Worth Reading

Libby, in her usual eloquence, beautifully addressed some very pertinent issues today.  Read her post, A Legacy of Life.  It has been an incredible blessing to have their family in our lives, and we love knowing that Matthew will have a friend like Charlie.

 

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Also, I was mentioned in an article about “Defiant Birth,” women who resist medical eugenics – who continue pregnancies when pressured to do otherwise.  I didn’t realize I was so “defiant” . . . I guess I thought a lot of women would have done the same thing we did in choosing life for Matthew! 

I do not know the author, but I am honored to be mentioned in her article, and appreciate her support of Life.

 

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And, last but not least, a homily by Rev. Noah Waldman:

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“Our Lord asks us to follow him not only in word and promise, but in deed and action, even when that action requires heroic courage. In this regard I would like to speak about a hero of mine: Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Munich from 1917 to his death in 1952. (As an interesting side note, the last man Faulhaber was to ordain to the priesthood was one Joseph Ratzinger, our present Holy Father.)

“As you might imagine, the years between 1933 and 1945, marked by the reign of Hitler, were especially difficult for Faulhaber. However, rather than choose to remain quiet out of fear of the Nazis, Faulhaber instead chose courage. At every opportunity, he spoke out against the crimes of the Nazis, on occasion risking his own life to do so.

“His Advent sermons of 1933, delivered in the vast Munich Cathedral, the Frauenkirche, drew thousands of Munich citizens-standing room only-who came to listen to the Cardinal fearlessly challenge National Socialism, to assert the rights and freedoms of the Catholic Church, and to call for the protection of the Jewish People.

“By the 1940s when Hitler’s final solution became clear to all, Faulhaber ordered yellow armbands with the Star of David to be placed on the statues of Christ and Mary throughout his archdiocese, in specific response to the Nazi treatment of Jews. Faulhaber’s courage made the Nazis cower. No one in the Gestapo dare take these yellow arm bands down. So, Munich, the birthplace of the Nazi movement, became the center of Nazi resistance. And although Dachau was located just ten miles outside Munich’s city limits, within Munich Hitler and his policies were weakened severely by the courage of a single man.

“It remains one of the perplexing questions of history, how it could be that a great people such as the Germans could have been fooled by a man with such a diabolical political agenda. Especially Germany, the country of the Frederick the Great the philosopher-king, which was arguably the most enlightened and free nation in Europe. Because of reparations which Germany had to repay as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany’s economy was in freefall. (If you think the current crisis in the Unites States is a problem, what we are enduing is nothing by comparison.). The German currency of the time, the Reichsmark which was introduced in 1924, was worth less than the paper it was printed on. Hyperinflation was so pronounced that it was cheaper to burn money than firewood.

“So when Hitler came to power he fulfilled much of his agenda. He did revive the German economy, almost miraculously. Hitler also reestablished the order to a society falling into disarray, and he grave Germans a new sense of pride. So, in a sense, Hitler “saved” Germany-or so it seemed to many in 1934.

“But Hitler’s plan to “save” Germany was founded upon of principles of utmost evil: The killing of the innocent; genocide of neighboring peoples and the plundering of nations; eugenic activity on handicapped, the infirm and the aged, all in the name of progress toward a “master race”-a utopian ideal to create a society which would last not for 1000 but for 10,000 years.
Hitler wanted the Church to remain quiet in the face of all this, and to ultimately replace the Church with what amounted to a new religion based on German identity. Hitler’s desire for the Church was a cry many of us hear today: The Church should not interfere with policies of the state.

 
“We see through the lens of history, that there are times when the Church must speak out against the state to defend the rights of those who have no voice. When the matter at hand is the killing of the innocent, or the manipulation of human life for the purpose of a national agenda to create a master race of people who will never succumb to sickness and be as beautiful as the models and stars on the television and internet, or the objectification of women-the Church must speak out.

“History has not looked with any kindness on members of the Catholic clergy or hierarchy which, during Nazi domination, did little or nothing to help the plight of the Jewish people. History has condemned them, and rightly so.

“We as members of the Church are the hands of Jesus, our mouths are the instruments of his voice. Jesus, who always spoke out against injustice and oppression, asks and requires us to be agents of change in the world, to bring about policies in our own nation and in the world that will defend human life, most especially for the innocent and weak who have no one to speak for them.

“As a Jew who became Catholic in my early 20s, one of the most painful issues I have had to deal with in my own soul and with speaking with my own family is how to answer the question: Why didn’t the Church do more to stop Hitler and to help the Jews? Frankly, we know the Church did a great deal, probably more than any other institution in the world to help the Jewish people.

