Pretty white bows on a tiny yellow sundress. Bibs stacked neatly in the drawer. A polka dot cow with far-away eyes. Shoes lying empty on the floor.
“Terminal,” he said, “Incompatible with life.” And then came the words…
Will today be the day her baby dies? She ponders the terrible truth as the first glow of blue slowly fills the bedroom. She strokes her stomach, wondering if her baby is suffering; wondering if she, herself, can bear any more suffering. Her mind turns to the cold, sterile appointments. The constant pressure. The doctor’s frustrated tone. “Your child is going to die,” he exclaims, “But you can decide how.” His words echo in her head. For the first time, in this moment of weary despair, she realizes he’s offering her control. A way to end her pain—her baby’s pain. Perhaps this really is best. She turns over. The baby kicks. Hot tears sting her face.
A terminal prenatal diagnosis is devastating. It’s overwhelming and confusing—to imagine the suffering of your child and to grieve the loss of your hopes and dreams, when the joy of planning a birth suddenly becomes the numbness of planning a funeral. But what if somewhere, in all this hopelessness, there was help for this mom and others like her?
Grace at 27 weeks
Diane Peterson with Grace
Meet Scott and Diane Peterson, parents of a little girl named Grace, who died of Trisomy 18 complications at 30 weeks in utero. Their organization, Sustaining Grace, gives moms and dads a chance to see their pre-born child, not as a diagnosis, but as a real person with value. Sustaining Grace funds and helps arrange 4D ultrasound appointments, where families can see their children alive. “You think of your baby being in pain,” says Diane. “You think of her as being ‘not compatible with life.’ But when you actually see her, that’s not at all what’s happening. She’s kicking, moving, opening her eyes, even smiling.”
Sustaining Grace creates positive appointment experiences, versus those only focused on what’s wrong, and gives families tangible memories: A shareable copy of the ultrasound video and a teddy bear that plays an audio recording of the baby’s heartbeat. These take-aways bring beauty and honor life, regardless of how long or short it is. “But the most amazing thing we see,” says Diane, “is that this experience changes the whole support system for them. It seems like such a simple thing, but for the first time, these moms and dads realize that somebody cares, sees the value of their child, and wants to help.”
When other family members and friends attend the ultrasound appointment, watch it on live stream, or see the video afterwards, they are also deeply impacted. “It transforms how they talk about the child,” says Diane. “It changes how they care for the mom, what they say to her, and how they approach the whole situation.” Scott agrees: “It changes hearts and minds and creates an entire network of support, whereas before, the moms and dads were so isolated. It’s so good to know that other people have been through what you have been through and survived.”
Parents who initially think abortion is their only option—either through pressure, despair, or both—change their minds after seeing their children live on the ultrasound screen. There, the child’s humanity is displayed in plain view. Witnessing this truth renews a feeling of honor and reverence for life and shines beautiful light into a place of such darkness. “We are usually the only ones who congratulate them,” adds Scott. “Everyone else says I’m sorry.”
To learn more about this life-giving work, visit www.sustaininggrace.org. While you’re there, watch the ultrasound videos of their daughter Grace, read the testimonials of other families, and get to know the Petersons’ heart. Click here to make a donation to Sustaining Grace to ensure they never have to turn a hurting family away.
— Sarah Quale, founder and president of Educe