Guest Column

‘How perfectly formed he was’: Joseph fought to live, but died in his daddy’s arms at 21 weeks

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

I was 21 ½ weeks pregnant with our son Joseph when I began cramping. My husband Joe and I were visiting my family in Saskatoon, Canada, for Christmas. After almost 24 hours, I told my sister, “This feels like labor.” So Joe and I bundled up and ventured out into the bitter cold, leaving our two toddlers with my sister.

The nurses at the Royal University Hospital told me to dress in a gown, and then I went to the bathroom. Suddenly I felt a gush of fluid pour out of me. Back on the hospital bed, the nurse took a swab and looked at me with sad eyes. 

“I’m so sorry,” she said, “That was your amniotic fluid.”

I didn’t know why she was sad, but then she explained that I would soon go into labor. The worst part was being told that our baby was too young for them to try any life-saving measures.

“When they’re younger than 24 weeks, there’s just no hope,” she said. “Even at 24 weeks, the chances of survival are slim.” 

READ: AMAZING: Youngest surviving preemie in the world, born at 21 weeks, is going home

So we waited. I lay in bed with Joe by my side. We prayed and cried and hoped while nurses came in and out. Friends and family stopped in to pray and cry with us. The nurses told me the amniotic fluid could possibly replenish itself. It sounded like something they had made up but to this day, 15 years later, I’ve never researched whether that it possible. At the time, it was all we had to cling to.

After about a day, the cramps started getting painful and closer together. 

“You might not have to wait until you’re 10 centimeters to deliver,” they told me, “because your baby won’t be that big.”

“What will happen to him?” I asked.

“He probably won’t be born alive,” they said. “Coming through the birth canal is too traumatic for them when they’re that small.”

Photo courtesy Ananda Peters

It came time to push, and Joseph was born alive. He was born gasping for air. They wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in my arms. I had never felt so hopeless in my life, and I have never felt so hopeless since. I kissed him all over his beautiful body, bathing him in my tears, then handed him to Joe. Our baby Joseph took a few more gasps of air, and then he had no more fight in him. He died in his daddy’s arms.

Photo courtesy Ananda Peters

I was amazed at how perfectly formed he was. He was 13 inches long and weighed 13 oz. Everything was already so perfect about him. His fingernails were completely developed, as were his toenails. His little eyelids, his facial features. He looked exactly like a full-term baby except that he was smaller and his skin was dark.

Photo courtesy Ananda Peters

I have always been ardently pro-life, but even I was amazed at how perfectly formed he was. I wondered how we, as a civilized society that has accomplished so much in terms of technology and innovation, can still be so ignorant of the development of human life. I can only conclude that the medical community has deliberately withheld information from us because there is such a push to promote abortion.

Photo courtesy Ananda Peters

I believe in my heart that Joseph would have lived if the hospital had been willing to help him strengthen his lungs. Joe and I have gone on to have six more children and my babies are strong. They have all been big and healthy, born fighters.

The hospital’s decision not to perform life-saving measures until 24 weeks was, in my opinion, wrong. It should have been up to us, his parents. Even if they had told us that his chances for survival were “extremely slim,” we would have fought for him. We would have done everything in our power for him. I would have even lied to save him.

READ: Born at 21 weeks, this Wisconsin ‘miracle’ baby will spend Christmas at home

Years after Joseph’s death, I heard about a Florida woman named Sonja Taylor, who had delivered a baby girl she named Amillia, just two months before Joseph was born. In desperation, she lied to the doctor and said she was two weeks further along than she was. Amillia was born at 21 weeks and 6 days. She weighed 10 ounces and was 9 ½ inches long, smaller than Joseph.

The hospital in Miami put Amillia on a ventilator until she could breathe on her own. Today Amillia is a healthy 15-year-old teenager. In my eyes, Sonja Taylor is a hero. I put her in the same category as the brave people who hid Jews in their homes during the second world war. When officers came knocking, they said No, there are no Jews here. I wish I had thought of that. I wish I had requested a c-section to eliminate the stress on Joseph’s lungs. I wish, I wish, but we can’t go back in time. All we can do is tell the world about the humanity of the unborn. I think lawmakers and parents in difficult circumstances might re-consider abortion if they saw how perfectly formed a baby is at 21 ½ weeks. At least I hope so.

In memory of Joseph Asher Peters

December 20, 2006

Psalm 119:14a – “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Bio: Ananda Peters and her husband Joe have eight living children. They speak regularly on biblical themes and pro-life issues. Contact anandapeters@gmail.com or visit anandapeters.com.

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