed she had accidentally given birth in the toilet and the baby had gone down the drain.

However, when investigation found no evidence supporting her claims, Czarnecka admitted to having given birth to the child in a nearby field and leaving her there.

When searchers found the child, two days after her birth, the little girl was dehydrated and covered with insects.

Czarnecka is facing charges of attempted murder for allegedly abandoning her child.

Czarnecka, who has entered a not guilty plea to the charges against her, could be sentenced to five years in prison if she is convicted.


Advertisement
Featured Image
Because nothing says love quite like a whip and restraints, right? Shutterstock
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

To the Christians who think 50 Shades is all sorts of awesome: Please, stop and THINK

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

It’s pretty depressing when you realize that, in 2014, many people seem to think that destruction of human dignity is a small price to pay for an orgasm.

I suppose when I write a column about a book that just sold its 100 millionth copy I shouldn’t be surprised when I get a bit of a kickback. But I have to say—I wasn’t expecting hundreds of commenters, many saying they were Christian, to come out loudly defending the porn novel 50 Shades of Grey, often tastelessly interspersed with details from their own sex lives.

People squawked that we “shouldn’t judge” those who practice bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM), and informed me that “no one gets hurt” and that it “isn’t abuse” and said that it was “just fantasy” (as if we have a separate brain and body for fantasy).

Meanwhile, not a single commenter addressed one of the main arguments I laid out—that with boys watching violent porn and girls being socialized to accept violence and torture inside of a sexual relationship, we have created a toxic situation in which people very much are being hurt.

In response to the defenders of this trash, let me make just a few points.

  1. Not all consent is equal.

People keep trumpeting this stupid idea that just because someone consents to something or allows something to happen, it isn’t abusive.

But if someone consents to being beaten up, punched, slapped, whipped, called disgusting and degrading names, and have other things done to them that I will choose not to describe here, does that make it any less abusive? It makes it legal (perhaps, but it certainly doesn’t make it any less disgusting or violent.

Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey? If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

Anyone who works with victims of domestic and sexual assault will tell you that just because someone permits something to happen or doesn’t extricate themselves from a situation doesn’t mean it isn’t, in fact, abuse. Only when it comes to sex are people starting to make this argument, so that they can cling to their fetishes and justify their turn-ons. Those women who defend the book because they think it spiced up their sex life are being incredibly selfish and negligent, refusing to think about how this book could affect other women in different situations, as well as young and impressionable girls.

In the words of renowned porn researcher and sociologist Dr. Gail Dines:

In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Christian [Grey of 50 Shades of Grey] is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.

The most likely real-world ending of Fifty Shades of Grey is fifty shades of black and blue. The awful truth in the real world is that women who partner with a Christian Grey often end up hightailing it to a battered women's shelter with traumatized kids in tow. The less fortunate end up in graveyards.

  1. 50 Shades of Grey normalizes intimate partner violence…

…and sickeningly, even portrays it as romantic and erotic. Amy Bonomi, Lauren Altenburger, and Nicole Walton published an article on the impact of 50 Shades last year in the Journal of Women’s Health. Their conclusions are intuitive and horrifying:

While intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 25% of women and impairs health, current societal conditions—including the normalization of abuse in popular culture such as novels, film, and music—create the context to support such violence.

Emotional abuse is present in nearly every interaction, including: stalking (Christian deliberately follows Anastasia and appears in unusual places, uses a phone and computer to track Anastasia’s whereabouts, and delivers expensive gifts); intimidation (Christian uses intimidating verbal and nonverbal behaviors, such as routinely commanding Anastasia to eat and threatening to punish her); and isolation (Christian limits Anastasia’s social contact). Sexual violence is pervasive—including using alcohol to compromise Anastasia’s consent, as well as intimidation (Christian initiates sexual encounters when genuinely angry, dismisses Anastasia’s requests for boundaries, and threatens her). Anastasia experiences reactions typical of abused women, including: constant perceived threat (“my stomach churns from his threats”); altered identity (describes herself as a “pale, haunted ghost”); and stressful managing (engages in behaviors to “keep the peace,” such as withholding information about her social whereabouts to avoid Christian’s anger). Anastasia becomes disempowered and entrapped in the relationship as her behaviors become mechanized in response to Christian’s abuse.

