This is a true story that might be the beginning of my true walk with God. It is surely the beginning of my witness, my testimony. The awakening of my Faith. I am telling this for you, Abbie. You are a dear friend and you hold an important place in my heart. I know you will feel the rawness of the telling. I hope it moves all my readers as much as it does me in the telling.
Back in the late 70’s my wife and I had tried nearly every method to get pregnant with no success. After three years of disappointment we grew frustrated, as one might expect. Her doctor flippantly told her we should try more often. Great idea, but still no positive result. Months went by and still no baby bump.
My wife, in going through her medical records, discovered that she had never been exposed to nor had a vaccination for rubella (German measles). Being exposed to the German measles during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause catastrophic birth defects in the baby. So, as a precaution, my wife got a rubella vaccination, only to find out a few days later that she was finally pregnant.
Our world was turned upside down. Our emotions ran the gamut from shock to anger to disbelief (How could this happen to us?) to serious despair. The doctor was certain that the only alternative that we had was to abort the baby. We consulted other medical minds and their opinions were equally dire. We must abort. The child could not possibly be born healthy.
Keep in mind that this was all going on in 1979, but the prevailing medical opinion is still not much different today with all the advancements now at our disposal. The Center for Disease Control currently has this to say about pregnancy and exposure to rubella.
“Congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) is a condition that occurs in a developing baby in the womb whose mother is infected with the rubella virus. Pregnant women who contract rubella are at risk for miscarriage or stillbirth, and their developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects with devastating, lifelong consequences. CRS can affect almost everything in the developing baby’s body.”
I won’t list the possibilities, but they were and still are, gruesome, at best. What were we going to do? We fretted. We cried. We prayed. We shook our fists at God. This was the toughest decision we could imagine having to make.
My wife was seriously Catholic. Italian. Catholic schooled with all the guilt and fear of Hell that the nuns and their rulers could instill in a child. I was new to Catholicism but was pretty sure that if we did abort this pregnancy, we would be reserving a seat by the fire. More anguish. More despair. More tears.
As you probably know, we didn’t have a lot of time to put off making a decision. The day finally came and we mustered up the courage, made the call and set the appointment to end the pregnancy. Why didn’t we feel like we were doing the right thing? Days passed uneasily.
On Sunday, the day before the abortion was scheduled. We did what we always did. We had our morning coffee, got ready and went to Mass. The Church was full of eager faces. Nothing out of the ordinary. Our priest began his homily and everything changed.
All at once it was as if God himself were speaking. As though he was seated on the back of the pew just in front of us. My bride and I were held captive by every word. I could hear no other sounds around me save the words being spoken directly to me. This message had our names on it and it was being written on our hearts.
There was moisture in our eyes as the Priest finished his homily. His topic was Faith. My God had answered my prayers. He sent His answer to me as surely as I am taking a breath. My wife and I cried on the way home after Church. These were different tears. These were tears of relief.
We arrived at home and went directly to the phonebook. There were no cell phones in 1979. We managed to find the doctor’s home number and we called him. “Doctor we can’t do this. We have to cancel our appointment.” To our shock, he was relieved. He told us that professionally, he had to counsel us to abort, but as a Christian, he was happy that we had changed our minds. Everything would be fine. After all, we lived in Memphis where we had St. Jude and LeBonheur Children’s Hospitals. God would provide.
We stopped worrying that day (well mostly). Knowing that everything would turn out fine. We had a strong family behind us and the best medical facilities in the country for sick children and this child would be loved. The pregnancy passed mostly without a major snag.
Our son was born on April 7th, 1980. He had all his fingers and toes and he was healthy! Praise God! Rubella had been a factor in a minor way. Ben has a genius level IQ, a nearly eidetic memory. He is an Eagle Scout. He once found an old pocket pager in the mud in the backyard and after cleaning it up and tinkering with it, he turned it into a radio receiver. He does, however, lack certain fine motor skills. He will never be the star quarterback. Oh well, who cares? He is a gift from God. A constant testimony to Faith!