“But questions remain. How could so many German Christians at the time have supported Hitler? How could they have viewed their economic prosperity, the strengthening of their public institutions and army, and the pride of their own nation as being of greater value than the killing of the innocent? Is there any way to defend that? Is economic prosperity more important that life? Is the right to a particular quality of life more important than the right to life itself? Who will define that quality? Is mass murder allowable if the state is feeding the hungry?

 
“Looking back at the Third Reich, I think all of us in this church today, and probably everyone in the United States of America would agree that there is no excuse for what happened in Germany.

“But then I ask you: When we go to the polls on November 4, why will so many Catholics not support the overturn of Roe vs. Wade? Yes, there are many issues facing our country, many of them serious. War is serious, and so is the matter of immigration, economic reform, taxation, the need for health care, and so on. But we must keep in mind that since 1973 when the Supreme Court decided that a human being in the womb was not protected because of property and privacy rights implied in the 14th amendment, we have as a nation aborted nearly 50 million people.

“Let us also not forget the 30-40 million women whose lives have been scarred because they were told that this procedure would be good for them and help them, and who day after day have to convince themselves somehow that they are forgiven.
“Before I conclude this long homily-and I thank you for your attention today-I want to say to anyone here affected by abortion that Jesus has the power to make all things new: It is Jesus’ job to forgive sinners. God understands the pain of loss and human frailty, which is why his forgiveness and mercy towards those who have suffered through abortion is so abundant. The Father forgives as soon as you ask. But emotional healing takes many, many years, and it hurts terribly. Thank God that today, the pro-life movement has greatest love and sympathy for women and those who have gone through abortion. Project Rachel here in St. Louis is a place of tremendous comfort and peace. Thank God also that the pro-life movement and the Catholic Church has in place real programs to help women who choose not to have an abortion, so that they can survive financially and medically through such difficult times. We must never forget that our goal to stop abortion, while necessary, is only the first part of our call. The second part is for us to support with love and financial assistance the women and families who will struggle to raise their children in the face of seemingly insurmountable struggles. It takes strength to choose life in our world today, and for us to be effective ministers of the love of Jesus, not only must we protect life, we must be present and willing to help nurture that new life into adulthood; we must be there especially for the poor and for single mothers.

“Moreover, the Church does not condemn those who have suffered through the abortion experience. Rather, the Church stands by such people to offer them forgiveness, compassion to know their sins are forgiven, and that God loves them dearly. The Church, however, does condemn those who willfully have made abortion the law of the land, who support its spread, and who propagate this terrible lie-this “big lie”-that causes death and personal loss.

“I pray that, when historians looks back at the late 20th and early 21st century and the Catholic Church, they will be able to say that it was our Church that stopped the brutal killing of the innocent; that it was our Church that was the true voice of women’s rights; that it was our Church that never abandoned young mothers and young children; that it was our Church that shone the light of Jesus’ love in the world’s darkness.

“You and I have the obligation, therefore, to speak out against the lie that abortion is not killing; the lie that abortion is good for women.

“We do this primarily by praying to end abortion; we do this by supporting women who have endured abortions; we do this by assisting women who courageously choose to endure difficult pregnancies; we do this by refraining from investing in companies that promote abortion and human manipulation; we do this by abstaining and opposing anything in the entertainment industry that treats women as objects whose feelings and personal worth are disregarded; and, finally, we do this according to our votes.

“I will close this long homily now with two questions. First: If every Catholic in Germany had opposed Hitler, would have been a Holocaust? The answer requires some nuance. Many Christians were under compulsion to join the Nazi Party, lest they experience utter loss of livelihood, and often the abduction and murder of family remembers. However, Cardinal Faulhaber’s courage and the example of Munich demonstrates the triumph of human dignity in the face of tyranny: If every diocese in Germany had a man as brave as Cardinal Faulhaber, I do not think the Holocaust could have happened. No tyrant, however brutal, can carry out any program without the consent of the governed; the power of a leader is proportionate to people’s willingness to be led.

“The second and final question, therefore, is this: If every Catholic in the United States showed the courage of Cardinal Faulhaber, and voted only pro-life, what do you think would happen?”

