“I am so sorry, but your son has a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia. His limbs are very short and his chest cavity is very, very small. He will only live for minutes to hours after birth because he will not be able to breathe.” In thirty seconds, our lives changed forever. Our third child was diagnosed with a condition “incompatible with life” at his anatomy ultrasound. The doctor went on to say, “Many women would choose to terminate in a situation like this, but you are too far along…” I interrupted him, with tears streaming down my face, and declared, “It doesn’t matter! I would never kill my baby, no matter what!”
We were absolutely devastated from the news. We didn’t know that it was even possible to feel pain that deeply or to shed that many tears. Carrying a child for weeks who was not expected to live was both the most difficult and most beautiful thing I have ever done. The uncertainty of when and how our son would be born and waiting for his birth was agonizing. It was so hard to answer questions from strangers asking, “When are you due?” “Is your baby a boy or a girl?” But answering those questions and carrying our baby was such a beautiful witness to the sacredness of every life. Even though we didn’t understand why this had to happen to our son, we knew that his life was sacred and had a great purpose. And we were so grateful that God had given us the precious gift of time with our baby, so we wanted to use the months ahead to cherish his short life.
We named our son Louis Gerard after Blessed Louis Martin and St. Gerard and we nicknamed him “Baby Louie.” We took tons of pregnancy pictures and we got lots of ultrasound pictures and clips of Louie moving in utero. We took our kids to Build-a-Bear to make bears with Louie’s heartbeat recorded inside. The bears have t-shirts that say “I <3 Baby Louie.” Our son Michael drew pictures of our family, including Baby Louie. We talked about Louie a lot to our kids but most importantly, we prayed for him. It was so beautiful to see our kids pray for Louie too. Michael reminded us to pray the rosary every day and he remembered to pray for him every night during bedtime prayers. Our family and friends covered us in prayer and we were not alone. We were surrounded by God’s love and we were comforted by His words: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Baby Louie was already showing his purpose – he was drawing our family closer together in prayer and faith.
We are so grateful that we had time to prepare for Louie’s birth. We arranged for our family, our priest, and two photographers to be at Louie’s birth. We picked out outfits for photographs and my mother-in-law made a beautiful quilt for Louie out of one of my shirts and one of my husband’s shirts. Finally on August 12, 2014, after several days of failed labor, we decided to have a c-section. I was wheeled back to the OR to be prepped for surgery and I remember begging God to please just give us at least a few minutes with Baby Louie. I have never prayed so hard in my life. “Please God, let him be alive, please God.” I kept repeating it over and over as I lay there. My husband, our priest, two photographers, and my mom were all in the OR with me. And at 4:04 pm Louie was born! He came out crying – he was born alive! Our most fervent prayer was answered! Louie was placed on my chest and our priest baptized and confirmed him in our Catholic faith. One of the photographers took a video of the whole time, which was such a blessing to share with our kids. After the surgery was completed, I was wheeled back to my room and our kids and the rest of our family got to meet him alive, kiss him, and tell him how loved he is and always will be. He was with us for 74 precious minutes before he passed from my arms into the arms of his Heavenly Father.
We spent hours afterwards holding him. Grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, and his siblings all held him. We took lots of pictures! We cut a few locks of his beautiful blond hair, we stamped his handprints and footprints, and we made molds of his tiny hands and feet. Finally, we had to hand his body over to the funeral home. Even though we knew that Louie was already in Heaven, handing over his precious little body was the most heart-breaking part of the entire experience. My time here on earth to hold him was at an end and I broke down sobbing.
We miss Louie so much and I ache to hold him again and I always will. I love to talk about him because he is and always will be our child. And I would not give up those weeks of carrying our precious child, no matter the outcome. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, know that there is hope and healing at the end of this difficult journey! Despite the pain, our wait was so grace-filled and such a gift. Carrying, loving, and holding Louie was the greatest privilege I have ever had and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. He taught us so much during his short life and we will never be the same! Yes there was pain and suffering, but Louie’s life story is not a tale of sorrow or grief. His story is a tale of faith, hope, and love.,,
Baby Louie, you have strengthened our faith. You’ve taught us to accept that God is in total control and to accept His plan with faith. We have always been faithful Catholics, but this experience has brought us so much closer to Christ and His cross. Carrying, birthing, and losing you was the first time in my life that I had a “real” cross. A cross simply too heavy to bear on my own. A cross that I needed God’s help to carry. I needed prayer. And for the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly praying and truly offering up my suffering to grow closer in love to God. We had an army of people praying for us and we could truly feel it. We prayed unceasingly for peace and we prayed the rosary every night as a family. We felt so close to Christ and so grace-filled during your birth and death. And we know that it was because of the power of prayer. It was beautiful to witness that power firsthand.
Baby Louie, you have given us renewed hope in Heaven. We have always aspired to go to Heaven but never more than we do now, to see you again. We have the hope of meeting you again one day! We don’t get to hold you again on Earth, but our time here will be gone like a blink of the eye compared to eternity. We want to spend eternity with you. We know you are waiting for us and the hope of meeting you again gives us such great joy! You have reminded us of our true calling here on earth – to get ourselves and our family to Heaven. We can’t bring anything material with us when we die. We can only bring souls! We want our family to be reunited again in Heaven someday. Baby Louie, it pains us to know that we won’t get to watch you grow up. But we have hope and joy, amidst the pain, because we know that you can watch over us and pray for us. Normally the parents and older siblings watch out for the baby of the family, but not in our case – what a beautiful role reversal!
Baby Louie, you have taught us so much about love. Daddy said that before you, “I did not know how much I was capable of loving someone before ever meeting them.” And it is so true – you have helped us to love more. You have reminded us that we don’t know how much time we will be granted on earth and we don’t know how long our loved ones will be with us either. So we must live and love each day like it is our last! Daddy and I must cherish every moment we have together, every moment we have with Michael and Colleen, and every moment we have with family and friends. But above all, we must love God and serve Him by loving others. We can’t get time back once it’s gone, so we need to love better today and every day! Baby Louie, we love you and we miss you. We always will. You have changed us for the better and you will forever be a part of our family. Our little saint, please pray for Daddy, Mommy, Michael, and Colleen! Please pray that we love God above all things and that we meet you again someday!
::Alison Currie Duffy enjoys her vocation as wife and mother. She is wife to Bradley, momma to Michael, Colleen, and Baby Louie, and the daughter of Catholic author David Currie.::