Built into nearly every pro-life law is an exception that allows abortion up until birth in order to protect the life or health of the mother. At face value, it seems like a reasonable exception. But in truth, it’s completely unwarranted. Tim and Renee, parents of six boys, experienced this firsthand when Renee was 22 weeks pregnant with their one and only baby girl, Madeline.
Madeline was baby number five for the couple, who had four young boys when they learned they were expecting, although they were waiting to learn the baby’s gender. At about 12 weeks, Renee began to experience bleeding, but her doctors monitored her and felt there was no need to take extra precautions. Within a couple of months, they traveled out of state to visit family and move forward with purchasing a business. While away, Renee began to feel overly tired, especially when holding and carrying her 13-month-old son.
“I couldn’t even get a breath in,” she told Live Action News. “We went to get groceries and I could barely walk around pushing the shopping cart. I just figured I would push through and I could talk about it when I got back to my doctor.”
It was a Sunday, February 15, 2015, when, still out of state and 22 weeks pregnant, Renee became extremely tired and decided to lie down. Soon after, she realized she was feverish. While using the bathroom that afternoon, she saw she was bleeding heavily and passing large blood clots. Scared for her baby, she headed to the emergency room.
“They took me in right away up to labor and delivery,” she said. “They put me in one of the triage rooms. Doctors were asking what was going on and I had to explain my whole story because they didn’t have my history.”
By the time Tim arrived at the hospital, Renee was writhing in pain. The doctors ran blood work and performed an ultrasound and the couple was relieved to see that the baby was fine. However, Renee was having contractions and her white blood cell count was extremely elevated. Unsure of the cause, doctors administered magnesium to stop the contractions. Doctors told Renee that if she continued to show signs of infection, they would have to deliver the baby. The hospital, however, was not equipped with a proper NICU and if they wanted to give their baby a chance, Renee would need to be transferred to a larger hospital, which they opted to do.
Unfortunately, Renee had a fever two days later and was diagnosed with Chorioamnionitis, an intra-amniotic infection. The doctors believed it was a result of the bleeding, which created an entry for the bacteria to move up and around the uterus. The doctors believed the baby likely had the infection as well and told the couple that the chances of a premature baby surviving with such an infection were slim.
Doctors advised that the only course of action was to give Renee antibiotics and deliver the baby. When doctors performed another ultrasound, the couple decided to find out if they were having their fifth son or their first daughter. They learned they were having their long-awaited baby girl.
“Having four boys we never found out the gender,” Tim told Live Action News. “I physically collapsed onto the floor. I was in shock. Here’s the daughter we’ve been waiting ten years for and we’re losing her before she even comes.”
Doctors had warned them that the baby could be stillborn, and the next day, February 18, 2015, Madeline was born with a dozen medical personnel on standby. Tim baptized her with water from the Jordan River and was elated when the nurse announced that Madeline had a heartbeat.
“That’s when I fell for the second time,” said Tim. “She was still alive. We were really relieved that she was still with us.”
Madeline was immediately put on oxygen and taken to the NICU. Her eyes were still fused shut and she weighed just one pound, four ounces and was 12 inches long. In the NICU, Madeline was put on a ventilator with the goal of stabilizing her, but they struggled to get her well ventilated.
“At two a.m. we had a knock on the door and realized he’s not there with good news. They asked us to come down and told us she wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her organs and she was having seizures because she wasn’t getting oxygen to her brain,” explained Tim.
The doctors felt they had done everything they could to save Madeline, but it wasn’t working.
“I remember them saying, ‘We’re at the end. We’ve done everything we can,'” said Tim.
Though doctors expected she would only live for a few minutes after being taken off the ventilator, Madeline lived for an hour. Her parents were able to take her to a private room to rock her and hold her, knowing that she felt love. She lived outside the womb for only a few hours and died on February 19, 2015.
“After she passed, I stayed down there with her,” said Renee. “The nurses were great. They said I could wash her body and get prints of her hands and feet.”
Renee stayed at the hospital for a few days receiving IV antibiotics and spending time with Madeline. Tim’s parents, Renee’s mom, and other family and friends were able to meet her as well. Even though the boys were young – six, four, two, and 13 months – they told Renee that everything was okay because Madeline was in Heaven. They still pray for her to watch over them.
“It was amazing how peaceful we felt knowing that she was in a better place and that God the Father was taking care of her way more than I could,” said Tim. “And to have the perception and the understanding that as a parent, in general, your job is to lead your children to Christ because they belong to Him, they don’t belong to us, and I felt like, you know, that’s what we did. We got her to Christ. She’s a part of us and she will always be with us.”
The funeral home next to the church knew the family and took care of the costs, even giving Madeline a casket with a case complete with her name. At the funeral Mass, Tim saw the casket — and again, his legs gave out under the overwhelming realization that his daughter wasn’t coming back.
Since Madeline’s birth and death, the couple has welcomed two more sons. Despite their devastation, they say they wouldn’t have been able to get through the loss of Madeline without their faith. Tim credits Madeline with helping them put life, death, and eternal life into perspective.
“If I play my cards right, I can see her again,” Tim told Live Action News. “It’s certainly made me strive to be a better person since she died, because now I have another sense of purpose for working on being as deep in my faith as possible so I can be in a state of sanctifying grace when God calls me home.”
One thing that never came up in the discussion of how to help Renee was abortion. At 22 weeks, preborn children are most commonly aborted through a D&E dismemberment abortion. It would take days to carry out, and Renee’s health could have suffered even more. Killing a preborn child is never necessary to save the life of the mother. It is faster and safer to deliver the baby in hopes of saving both mother and child. Sometimes the babies are able to survive, even as young as 21 weeks. Other times, like Madeline, the babies don’t survive. But the lives of both mother and child are respected, cared for, and treated with actual health care.
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