‘Choosing Joy’: Baby Abby was only given a ‘slim chance’ of survival, but abortion wasn’t an option
BALTIMORE, Maryland, February 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Julie Leach could not shake off that uneasy feeling. She and her husband Matt had witnessed the number of pictures the sonographer had taken of their 20-week-old baby. Now Julie felt that something must surely be wrong. Matt tried to reassure his wife that the baby was probably in a weird position and that it had been difficult for the doctor to get the right picture.
But Julie’s intuition was right.
A call from the doctor’s office the next day revealed that the baby’s jaw was measuring too small. A level two sonogram confirmed that the baby had micrognathia, a condition where the jaw is not in proportion to the rest of the head and causes the infant to have problems with breathing and eating.
After the sonogram, the doctor mentioned the option of abortion, but Matt and Julie made it clear that this was not an option for them or their baby.
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Matt and Julie remember receiving the baby’s diagnosis as a “tough piece of information” but they were convicted that no human life is in vain and that they would love their baby for the “beautiful and amazing spirit” that they were certain she would possess. The parents were delighted to discover that they were having a girl.
“Naturally, this is not what we would want for our daughter. Who would? However, we know that there is a wonderful plan already set for her life and it’s our job to support her and help her to fulfill that plan.”
They named their unborn daughter Abby, which means “God is joy.”
At 29-weeks Julie began experiencing preterm labor. Because little Abby could not swallow, excess amniotic fluid had accumulated in Julie’s amniotic sac and triggered labor. Julie was ordered to a specialist hospital, two hours away from her husband and young son Caleb, where she was confined to bed rest and closely monitored for the next five weeks. During this time, Julie had two amnioreductions where doctors syphoned liters of amniotic fluid to keep her body from going into labor.
The day for labor finally arrived. Julie had made it to 34 weeks. Doctors from the NICU told Julie to wait to push until everything was set up to help Abby once she had made her grand entrance. A doctor broke Julie’s waters just after midnight, giving her permission to push.
After three more pushes, the little girl was born. Matt remembers that Abby shot out so quickly, what he jokingly calls “rocket launcher style,” that the doctor barely managed to catch her.
Abby Elizabeth Joy was born October 22, 2010. She weighed 4 lbs, and was 17 inches long. “I must say, delivering a 4 lb. baby is much easier than a full-term baby! I felt pretty darn good,” remembers Julie.
Julie says it was surreal to see her little Abby for the first time in the NICU, mixed up in a tangle of wires and tubes. “The foot wrapped in gauze is the same foot that kicked me and stepped on my bladder. The tiny hands curled up next to her mouth were in the same position they were during so many of the sonograms. The hair that we saw floating in the amniotic fluid, the same hair that was admired by so many sonographers, is every bit as long and full as everyone said.”
Later that morning, doctors told Matt and Julie that their daughter had Cerebrocostomandibular Syndrome, a rare syndrome that affects the brain, ribs, and jaw. Julie remembers that it looked as if someone had “taken a hammer” to her daughters ribs.
The doctors gave Abby a very “slim chance” of leaving the NICU alive. “They gave us lots of statistics that showed us the odds were stacked against her. They pointed out every little physical imperfection on her body, from her ears, to the bridge of her nose, to her fingers. They told us that she would never sit up, much less walk.”
The parents were asked what should be done if Abby went into cardiac arrest.
“I tearfully answered that we wanted them to do whatever they could,” said Julie.
The doctor’s response of “Oh… really?” deeply saddened the parents.
“The doctor who was supposed to be fighting for her life obviously felt that her life had little value. We were told that if she survived, she would be little more than a vegetable. While this is certainly not news that parents want to hear, we knew that God had a plan for her life and that we would love her just the way she was.”
Abby spent the first five days of her life struggling to breathe until she had an emergency tracheostomy after a failed intubation. Matt and Julie constantly prayed over their little daughter and sang to her over and over again Chris Tomlin’s song “Our God.”
Matt and Julie felt that the words of the song spoke directly to their situation.
“Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God! Our God!
And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.”
Weeks went by and Abby’s breathing continued to improve. Finally, after three months, Abby was allowed to go home.
“It was one of the happiest days of our lives and a huge answer to prayer,” said Julie.
“Since we’ve been home, we have learned a ton about the ‘joys’ of home nursing, medical red tape, federal healthcare, and anatomy. We’ve had our share of unplanned hospital stays and even one helicopter ride where we very nearly lost our girl.”
The parents credit their daughter’s outcome to the power of God. Not only has Abby’s crooked and hunched spine completely straightened out, but her ribs have begun calcifying. The gaps close to her sternum have inexplicably closed up. Specialists have told the parents that she will not need to have any rib surgeries to close the remaining gaps.
Now at 16 months, young Abby still makes use of a ventilator to help her breathe at night. Not only is she crawling, but she has learned how to walk with the aid of a push-walker.
“This has been quite a journey,” the parents say, “but we are so thankful to God for giving Abby a fighting spirit. That spunkiness has helped her to make it this far and has been such an encouragement to us.”
“We have been amazed again and again by God’s grace and faithfulness to us. He has provided in ways we never could have imagined, and we know that He has chosen us to be Abby’s parents. It is not our job to question why He gave her this condition. No, our job is to love Abby and raise her to love God.”
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