 

Given Sts. Joachim and Ann Church, St. Charles,
Saturday, Sept 27, 5:00 pm Mass, and
Sunday Sept 28 7:15 am and 10:30 am Mass
(This homily, with few alterations, was also delivered
at St. Clement of Rome, Des Peres, Respect Life Sunday

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Another Day, Another Milestone

Last night, Matthew was playing on the floor with some toys when he pushed himself back up into a sitting position all by himself!  It is a motor-skills milestone that we had just started to work on.  Way to Go, little one!  Your progress still amazes me.

We celebrated with the boys’ favorite activity:  a Bubble Bath!! 

When you try to taste the bubbles, you get a beard:

Matthew managed to get some bubbles between his eyes, and Micah thought it was so funny that he fell over and got a beard, too. 

Everyone had a good time!  (Notice how nicely Matthew’s scar has faded – only 5 months post-op)

Matthew is also getting really good at pulling himself up to a stand.  He’s not using furniture yet, but he will pull himself up on Aaron or me using only his own power.  He’s proud of himself, too! 

He loves his bath SO much, that he gets really excited if anyone says “bath!”  Most of his gross motor skills, he practices in the bath before he performs them on dry land.  I see a little swimmer in our future!

My Fun Day

Hi, everybody!

This is Micah.  I had a really fun day today, and wanted to share some pictures with you.  My daddy didn’t have to go to work today, and he didn’t even have to talk on his phone for work, so we got to have a lot of fun.

First, Daddy and I made his special chocolate-chip cookies.  I helped make little balls with the dough, and then I got to lick the spoon!

Then, we took the cookies to my friend’s birthday party.  The party was a lot of fun!  There were lots of kids to play with, and they had a jumping castle!  I jumped and jumped, and laughed a lot when I fell down.

I got to wear a special birthday hat, and we all sang “Happy Birthday.”  I got to eat cake and ice cream at the Princess table with all the girls!  I really like frosting.

Matthew also had fun.  He liked the hat and frosting, too.

Daddy even wore a hat with us for a little while!

After cake, we all went outside to the pumpkin patch, and got to choose a pumpkin!  This one was ENORMOUS!  I chose a smaller one to take home with me.

They also had a REAL tractor!

It was a fun day, but I’m pretty tired now.  I hope all of you had fun days, too!  Goodnight.

Love,

Micah

I’m personally opposed, but-

Aaron wrote a response to a comment we received on our last post.  It is a response, not just to our friend, but to the many, many people we’ve talked to who share her opinions.

  This is Amy’s husband Aaron.  Thank you very much for taking the time to leave a comment on our blog.  We really appreciate your honesty and candor, and know that is it hard to be the one to voice opposition.  I know that you don’t know me but I felt compelled to respond. 
 
I respecfully disagree with you statement that we should not fight for laws to stop abortion because they are based on a belief system.  As Christians we believe that there is an “absolute” right and wrong created by God and whether or not another person believes that or not does not change the fact that something is REALLY wrong.  In fact, many laws are based on belief systems and our country was also founded on the Christian belief system.  Murder is against the law in this country.  Just because another culture or individual believes differently does not make it right.  That idea of “what is right for me is right for me and what is right for you is right for you” is the new age relativism or post modernism that champions the idea of “tolerance” even of practices that are morally WRONG like abortion.  What are we going to “tolerate” next?  There are things we can and should tolerate and others that we need to fight to protect at all costs.  The protection of innocent unborn babies should be first on that list. 
 
The question of when life begins is not just a religious debate but also a scientific one.  As a doctor, I know that from a biologic point of view, the vast majority of doctors, biologists, and scientists would agree that all the factors that qualify life are found in the unborn fetus.  That is NOT the real question.  The question is the value of that human life.  Once we determine that a human life is not valuable enough to be given the right to live then it is a slippery slope to other important mistakes such as euthanasia and others.  What this is to stop us from saying any other group has no value?  Already the poriton of the population with genetic abnormalities is being eliminated.  What if someone decided that a race of people or a color of people has no value?  Slavery was allowed because blacks were not valued as humans, and was “tolerated” much longer than it should have been because politicans said things like, “I have a duty to represent ALL my consituents, not just the black and religious population.  While I am personally opposed to slavery, and would never own a slave, I cannot impose those beliefs on people who favor white supremacy . . . ”  Hitler’s Germany is another example of good people tolerating bad things.  Lots of Germans were “personally opposed,” but genocide occurs when a entire people are not valued.  Unborn and more specificly unwanted babies are another unvalued group that while it is legal to kill them, is not right and is our duty as Christians and humans to protect.  That is why your arguement of “I am personally opposed but will not impose my beliefs” has no real merit.  It tolerates and aids an immoral practice to continue. 
 