Our analysis identified patterns in Fifty Shades that reflect pervasive intimate partner violence—one of the biggest problems of our time. Further, our analysis adds to a growing body of literature noting dangerous violence standards being perpetuated in popular culture.

  1. Really? Sadism?

I notice that commenters rarely break down what the acronym “BDSM” actually stands for: bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. If they did, they could no longer make the repulsive claim that “love” or “intimacy” have anything to do with it.

Follow Jonathon van Maren on Facebook

The definition of sadism is “enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain, especially sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone…a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others.”

As one of my colleagues noted, we used to send sadists to a therapist or to prison, not to the bedroom. And 100 million copies of this porn novel have been unleashed on our society informing people that getting off on hurting someone is romantic and erotic. It is a brutal irony that people who scream about water-boarding terrorists are watching and experimenting with sexual practices far more brutal. As one porn researcher noted, some online BDSM porn promotes practices and behaviors that would be considered unlawful under the Geneva Convention if they were taking place in a wartime context.

It seems the Sexual Revolutionaries have gone from promoting “safe sex” to “safe words”—just in case the pain gets too rough. And none of them seem to be volunteering information on just how a woman is supposed to employ a safe word with a gag or bondage headgear on.

But who cares, right? Just one more casualty on our culture’s new Sexual Frontier.

  1. “It’s just fiction and fantasy and has no effect on the real world!”

That’s total garbage and they know it. I’ve met multiple girls who were abused like this inside of relationships. Hotels are offering “50 Shades of Grey” packages replete with the helicopter and private suites for the proceedings. According to the New York Post, sales of rope exploded tenfold after the release of the book. Babeland reported that visits to the bondage section of their website spiked 81%, with an almost 30% increase in the sale of things like riding crops and handcuffs.

I could go on, but I won’t. As Babeland co-founder Claire Cavanah noted, “It’s like a juggernaut. You’d be surprised to see how very ordinary these people are who are coming in. The book is just an explosion of permission for them to try something new in the bedroom.”

  1. What does this book and the BDSM movement say about the value of women and girls?

I’d like the defenders of this book to try stop thinking with their nether-regions for just a moment and ask themselves a few simple questions: What does sadism and sexual torture (consensual or not) say to our culture about the value of girls? What does it say to boys about how they should treat girls? The youth of today are inundated with porn and sexually violent material—is nobody—nobody—at all worried about the impact this has on them? On the girls who are being abused by boys who think this is normal behavior—and think it is normal themselves?

Dr. Gail Dines relates that when speaking to groups of women who loved the book, they all grow deathly silent when she asks them two simple questions: Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey?

If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

__

This book and the sadism it promotes are an assault on human dignity, and most of all an assault on the worth and value of girls and women. Please consider the impact you will have on your daughters and the vulnerable and confused people around you when you read and promote this book. Anastasia Steele is, thankfully, a fictional character. But real girls are facing these expectations and demands from a culture that elevates a sexual sadist to the level of a romantic hero. Ask yourselves if you want their “love” and “intimacy” to include sadism and domination, or real respect.

Because you can’t have both.

Follow Jonathon van Maren on Facebook


Advertisement
Featured Image
Shutterstock.com
Ryan T. Anderson

,

New York Times reporter: ‘Anti-LGBT’ people ‘deserve’ incivility

Ryan T. Anderson
By Ryan Anderson

As I recounted Monday at The Daily Signal, The New York Times reporter Josh Barro thinks some people are “unworthy of respect.” Yesterday Barro doubled-down and tweeted back at me that “some people are deserving of incivility.” He argued that I am such a person because of my views about marriage policy. You can see the entire exchange on my twitter page.

What Josh Barro says or does doesn’t really affect me. I’m not a victim, and I’ll keep doing what I do. But incivility, accepted and entrenched, is toxic to a political community. Indeed, civility is essential for political life in a pluralistic society.

It also has deep roots.

