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Watching our daughter develop, with one foot in heaven and one on earth

Jan. 22 is the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which made abortion legal throughout the United States. Catholics are called upon to mark this solemn day with prayer and action in defense of all human life.

The author of this piece is a South Jersey Catholic who sent her powerful story to me in the Life & Justice Ministries office. To maintain privacy for her family, she wishes to remain anonymous.

— Mike Jordan Laskey, Director of Life & Justice Ministries

More than 20 years ago, I read a person’s opinion on pregnancy and the developing life within an expectant mother. The author speculated that the act of abortion would diminish at an astonishing rate — if not disappear altogether — if a mother’s abdomen were made of glass. That is, if it were see-through.

Eighteen years of marriage and 10 children later, I saw the precious gift of life as I had never seen it before. I witnessed daily development outside the womb.

At 23 weeks and five days of our most recent pregnancy, quite unexpectedly, my husband and I rushed to the nearest hospital to learn my water had broken and delivery was imminent.

With countless prayers from thousands of people and God’s abounding grace, we delivered our beautiful Victoria 72 hours later. Just enough time to receive two rounds of magnesium to potentially mitigate any brain bleeds and essential steroids to assist our unborn daughter’s lungs prepare to be thrust into a world she was too young to be in.

Victoria was born at 3:33 a.m., weighing just one pound, eight ounces. As we tried to wrap our own minds around her size and fragility, we showed her older siblings that she was shorter than a 12-inch ruler and weighed less than a medium fountain soda from the local convenience store.

The next few days were nothing short of life changing. I have never seen anyone fight so hard to survive as our little girl did. Her skin was so fragile it hurt her just to be touched and yet she had to be pricked multiple times a day to be checked for various vital signs. She had bruises on her feet from her pulse ox monitor which they rotated every 12 hours.

For having been parents nine times before we thought we had seen it all. We were wrong. We were watching our daughter grow on the outside but she was developing the same way as if she was on the inside. We had our “glass view.” Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes. Ears, eyes, nose, hands, legs, feet. Everything was perfect — just so very small.

At 24 weeks, Victoria had everything she needed to live a beautiful, healthy, normal life. She just needed a bit more time to grow and become strong. One day, while marveling at her feistiness in spite of her size, without provocation and quite literally out of nowhere, one of the nurses gave us a sobering reminder that abortion is legal without parental consent and without cause of any sort up to 24 weeks. In other words, Victoria’s will to survive could only go as far as her mother’s will for her to survive.

We spent more than 100 days in the NICU with her. Each day we felt as though we had one foot in heaven and one on earth. To be witnesses to the gift of humankind’s God-given intellect paired with the latest technology working in concert to serve for the good of human life is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Now, at six months, Victoria is just over nine pounds. She is at home with her brothers and sisters and continues to thrive. We continue to be humbled by the presence of God’s Grace in her and in our lives.

Victoria wanted to live, fought to live, was given the chance to live and, with God’s mercy, lives.