I went in for a routine, 20-week ultrasound. At this point, most expectant parents find out their baby’s gender. Since I was a high-risk patient due to my four previous C-sections, I was scheduled a little earlier to make sure that the baby was growing well and that there was no placenta accreta (a dangerous condition when the placenta becomes embedded).
The ultrasound technician measured the baby’s vital organs and checked their growth. Once done, she left the room and the doctor entered.
“We think we see a malformation in your baby’s heart,” he immediately told me. He was going to schedule an echocardiogram with a more specialized technician and assured me there was nothing to worry about.
Yet he thought it best if my husband came along, so we could both hear what the cardiologist might have to say. I phoned my husband Marcos, and we went together to the echocardiogram an hour later. The cardiologist confirmed that our daughter would indeed be born with a heart defect known as tricuspid atresia.
The perinatologist (a doctor who handles high-risk pregnancies) proceeded to inform us of our options, describing the challenges surrounding our unborn daughter’s heart condition, her chances of survival and what the repairs might look like in a child with her condition. They informed us of the burdens of caring for a child with special needs, as well as the long road ahead of us.
Given that we were a young couple with four healthy children, another option presented to us was to terminate the pregnancy immediately. They intimated that there was no need to feel any type of remorse — for our young family’s sake, an abortion would be beneficial.
When we heard our options, it was hard to believe what was happening. I was becoming very emotional. At that time, my husband was working for a local non-profit organization called “Right to Life of Central California.” They help to equip, educate and engage women who may be considering abortion. It was hard to believe that we were now in this situation, but we knew our answer: we would continue the pregnancy because our baby deserved the right to life. There was no decision to be made — terminating the pregnancy was never a choice.
Although we would face long-term hospitalization, the risk of losing our baby and the probability of several surgeries to fix her heart, we trusted God completely. We explained the situation to her older siblings, telling them that we needed to pray for the baby’s heart, and we did — every single night!
During this high-risk pregnancy, what really gave me strength was faith in God. Prayer held us together, and receiving the Eucharist as often as possible sustained us. Several people asked me if my faith in God was tested. I instead experienced that the situation we were living drew me closer to God. I was completely dependent on his grace.
I also learned that there are many more good people, ready to help, than we can imagine. Some of my favorite people were those whom I met during those hospital stays. I was surrounded by a group of moms who rotated nights to send us dinner, as well as driving our kids to soccer, to school, or even just to come visit when they missed me. They were available and took turns being there for me.
After Teresa’s birth and the three surgeries that followed, she finally came home to continue her recovery. Our whole family’s joy was unimaginable. Her big scar will always remind us of her incredible strength and the fight for her life. She is doing well now and can expect to lead a normal life.
Through all of this, I learned how fragile life is, but also what treasures can be found when I trust in God. I don’t recall ever really questioning God — I would just beg for endurance, to keep moving forward. I knew I was not strong enough on my own and so I completely let him guide and carry me, my family and my marriage. It was a constant surrender.
It was so freeing to know that God would catch me, and that, like a good father, he would be there. And he certainly has been.
By Belen Espinoza