The Hebrew Bible tells us that all people are made in the image and likeness of God and have a profound and inherent dignity. Sound philosophy comes to a similar conclusion: as rational beings capable of freedom and love, all human beings have intrinsic and inestimable worth. And so we should always treat people with respect and dignity—we should honor their basic humanity. We should always engage with civility—even when we sharply disagree with them. Faith and reason, the natural law and the divine law, both point to the same conclusion.

Just as I think the best of theology and philosophy point to the conclusion that we should always treat people with respect, so I think they show that marriage is the union of a man and a woman—and that redefining marriage will undermine the political common good.

The work that I’ve done for the past few years for The Heritage Foundation has been at the service of explaining why I think this to be the case. Bookish by nature, I thought the best contribution I could make to public life was to help us think about marriage. So while my early work after college was in philosophy and bioethics, and my graduate coursework was in the history of political philosophy, I put my dissertation about economic and social justice on hold so I could devote myself to this debate at this crucial time.

Along with my co-authors, a classmate of mine from Princeton and a professor of ours there, we set out to write a book making what we considered the best philosophical argument for what marriage is and why it matters. Our book seemed to help the Supreme Court think about the issue, as Justice Samuel Alito cited it twice. The reason I’ve written various and sundry policy papers for Heritage, and traveled across the country speaking on college campuses, and appeared on numerous news shows (including, of course, Piers Morgan) is that I know the only way forward in our national debate about marriage is to make the arguments in as reasonable and civil a spirit as possible.

Some people, like Barro, want to do everything they can to shut down this discussion. They want to demonize those who hold contrary viewpoints. They want to equate us with racists and claim we are unworthy of respect and ought to be treated with incivility. This is how bullies behave. In all of recorded history, ours is the first time where we can have open and honest conversations about same-sex attraction and marriage. This discussion is just beginning. It is nowhere near being over.

All our fellow citizens, including those identifying as LGBT, should enjoy the full panoply of civil rights—the free exercise of religion, freedoms of speech and press, the right to own property and enter into contracts, the right to vote and have a fair trial, and every other freedom to live as they choose, consistent with the common good.

Government redefinition of marriage, however, is not a civil right—nor will redefining marriage serve the common good. Indeed, redefining marriage will have negative consequences.

We make our arguments, in many fora, as transparently as possible. We welcome counterarguments. And we strive to treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve as we carry on this conversation.

One of the most unfortunate parts of my exchange with Barro last night was his reaction toward those who identify as LGBT and aspire to lives of chastity. They freely choose to live by their conviction that sex is reserved for the marital bond of a husband and wife. Some of them also seek professional help in dealing with and perhaps even diminishing (not repressing) their same-sex sexual desires.

I have written in their defense and against government coercion that would prevent them from receiving the help they desire, as New Jersey and California have done. Barro describes my support for their freedom as “sowing misery…doing a bad thing to people…making the world worse.”

There really is anti-LGBT bigotry in the world. But Barro does a disservice to his cause when he lumps in reasonable debates about marriage policy and the pastoral care that some same-sex attracted persons voluntarily seek out as, in his words, “anti-LGBT.” If we can’t draw a line between real bigotry and reasonable disagreement, we’re not helping anyone.

This debate isn’t about restricting anyone’s personal freedom. However it goes, people will remain free to live their romantic lives as they choose. So too people who experience same-sex attraction but aspire to chastity should be free to lead their lives in line with their beliefs, and to seek out the help they desire. We can have a civil conversation about which course of action is best—but let’s leave aside the extremism.

Barro asks, “Why shouldn’t I call you names?” My answer is simple: you should not practice the disdain and contempt you claim to abhor.

All my life, I’ve been educated at left-leaning institutions. Most of my friends disagree with me about these issues. But they’re still friends. And their feedback has made me a better person.

My final tweet to Barro is where I still remain committed: “people on all sides of LGBT debates and marriage debates need to find a way to discuss these issues without demonizing anyone.”

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Signal, where you can find Ryan Anderson's Twitter exchange with Barro.


Advertisement

Customize your experience.

Login with Facebook