  As to your thoughts that Republicans view other cultures as evil or less than human, I believe that is a ignorant statement.  Terrorists are criminals who are intent on killing and instilling fear in others and cannot be compared to innocent babies.  Criminals need to be delt with.  Evil does exist and it must be fought. Period.  Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator and we were right to overthow him.  Republicans are not out to mistreat the Arab world or average law abiding people of other countries and cultures.   I lived in the Middle east for 8 years, and most of the Arab people are good people living their lives just like us.  But there are groups of radicals and evil dictators that terrorize, instill fear, and kill without discretion – it is they who must be stopped. Our own freedom depends on it and that is why our sodiers are fighting overseas.  Their stories rarely get told by our liberal media.  My cousin seved a full term in Iraq, and came home upset that the media was not showing any of the good they are doing over there – none of the children’s faces who were thrilled to have a school, or people cheering on the US soldiers as they walked down the streets.  All we see are the twisted accounts of the sorrow of any war.
 
Respectfully,
Aaron Vawter

On Politics: My Main Issue

Poster courtesy of: Mama Says: How can Obama lead a people, if he won’t recognize a person?

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Life.

How do we define it?  How do we place a value on it?  And, what is our responsibility?

As this election draws near, I find my heart is heavy.  All that we’ve been though with Matthew this past year-and-a-half has brought these issues especially close to home.

It saddens me to know that more than 9 out of 10 women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to abort their baby.  More than 9 out of 10 families would rather end their child’s life than have a child like mine.  It saddens me for so many reasons:  These families will never know the special joy of their baby’s sweet smile.  Matthew will not have very many friends or know many others that are like him.  And, as the number of children with Down syndrome declines in our society, so too will the level of tolerance for Matthew, the number of people who have experience with others like him, the number of people who will be comfortable around him, the number of available programs to help him, the amount of research into Down syndrome, etc.

And, when I say that abortion is ending a child’s life, that is truly what I mean.  Scientifically speaking, there is really no dispute left that a “fetus” is alive.  From the moment of conception, a human embryo fulfills every scientific definition of life.  Those who try to deny it find themselves in a difficult, hazy land of trying to “re-define” definitions.

We now hear a lot about the “pre-viable” fetus.  If an infant is not able to survive outside its mother’s womb, is it really a life . . . a baby . . . ?  Let me present an anecdote from my brother:

Suppose my brother was hiking in Zion national park when he came across a nest with some California Condor eggs.  Now, suppose my dear brother, who just loves omlets, decided to cook up these eggs to satisfy his craving.  When held and questioned by the EPA, my brother tried to explain that these eggs were not really life.  The baby Condors inside were nowhere near being able to survive outside the shell, so therefore they were just the potential for life. . .  Do you think this argument would fly?  Probably not.

Additionally, the line between “pre-viable” and “viable” is getting pretty hazy.  Medical advances are able to help premature babies thrive more than ever before.  Babies born earlier and earlier are living and doing very well.  A baby born (or induced) at the same level of prematurity, who happened to have an extra chromosome or simply not be wanted by his mother, may now legally be left to die.  This is called “induction abortion,” and is what our doctors encouraged us to do with Matthew.

But, induction abortions really leave us in a sticky situation.  What do we do with that baby during the minutes or hours that it lives?  If it wasn’t a “life” worthy of protection before it came out of the womb, is he now that he is here, in our arms, breathing, heart beating, blinking at the bright lights?  Is it o.k. to wrap him in a warm blanket or place him in an incubator?  It is o.k. to provide some oxygen to help his labored breathing?  What about a little morphine to ease the pain of his respiratory distress caused by his underdeveloped lungs?  When do we define a child, a “child?”

Senator Barak Obama is undeniably one of the most radical pro-abortion politicians to cross our ballots.  He recognized this conundrum of definitions when he repeatedly voted against the born-alive infant protection act, which would allow these babies to receive some simple medical care.  He was worried, justifiably, that providing care to these infants would recognize them as human life.  Recognizing a “previable” human life as a life could well impact the future of abortions in this country.

Whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – a child, a nine-month-old – child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.”

Senator Barak Obama, Senate floor, 2001

“The equal protection cause does not allow somebody to kill a child . . . ”

Mr. Obama voted against it.

