Peter Baklinski


Irish parents grateful for ‘precious moments’ with baby who lived just 17 minutes after birth

Peter Baklinski

IRELAND, 26 November, 2012 ( – In the midst of the Irish tempest over legalizing “limited abortion” as a form of “medical treatment,” one Irish family has shared their heartbreaking story of how they discovered that every life, no matter how imperfect and short, is precious.

An ultrasound at 22 weeks pregnancy brought the devastating news to parents Clíona and John-Paul Johnson.

“We went into the scanning room and within twenty seconds, the midwife who was scanning me, she just stopped and said: ‘The news is not good, I’m so sorry. This baby can’t survive,’” said Cliona.

The Johnson’s unborn baby was diagnosed with anencephaly, a condition in which a large part of the brain and skull are missing.

Doctors told the parents that their little one would die shortly after birth, if not before.

Despite being “shocked” by the news, Clíona and John-Paul came to peace with the poor prenatal diagnosis, realizing that they had been given this child just “for a length of time”. They began to treat every day he was with them as a “gift.” The parents found that they were having a son, and named him John-Paul, in honor of his father.

Clíona says she would wake up in the morning saying ‘hello’ to John-Paul. The family of four girls and one boy would gather for a family hug every evening, asking God to bless each one of them and their unborn brother. Clíona would whisper ‘good night’ and ‘I love you’ to her son every night before falling asleep.

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“That was a time of celebration,” she said. “That was a time where we just held onto him and appreciated him. It gave us precious moments of memories.”

John-Paul lived for 17 minutes after his birth. The parents baptized him before watching him slip peacefully away surrounded by his family and those who loved him.

“As I watched the little life drain out if his face, my love didn’t fade in any way,” said Clíona. “I just realized it was so peaceful, so peaceful.”

Through the short life of their son, Clíona and John-Paul say that they came to the realization that “grief is part of life, just as much as joy and celebration are a part of life.”

Clíona now treasures the memories of her son and is grateful for the ways he has helped her to grow on a personal level. “He had an impact on me. He changed me. I really treasure that now. It’s worth the pain.”

John-Paul’s anencephaly taught Clíona to look at imperfections and shortcomings in a new light.

“He’s taught me to be patient with myself, to be patient with my own imperfections. He’s taught me to be more patient with my other children and the imperfections in them.”

“And actually, he’s taught me that imperfections in human beings is something beautiful, and to be valued. And I wouldn’t swap that for the world.”

“It’s changed the way I mother.”

Clíona encourages mothers who find themselves in a situation where they know that their pre-born baby will likely die to “stop and think” about the role they can play in the life of their baby while he or she is still living.

“I will be left behind, one way or the other, with the pain of what I’ve just been through,” she said. “The choice is, will I be left behind with pain and some beautiful memories and the ability to heal, or will I be left behind without those beautiful memories?”

“And so what I would love to say to a woman who finds herself in this situation, is, it’s doable. It’s awful, but it’s precious to be able to hold on to your child at this time.”

See “John Paul - Ours for a time” on YouTube.

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