Heather Wargo

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Loving my daughter into death in the 19th week changed my view of abortion forever

Heather Wargo
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December 5, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - My husband and I have been very blessed in our lives with a wonderful marriage and healthy, beautiful children. We are a Catholic family with four daughters and three sons. We found out we were expecting baby number eight in July of this year and were very happy and excited. Our youngest would only be 16-months-old when this baby was born, and we had never had two children this close in age. There is a long gap between our youngest, a little girl, and the next up, our youngest son, who is 11, so we were really happy that she would have a playmate and sibling so close in age.

After a pretty uneventful first couple months, I was diagnosed with a subchorionic bleed and placed on bedrest - as much as I could manage, anyway, with my busy household. I had never had any problems with any of my previous pregnancies, sailing through them easily with quick vaginal deliveries, so this frightened both my husband and I. He works away during the week having recently retired from a 20-year career in the Marine Corps. He comes home on Friday nights and leaves for his workweek on Monday mornings. We both prayed fervently for guidance and peace during this difficult time. My husband offered his daily Masses for me and the baby, as he worried throughout each week.

Every time I went to the doctor, though, the baby was strong. The heartbeat was very loud on the Doppler, and I felt movement by 15 weeks. The baby was reassuring me, letting me know that all was well, despite the concerns.

We were waiting for the 20 week ultrasound, still five weeks ahead, with excitement because we would see if we were having a boy or girl. We had refused all genetic testing, because we didn’t care if the baby had Down’s or any other conditions. Our experience with our now one-year-old daughter taught us a lesson. While pregnant with her, we opted for the test just to be prepared in the event she was born with any condition that required extra care. The results came back and we were told that our daughter had Down’s syndrome. My husband questioned the medical personnel to find that the test only registered that I was at risk but that no one could satisfactorily explain what factors went into the calculations or how much weight they were given. We quickly learned that the often false results of those tests frequently become the pretense for women choosing to abort their child.

It is better not to know, not even for the sake of being prepared; our one-year-old was born healthy and continues to grow happy, healthy, and intelligent. Make up your mind to love your child unconditionally and don’t let the promise of technology pique your curiosity.

Fortunately, we knew if there was a spinal or heart problem, our doctor would see it at the 20 week ultrasound anyway and we could possibly have fetal surgery to address it. Because I am almost 40, my refusal to test was met with incredulity, but we didn’t care.

We prayed a family rosary for the health of the baby, because the pregnancy had so many complications. Afterward, our 11-year -old son went to say some additional prayers at the family altar. My husband joined him and listened as he asked God to allow the baby to be okay and to stay with us but that it was up to Him…so if He decided to take the baby then at least keep the baby close to Him in Heaven (a prayer that would be answered). Can you imagine an 11-year-old grasping "Thy will be done"? At almost three decades older I still struggle letting go of "my will be done." One of the reasons God gives parents children is so they can raise the children in the faith. Sometimes I think God reverses the roles.

A couple weeks later, at 19 weeks, I awoke one morning with a fever. No one in the house was sick. My infant daughter was not sick, and she had not had any immunizations recently. My abdomen hurt, but that was all, besides the spotting I had been dealing with for weeks. I called my doctor, scared. I went into the office, where I was seen. I heard my baby’s strong heart beat and recorded it on my iPhone for my husband and children for some reason, thinking we all needed to have it on record for reassurance. My fever was 101.4 and would not break. I was sent home with orders to take it easy, keep taking Tylenol and Advil, and call if it got worse.

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After two days at home with a fever, increasing bleeding, and frantic calls to the doctor, I began to have contractions. My husband and I rushed to the hospital, and our priest met us there.

Our little Margaret Thérèse was born after two panicky hours. She was only 19 weeks gestation, but she was alive when she was born, her little heart beating busily, her features perfect. She lived for one hour before leaving us, skin to skin on my chest as I willed the crazy heat from my fever to somehow keep her alive, knowing full well that it was impossible.

Our priest baptized her while she lay upon my chest, my tears bathing her head, my husband squeezing my hand and stroking her. I felt her heart beating. I felt her move. I prayed with all my might to somehow make it possible for her to live. It just wasn’t. If she had only been even two weeks later, there may have been even the slimmest of chances… So strong. Loving someone into death is every bit as intimate an experience as loving someone into life.

No one ever referred to her as anything but our baby girl. She was not called a “fetus,” a “blob,” or a “clump of cells.” Within earshot of me and my husband, she was referred to as our daughter, our baby. The patient advocate came to our room and asked us which funeral home we were going to use. They called the funeral director. Not a single person at the hospital made us feel like we were crazy for planning a funeral Mass and burial. Unbelievably, that came from family later on.

Our priest did a beautiful homily on the dignity of life and man at Margaret’s funeral Mass. He also made an impression with his observations that, while Margaret may have been unknown to the world, she was known to her family in an intimate way. He made remarks about how she loved the hugs that were given to her mother by her siblings, because she felt them too, and she loved story time with her big sister, kicking when the stories were read. He reminded us that even though she was inside my body, she was an active, live member of the family. He added to her humanity and her dignity as a person.

We looked upon Margaret's little casket centered at the foot of the altar and then shifting our gaze upward to Jesus in the tabernacle reminded us that crosses are easier to carry when we look up rather than down. We are eternally grateful that our priest was there and able to baptize her before she passed away. We pray for the grace to focus more on her entry into the beatific vision rather than that she is gone.

Our priest chanted a prayer to St. Joseph at her gravesite. My husband and I both imagined, with joyful tears, good St. Joseph taking Margaret's little hand and walking her up to the face of God. We have a saint in heaven now advocating for us.

Why am I sharing all of this? Because my husband and I, my children - our family - are pro-life and pro-family. We go to the March for Life every January. We support 40 Days for Life. We have prayed in front of Planned Parenthood offices and other abortion facilities in three different states. However, this tragedy has really brought the horror home for our family in a way that we could not have understood it otherwise.

We all have seen the true face of what second/third trimester abortion would look like.

My daughter, at 19 weeks, lived for an hour. I can’t even think about that in relation to abortion without bursting into tears, thinking of all the poor children out there that have been discarded, or will be because 19 weeks “isn’t too late” to obtain an abortion at all. We always knew that, in an abstract way. It is not abstract any longer.

Pro-choice people, even those who “don’t support late-term abortion” or “think it should be up to the woman,” should have seen my daughter’s birth to say that babies at her stage “aren’t developed enough” to care about and can be thrown away. Even my mother-in-law, a self proclaimed Christian Baptist who goes to church every Sunday, asked us, “Why are you having a funeral?” I guess she just expected us to let the hospital throw Margaret away in the Stericycle containers.

We received a birth certificate for Margaret. It made me wonder about all the babies born alive in abortions. Does the state only issue birth certificates to those babies that are wanted? It breaks my heart. Every woman who clutches a positive pregnancy test in her hand visualizes that child, even fleetingly, regardless of if the child is wanted or not. For the women who want their children, that child is real from the moment the positive sign is seen. It is visualized as a sweet faced baby, a toddling little kid, holding hands in the park, a high school star athlete…

I truly hope and pray that anyone who may have been “pro-choice” and was in attendance with us at that funeral was given something to meditate about.

St. Margaret Thérèse, pray for us.  

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