Watch this video to see what Obama fought for:

Senator Obama defends his stance in Illinois by saying that there was already legislation in place to “protect” abortion survivors.  Illinois compiled statute 720 ILCS 510/6 states that physicians performing abortions when the fetus is viable must use the procedure most likely to preserve the fetus’ life; must be attended by another physician who can care for a born-alive infant; and must “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as would be required of a physician providing immediate medical care to a child born alive in the course of a pregnancy termination which was not an abortion.”

So . . . let me get this right.  When performing an abortion (by definition, killing the baby,) the physician must use whichever procedure (all of which are designed to end life), least likely to do what they are trying to accomplish?  It doesn’t make any sense.  This statute is full of loop-holes, and is nothing more than pro-abortion politicians trying appease supporters who may be pro-life.  But, we can’t even count on Obama to support the above legislation.

“[A]dding a – an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.

Senator Barak Obama, Senate floor, 2002

I know that recently there has been a lot of speculation and questions about what Senator Obama really said or what he really voted for.  He’s playing an excellent game of politics, side-stepping the real questions and pointing fingers at the other side.  See for yourself at FactCheck.org, a non-partisan website.

The truth is, we live in a society that judges human life, not simply by the fact that a human baby is alive, but by the value we place on that life.  A life that is not wanted by his parents, or who comes at an inconvenient time for her mother, or a life that may have a disability, is not valued.  Therefore, we, as a society that supports legalized abortion through our laws and legislation, say that it is o.k. to end that un-valued life prematurely.

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Why we will be voting for McCain/Palin

I don’t know everything about politics, and I don’t claim to even come close.  I don’t know a whole lot about foreign policy, or economics – but I do know that our media rarely gives us the whole story.  But, I do know that, as an American citizen, I have the privilege and responsibility to elect representatives – people who will represent me – people who have made it their business to know all of those things and to make the big decisions on my behalf.  When someone is making decisions – big decisions – on my behalf, I want that person to have morals and values that align with my own.  Even though I don’t have control (nor do I want to have control) over every decision he or she will make, I know that if my representative is making decisions based on a solid moral foundation, we will be moving in the right direction.

No one person is perfect, and no politician is perfect.  No politician should ever be viewed as a “savior,” or given too much power or importance, because, like us, they are just human.  We have only one Savior, and He is not running for president 2008.

In stark contrast to Obama, McCain and Palin do have that solid moral foundation.  John McCain has a very good pro-life voting record, and states that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.  He is in favor of protecting and strengthening the family rather than “re-defining” it by allowing homosexual marriage.  He opposes embryonic stem cell research.

Governor Palin has proved herself to be an incredible pro-life advocate.  Additionally, she has lived out her values by giving birth to a son with Down syndrome . . . even though she knew he had Down syndrome.  She even continually calls her son a blessing, and says, “Children with special needs inspire a special love.”  I could go on and on, but this post is getting quite long as it is!

This statement is taken directly from the 2008 Republican Platform:

Maintaining The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.

If you are curious to know more about what McCain and Palin stand for, you can visit their web site.

Here is a note from Aaron, who is helping me with this post:

The current Supreme Court is divided.  Five of the Justices are pro-choice, and Four are pro-life.  With the oldest pro-choice justice being 88 years old and others over 70, we are heading into a crucial time in the the battle to overturn Roe vs Wade.  The next president may be responsible for nominating justices that will either turn the tide in favor of the pro-life movement or set it back decades.  We know where each of the candidates stand and our responsibility as Christians to save the lives of the innocent.  Where will you stand?  “Choose ye this day who you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15

What I Can Not Understand

I recently heard that scientists have discovered a way to effectively eliminate the mosquito population, which would stop the spread of diseases such as malaria and West Nile Virus.  It could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa, where Malaria is a real and deadly threat.  However, scientists are not going to eliminate the mosquito population, because they don’t know what it would do.  They don’t know the broader impact on the rest of the ecosystem – we don’t know all the species that feed on mosquitoes, or understand the full role of the mosquito on this planet.  This makes sense – eliminating even something as seemingly small as a the mosquito can have an enormous impact.

What does not make sense to me is that we are afraid of eliminating the mosquito population, but not afraid of eliminating the portion of the human population who happen to have an extra chromosome?

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We have a few very dear friends who support Mr. Obama.  These are good, Christian people, with both strong moral values and religious beliefs.  What I have been struggling to understand is, how can they justify their support of this politician in light of their own values?  How can they support a man who opposes such important moral teaching of the Church?  (the Catholic Church has put forth 5 “non-negotiable moral issues:”  Abortion, Euthanasia, Embryonic Stem-Cell Research, Human Cloning, and Homosexual “Marriage.”  see the voter’s guide for more information.)

