(LifeSiteNews) — A young pro-life Catholic family whose baby girl was born with a rare medical complication say that they rejected doctors’ recommendations of abortion and chose to fight for their daughter because it’s “fundamental that we as parents never ever give up on our children no matter what the cost.”
Baby Bella was born on July 13 at 35 weeks’ gestation with an encephalocele—a sac that protrudes from an opening in the skull containing brain tissue and spinal fluid. Babies with the birth defect have about a 55% survival rate.
Bella has since undergone her first surgery, which resulted in the successful removal of the encephalocele. While the newborn has an uphill battle ahead of her, her young parents attribute her birth and successful first surgery to the outpouring of prayers for their little girl.
“Thousands of people around the world prayed and stormed the heavens today asking God for a miracle and WE GOT ONE,” Bella’s mother, Nicole Mart, wrote on Facebook last week announcing the successful surgery. “Praise God, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who prayed so hard for our little girl. God heard the prayers.”
“Bella’s first surgery was not only successful but also defied odds,” she wrote. “They successfully removed the encephalocele without additional damage or needing to place a shunt. Next steps now are just to monitor her and to work on stabilizing.”
Nicole and her husband, U.S. Navy flight instructor Mike, have been married for four years. In addition to little Bella, they also have a two-year-old son named Tommy.
In messages to LifeSiteNews via social media, the young pro-life Catholic couple said that they had learned about Bella’s rare condition when they went in for an ultrasound appointment at just 13 weeks’ gestation.
According to Nicole, she and Mike learned two things during the appointment: They were having a girl, and she had an encephalocele.
“It is incredibly rare, and there is no known cause,” Nicole said. “Neither Mike or I have any history of birth defects in our family so this came as a humbling shock. Additionally, I had genetic testing and an amniocentesis that showed no genetic cause.”
After experiencing the shock of the diagnosis, the couple would then endure repeated recommendations from physicians to end Bella’s life in the womb.
“I will never forget the high risk doctor told us ‘either you terminate the pregnancy now or you continue just to watch your baby die,’” Nicole said.
“This was incredibly difficult to hear, I grieved for weeks and felt every negative emotion in the book,” Nicole recounted. “I went through some very dark times. We had constant pushing from the doctors for termination, and it seemed every appointment we went to there was worse and worse news, so the doctors pushed it even more.”
“If there is anything I can honestly say… is that in situations like this, you begin to feel truly alone in the beginning,” Mike told LifeSite.
But Nicole (a convert to Catholicism) and Mike (a cradle Catholic who reverted to the faith in college) had more powerful and helpful resources at their disposal than the doctors’ bleak recommendations.
“We prayed, talked to our priest, and had a lot of conversations between the [two] of us,” Nicole said. “At the end of the day, we are not God and we don’t know [H]is plan.”
“Despite all the difficulties little Bella was going through, she was still alive and moving in my womb,” she told LifeSite. “She was fighting, and as her parents it is our number 1 job to protect her and fight for her. She is God’s child and is loved beyond belief.”
“Mike and I say all the time, if there is anything worth fighting for in this world, it’s your own children,” the young mother said.
Mike said that he and Nicole “chose to fight for Bella because at the end of the day, that’s a parent’s job.”
“It’s not our job to give up on our children or play God,” he told LifeSite. “It is fundamental that we as parents never ever give up on our children no matter what the cost.”
Determined to give their little girl every possible chance of survival, Mike and Nicole located a doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who was willing to help them.
“After my experience with the high risk doctors in my hometown, I felt like every time I went it was nothing but doom and gloom,” Nicole said, adding she “was lucky to find Dr Heuer at [Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia] who immediately told me that miracles happen every day, and he has seen plenty of cases like mine where the babies are fighters and prove everyone wrong.”
Then 32 weeks pregnant, Nicole immediately scheduled an appointment with Dr. Heuer, and she and Mike flew to Philadelphia.
“The team was incredible and they assured us that they would be with us every step of the way and will do everything in their power to fight for baby Bella,” Nicole said.
Despite the harsh predictions made by the other doctors, Bella was born premature but alive and “still fighting” on July 13 following an emergency c-section.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Nicole and Mike said their family has been blessed with immense support from family members and friends.
“It would be easy to say we have done this all alone, but that could not be further from the truth,” Mike said. “I cannot thank everyone enough who has helped us and supported us … The love we feel from everyone is incredible.”
“The Lord provides, and he has provided us the best team to have on our side,” Nicole said. “This is the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to go through, and it’s just beginning, yet we have never felt so grateful and taken care of. We are truly, truly blessed.”
The young couple said their faith has provided them with moral clarity as they have navigated Bella’s diagnosis and care.
“This has kept me faithful through our pro-life journey as well because it has not been easy at all,” Nicole said, adding that “it has been simple because the word of God is clear in its meaning and God loves all [H]is children.”
“The Church and our community have risen up and taken care of us in more ways than I can even count,” Mike said, explaining that the ordeal has strengthened his resolve to “[n]ever ever ever give up.”
“[L]ife is simple, it’s just not easy,” he said. “I am a proud father of two children now. Anything can happen and it is now in the hands of God. But even if it’s for a couple of days, I got to see my little girl.”
A GoFundMe page set up by a friend of Mike and Nicole to support the young family in caring for their newborn as she receives necessary medical treatment can be accessed here.