Michael Hichborn, American Life League

‘God has answered’: How my daughter got her name

Michael Hichborn, American Life League
By Michael Hichborn
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Note: Michael Hichborn is the director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.

July 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - June 29th was our 10th wedding anniversary, and as my wife Alyssa and I drove home, the intense storm and downed trees that met us along the way reminded us of the intense drama of just 17 months ago.

In December of 2010, Alyssa was eight months pregnant with our fourth child.  One quiet evening, as we were cleaning up after dinner, our 5-year-old daughter, Sonya, was practicing writing her letters.  As we were discussing names for the new baby, Sonya would interrupt by handing Alyssa a sheet of paper filled with scribbled letters and ask, “What does this say, Mommy.”  She had been doing this for weeks, and normally the letters spelled nothing more than “pbthfsa,” or some such nonsense.  But on this particular evening, what she handed my wife was “Elia.”  We thought it sounded like a name, and suggested that perhaps if it held some meaning, we might consider naming the baby “Elia.”  Little did we know how prophetic this event would soon become.

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On January 27th, our new little girl made her grand entrance into the world.  With a healthy new baby, and a wonderful home-birth experience, we could never have suspected what was about to happen.  Less than 36 hours after delivery, Alyssa woke me up, screaming in agony with intense pains in her lower right back.  Of course, we thought it was nothing more than post-delivery spasms, so I did everything I could to make her comfortable, and stayed up most of the night tending to her and helping her as much as I was able.  That morning, I called the midwives to ask them to see her, and when they arrived, they told me that something was wrong and I needed to take her to the emergency room.

On this day, everything seemed to go from bad to worse.  When we arrived at the emergency room, the triage nurse attempted to take her vitals, but couldn’t get her blood pressure.  Needless to say, it was a matter of minutes before they set her up in a room, and then whisked her away for an MRI.  As I nervously waited to hear from a doctor what was wrong, I called for a priest to come anoint her.  When he arrived, I saw my first miracle that day.

When Alyssa came back from the MRI, her vital signs continued to crash.  Her blood pressure was dropping, her temperature was falling, her heart rate was rapidly increasing, and her color was draining.  The on-duty doctor, who was overly perky and lacking in answers, finally told me that they detected a lot of blood around her kidney and her bladder, but couldn’t find the cause.  And while Dr. Perky was attempting to explain the possibilities to me, Fr. Bresnahan came into the room, and gave Alyssa the Church’s sacrament for the sick and dying, and then Holy Communion.  From that moment on, though the situation got much worse, I never saw her vitals dip below where they were.  I am thoroughly convinced that our Blessed Lord, through the ministry of His Holy Church, preserved her life though these powerful sacraments.

Shortly after her anointing, a specialist introduced himself to me, and explained that Alyssa had a ruptured aneurysm in her kidney.  We discussed options, and he suggested an arthroscopic procedure that would effectively seal the artery going into her kidney.  She was going to lose the kidney whether they took it out, or sealed the artery, so I agreed to go along with the less traumatic approach.

By this point, family and friends had put out the call to prayer, which had reached thousands of people across the country.  E-mail prayer chains through our Christendom College alumni association, Facebook posts, and a network of family and friend e-mail chains had reached every state in the country, several convents, and countless priests.

Alyssa was scheduled for surgery at around 4:00, which meant I would have about an hour to run to the house, check on the kids, take a shower, and pick up some supplies.  When I got back to the hospital, I got a call from the doctor that there were some unforeseen complications.  My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and the blood drained from my face as he explained that she suffered a sudden vascular spasm, which prevented them from completing the procedure, and from removing the arthroscopic line they ran through an artery in her leg.  I asked him what this meant, and he said that they hadn’t stopped the internal bleeding, and were concerned that she now might lose her leg.

All of a sudden, I was all alone in a room full of people.  The doctors were doing what they could, but no amount of sympathy from family or friends could fill the massive void growing in my heart.  My children were unaware that anything was wrong, and all I could think of was how I would have to go home to tell them that Mommy isn’t ever coming home again.  I locked myself in a bathroom for a few minutes and wept.  And then I prayed.  I prayed like I had never prayed in my life.  On my knees, I thought of Christ’s passion.  As I remembered Jesus’ words, “I make all things new,” I begged him to make my wife new.

When I saw Alyssa again after the failed procedure, she never complained, but only apologized for how much she had inconvenienced me.  She told me about the pain she was in, but also how she thought of so many people that were suffering worse than she was.  She told me about someone she knew who was suffering terribly, and said that she would offer her suffering up for that woman.  Selfishly, I wished I could trade places with Alyssa because the pain in my heart was unbearable.

As the day waned on, her condition continued to deteriorate.  I consulted with the surgeon, and we decided that he had to go in to remove the kidney.  I walked my wife to the operating room and gave her a kiss.  I really didn’t have anything to say, but to tell her that I loved her, and she chastised me for “doing that thing again.”  I asked her what she meant, and she said, “you know, that thing where you worry so much when you know that everything will go according to God’s plan.”  I gave her another kiss, they wheeled her into the operating room, and I sank to my knees.

For what seemed like an eternity, family and friends joined me in the waiting room, where we prayed the Rosary on our knees.  About half-way through the Sorrowful mysteries, a hospital chaplain came in to see me.  He assured me that he had no news of the operation, but was only there to talk or pray with me.  I told him that we were praying a Rosary, and though he was a protestant chaplain, he joined us on our knees, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the end of every decade.

Fourteen units of blood, a removed kidney, and the longest two hours of my life later, and the doctor entered the waiting room to tell me that the operation was a success, and all of her vitals had returned to normal.  He couldn’t account for the success of the operation because when he looked, he said her kidney had completely dissolved.  Instantly, the room filled with a celebration of tears, hugs, and smiles.  A second miracle had occurred.

But the most remarkable thing about this ordeal comes back to our new baby’s name.  For each of our children, we chose names with strong Catholic significance.  Brendan Xavier after the great navigator saint, and the powerful Jesuit missionary; Sonya Elaine, whose two names mean wisdom and light; Sebastian Alexander, after two great martyrs, one a soldier and the other a pope.  We had settled on our baby’s first name, Tatiana, after the Russian patroness of students, but still wondered about her middle name.  But her middle name had to be Elia, because when we looked it up that night in December, we found that it was a Hebrew word which means, “God has answered.”  God had answered, indeed.

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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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