My husband, Aaron, has said, “Is that really what you want to stand before God and answer for?  Do you really want to be held responsible for being an accomplice to the murder of millions of babies every year?  How will you explain to God why you stood back and allowed these evil things to occur?”  (Aaron also has some other comments that may be a little strong for this blog.)

To me, being Christian seems absolutely incompatible with being a supporter of Barak Obama.  I welcome your comments.

I do understand that is is difficult to get away from voting strictly along “party lines,” especially if that is the way a person was raised.  We tend to vote the way our parents do . . . but the parties have changed a lot in the past 50 years.  It is our responsibility to carefully evaluate each candidate, and vote in the kind of “change” that this country really needs.  Please vote very, very carefully in November.

If you consider yourself a Catholic or a Christian, and a Democrat, please check out the following link.  There is a book (available on Amazon or Sophia Institute Press) called:

Can a Catholic be a Democrat?  How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of My Religion, by David Carlin.

When I told my friend that our new book is called Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?, he shot back, “Can a Catholic be a Republican?”

That’s a good question, since these days both parties endorse policies or engage in activities that contradict some or many Catholic teachings about abortion, poverty, immigration, war and peace, or other issues of life and justice.

But that’s not always been the case.

Indeed, when author David Carlin was a young man, it was scandalous for a good Catholic to be anything but a good Democrat. In the pews, pubs, and union halls of America’s cities, millions of poor European immigrants and their children pledged allegiance to the Church of Rome and the party of FDR.

Also, check out the following (non-partisan) voter’s guides:

Voter’s Guide for Serious Christians

Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics


Chapter 4: Second Visit to Seattle Children’s

Here is the next chapter in my effort to tell the “whole story.”  This part (along with Ch. 5) is the most difficult part for me to write, but I am trying to be as honest as possible in sharing our story.

Need to catch up?  Click on the following links:

Chapter 1:  The Beginning

Chapter 2:  First Visit to Seattle Children’s Hospital

Chapter 3:  What’s in a Name?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I was making sure our diaper bag was packed with enough toys, books, and snacks to keep Micah happy during another long, detailed ultrasound and fetal echocardiogram.  Today was our “8 week follow-up” appointment, and I was close to 30 weeks pregnant.

We had spent the past two months in a turmoil of emotion, grieving the loss of our dying baby.  This was a reality we had come to accept, a reality we had made peace with.   At least he won’t suffer, we told ourselves. We will keep him comfortable while he’s here, and then he will rest joyfully in the Father’s arms. We found some comfort in that Matthew would never have to endure painful medical procedures, he would never have to face the heartache of other’s cruel stares or teasing.

And, at least Matthew’s prognosis was clear.  With our medical training and experience, we knew all to well that medicine was so often an unclear science.  Doctors and patients have to make excruciatingly difficult decisions regarding medical care, delicatly balancing the burden of the treatment or procedure versus the potential benefit to the patient.  Getting all the medical professionals involved in a certain case to agree on an ethics issue was often an impossibility.  We were terrified of having to make such a decision regarding Matthew.  No parent should have to make a life-or-death decision about their child!  Attempt a risky procedure, knowing the pain it causes, even when a good outcome is unlikely?  Or, keep your child comfortable at home knowing his medical condition will be fatal?  Please, let it be clear, we prayed.  Please don’t make the decisions difficult.  We just want to do the right thing by Matthew.  Please let the right thing be clear. Our greatest fear, spoken only between Aaron and myself, was that we would let the diagnosis of Down syndrome influence our decisions.  As scary as it was to have a dying child, it was even more terrifying at times to think about raising a disabled child.

But, Matthew’s medical conditions had made things very clear.  None of the babies were still alive, they had said.  None of the babies that had hearts like Matthew’s and Down syndrome had survived.  We knew what we needed to do.  We would not subject this poor baby to the pain of surgery, especially when the chance of him even surviving the 4 open-heart surgeries was slim.  We would take him home and keep him comfortable.  “Comfort care only,” we had decided.  For as long as we had him, he would be loved and and pain-free.  He would spend his short life at home with his family, not alone in a hospital NICU.

And we would be o.k. . . . eventually.  We could have more kids.  We could move on.  Maybe it’s for the best, we thought.  He would have such a hard life if he did survive.

.

As I looked up at Aaron to ask if had we brought any juice boxes for Micah, I noticed he had a very solemn and worried look on his face.  He had the same look before our first appointment here.  “What is it?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful.  “It’s not like they can give us any worse news this time.  They’ve already told us our baby is dying!”  Some amount of sarcasm mixed with dark humor was a coping mechanism we had found.

