Meghan Santel first learned that her daughter had anencephaly at a routine ultrasound. She’s now sharing her experience through the book “22 Hours of Grace,” written with her friend Jessica Wood. Discussing her book, Santel said, “I’ll never forget that first ultrasound appointment. The tech was so chatty and nice. She showed us the baby’s legs and heart; and then when she got to the head, she just stopped. It was like the air was sucked out of the room.”
What followed was the devastating news that their daughter would almost certainly die before or shortly after birth due to anencephaly, a condition in which a baby is born missing parts of the brain or skull. Like many parents in this situation, Santel and her husband were pressured to end their daughter’s life in abortion instead of allowing her to live as long as she was naturally able. They refused. Santel says, “I wish that the me that felt so alone and lost in that moment knew the miracles that lay ahead.”
Choosing life for a child with a severe or life-limiting condition is often met with confusion and even condemnation. Yet, for many parents, choosing life and being with their child for the entire length of his or her natural life is a source of healing in an incredibly difficult situation. Santel and her family were able to spend a day with their daughter after she was born. She says, “Evelynn Grace lived for 22 hours, but her impact on me, on our sons, on our entire community is still going.”
For Santel, her Christian faith informs her worldview and perspective of her daughter’s life and her family’s suffering. She explains, “’22 Hours of Grace’ is not a book about grief. This is a book about being brave enough to choose the harder path, the path that God is pointing you towards. This is a book about trusting that life has bigger plans for you than what your mind can dream up.” She continues, “We all try so hard to stay safe, to make life easy and predictable, but those of us who have faced tragedy can tell you, everything you’ve been searching for is on the other side of letting go.”
While abortion is suggested as a “solution” to a life-limiting diagnosis, abortion does not do anything to prevent a family’s grief, treat a child’s medical needs, or offer human comfort in a time of great need. Abortion violently ends a human life. Like Santel, many parents of a child with a terminal diagnosis have found hope and healing in embracing life. Stories like these show how much each life, however brief, can affect the world.
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