“It can always get worse,” Aaron said seriously.  “It can go from being clear to being unclear.”

I sighed.  I would rather not worry about all of the “what if’s”  We had enough to deal with as it was.

.

Our pediatric cardiologist was cute, young and sweet, just finishing up her residency.  Her name would be changing soon, she explained, as she was getting married.  We were to just call her “Meg” to keep it simple.  As she was taking a look at the images from the fetal echocardiogram, we were explaining to her that this would probably be our last visit to Seattle.  “We’ve decided to have the baby in Yakima,” we explained.  “We’ve been researching all of the diagnoses, and given the prognosis we’ve decided not to attempt any surgeries.  We’ve talked to the doctors there, and they are comfortable providing comfort care.  It would just be so much easier for us to be at home, with our family . . .”

“Well, let’s not make any decisions too quickly,” she smiled sweetly.  I refrained from telling her that we had been agonizing over this for the past 8 weeks, and that didn’t feel like a hasty decision to us.

Twenty minutes later, Meg sat with us at a small round table in the conference room.  Her attending, Dr. Chang, joined us for the discussion.  Dr. Chang had a stern look on her face, while Meg had a big smile.  Micah, restless after an already long appointment, was starting to pull books and magazines off a rack.  I turned around to stop him, and Dr. Chang’s look softened, and said, “It’s alright.  He’s not hurting anything.”  The soft tone of her voice made me think I had mistaken concern, even pity, for sternness.

“Well, we’ve seen some big changes since last time you were here,” Meg began with her cute smile and chipper tone.  “The aorta is just slightly larger than it was last time, allowing more blood to flow to his body,” she explained.  “This means he is more likely to survive pregnancy, but he will still most likely need a repair soon after birth.  Also, the left side of his heart has grown significantly.  He might be a candidate for a two-ventricle repair after all.  It is very borderline right now.  We probably won’t know until after he is born, but there is a chance.  We’ll just have to wait and see!”

Both doctors were looking at us now, expecting some kind of a reaction.  Aaron and I both stared blankly, too shocked for any words or expression.  Meg was looking confused – like this was great news and we were supposed to be smiling like she was.  Dr. Chang was studying our faces, looking for any kind of response.

“What?” I managed to say.  This time, Dr. Chang took over, and explained the medical changes again.  Again, explaining that due to growth in parts of his heart, he was now a very “borderline” case, meaning he might survive with a series of surgeries, or he might not.

“We’ll be able to get a better look at his heart after he’s born,” she explained.

Again, they seemed to expect a reaction.  They didn’t seem to realize that the knews had hit us like a bomb, dropped right in our laps.

“But, last time you said . . . ” I stuttered.  I had so many quesions, but my mind wasn’t working.  I couldn’t seem to form coherent thoughts, let alone sentences.  ” . . . you said there was no chance.”

“I know!” Meg exclaimed.  “I’ve never seen one grow like this!  It is very unusual.”

“Do you have any questions?” Dr. Chang asked

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot later,” Aaron offered.  “It’s just a lot right now.”

“Of course.  You can call anytime,” she said kindly.  “But, this does mean that we will want you to have the baby in Seattle.  We will need to schedule an induction date.  If we let you go into labor on your own, it won’t be the best scenario.  We will need to have the whole team is ready when the baby arrives, just in case.”

I don’t know if the doctors said anything after that.  My mind was screaming, No!  No, no NO!  This isn’t right!  Not Seattle.  No induction.  No surgeries. No!  This is NOT what we decided!

At that instant, a wave of fear and shock more intense than anything I had ever felt swept me away.  I felt like I was trapped inside an old-fashioned hourglass.  We had just weathered a sand-storm, and were beginning to find our footing again, but now someone had turned the hourglass over.  Everything was upside-down.  The shifting sand we had been standing on was now burying us, falling out from under us.  I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think.  We were sinking, and sinking fast.

Somehow we got our little family into the car before the fear spilled out in a torrent of tears.  Sweet Micah had fallen asleep in the back seat when Aaron had to pull the car over because he couldn’t see to drive through the tears.  We sat in a Burger King parking lot and held each other for what seemed like hours, not saying a word, just weeping.

.

In an instant, my mind took me back to an earlier time.  I was 19, a sophomore in college at Gonzaga University.  Life was good.  I was dating Aaron Vawter, the cutest Senior I knew, and the love of my life.  My biggest worry was whether or not we would have a pop-quiz in cellular biology.  I loved the fast pace and the challenges of majoring in a “hard science.”  I actually like math, and enjoyed and excelled in my college Calculus class.  I liked finding the “right” answers, and I would much prefer a 3-hour multiple-choice exam over the task of writing a paper for a more subjective English class.  “Creative writing” was a phrase I heard in my nightmares.  Maybe it was becasue I was a perfectionist – and liked a clear “right” vs. “wrong.”  I would stress for hours and hours staring at a computer screen, trying to write a “perfect” paper.  Phrases like, “There are no right answers” would drive me crazy.  Give me true or false; right or wrong; A or B.

But, at the same time, I didn’t feel like I fit the stereotype of the hard-nosed hard-science major.  I was really quite soft-hearted.  I was outgoing, I loved people, and I was quick to lend a helping hand or listening ear to any friend in need.  My best friend and roommate, Theresa, was also soft to the core, which is why we got along so well.  She, however, had chosen to major in special education.  She wanted to teach at a preschool for children with special needs.  And, I couldn’t imagine anyone better suited for the job.  She was so patient, so understanding, and she truly had an incredible heart for those with disabilities or handicaps of any kind.  She volunteered many hours at a home for adults with special-needs, and considered these folks her friends.  I felt like this was great . . . for her . . . but definitely not the way I would choose to spend my time.

Once in a while, we would see Theresa at church, sitting with the “folks,” as she called her friends from the group home.  It seemed like such an odd collection of people – some older, some younger; some more alert, some with nothing but blank stares; some with more physical handicaps, and some that looked almost athletic.  But, the connection between these folks was obvious.  One reaching out a hand to help a friend stand up, another holding on to an elbow, guiding a friend down the aisle.  If Aaron was with me, he would sometimes comment about “I wonder how much they can understand.  How does Theresa do it?”  I would elbow him and tell him to “shush,” even though I secretly agreed with his musings.  I didn’t know how Theresa “did it.”

Then, one week Theresa informed us that as part of a special arrangement between Gonzaga and the group home, the folks would be coming to spend a weekend on campus with us!  It was supposed to be a lot of fun for them – supposedly they really enjoyed it.  “And, Beth is going to stay with us.  I hope that’s o.k.?”  (I will call her Beth, because that is not her real name.)

“Oh, it’s a sleep-over?” I asked hesitently.  She nodded.  “But, where will she sleep?” I asked, looking around the tiny dorm room and our two tiny bunk-beds.

“She’ll have my bed,” Theresa offered.  “I’ll take the floor.  Don’t worry.  I’ll do everything – you won’t have to worry about it.  Beth is easy to take care of.

Everything was fine until Saturday afternoon, when Theresa really needed a break to get something to eat.  She asked if I could watch Beth for just a couple hours.  “She usually takes a nap, it should be easy.”

I had pretty well avoided the whole situation until that point, but I was happy to help out my friend.  I called Aaron and asked if he wanted to hang out and help me “babysit” for a couple hours.  He said he would, but not 20 minutes later, we were both wishing Theresa would hurry and return so we could leave.  Beth was an older woman with Down syndrome.  She sat on Theresa’s bed moaning and playing with her toes the entire time we were there.  She had acutally had all of her tonails surgically removed becasue of his habit, but she would still play with her toes.

“Beth, how are you doing?” I asked cheerfully.  I was rewarded with a snarl and another moan.  I waited a minute before asking,  “Are you having fun?”  No response . . . “Do you want to color?  Theresa said you like to color.”  Another snarl and more moaning.  “. . . How about a nap?  Would you like to take a nap?”  Louder moaning, and still playing with her toes.  For two hours, we sat with a woman who moaned, snarled, and played with tonails that were no longer there.

“When is Theresa coming back?” Aaron asked hopefully.  I could tell this was driving him mad, and he wouldn’t be able to take much more.

“Soon, I hope.  I really don’t know how she does it.”

“Me neither.  Amy, I’m no good at this.  I’m really not.  I don’t have the patience!  I know some people like Theresa are really good at this, but I’m not.  I really think the worst thing that could ever happen to me would be to have a disabled child.  I’m serious.  I couldn’t handle it.”

“Wordless Wednesday”

Some of the blogs on the Gifts website post “Wordless Wednesday” photos.  It’s a chance to take a break from wordy posts or heavy issues, and just share fun pictures of family life.  Not to be left out, here are some very recent photos.