John Raphael's Story
The thought of having another baby was so exciting. I had been taking
prenatal vitamins for months and exercising four times per week. My husband
and I even took a relaxing, fun-filled trip to Las Vegas to get "things"
started. ;) With the grace of God we were pregnant within months. I felt
great and found it hard to keep my pregnancy a secret from family and
friends. We didn't want to tell anyone until we received confirmation from
the OB/GYN. I was about 3 months pregnant when I attended my first exam with
my husband. Dr. David Garza heard the heartbeat, extended a handshake, and
congratulated my husband. We had tears of joy in our eyes and immediately
wanted to share the good news with everyone. We went home and I typed the
words "Wonderful news is in store don't you see? A new little grandbaby for
2003!" on a little piece of paper and carefully placed it inside a fortune
cookie for my mother to open that evening. She opened it and really couldn't
believe what she was reading until she saw the look on our faces. My
grandmother was also there and gave us her blessings too. I even had my
Orthodontist put pink and blue bands on my braces! We celebrated with my
brother and sister-in-law that weekend over dinner and talked about baby
names, future plans, as well as our hopes and dreams for the future. The
following Monday, my mom and daughter accompanied me to the routine
sonogram. As the sonogram proceeded, the sonographer asked me a series of
weird questions like, "Were you taking fertility medicine?" "Have you ever
had a c-section?" "No", I replied. Why? She told me that she was just
wondering. I knew by the look on her face that something was wrong. She was
so nervous when she walked out of the room, that she forgot to tell me that
we were done. She did not offer me a sono photo of my baby either. In fact,
running out the door, a sono picture fell to the floor; of course, I picked
it up and put it in my purse.
A phone call the next day from Dr. Garza confirmed my "gut" feeling about
the sonogram. He told me that he saw "bone fragments missing from the baby's
head" and asked me to see a specialist to confirm his findings right away. I
was not sure what that meant and just prayed that the diagnosis from the
specialist would be different. I told God that if my baby was going to be
born with a handicap, that I would accept that and love this child
unconditionally. When my husband and I visited the specialist, he told us
that the sonogram showed our son had "anencephaly" a condition not viable
with life. I cried and could not understand how this could have happened. I
don't think my husband understood what the doctor had just told us and asked
me "what is he talking about?" We were prepared for our baby to need medical
attention once born, but not prepared for him to tell us that our baby would
die!! We asked him what our options were. Options, meaning "medicine" to
heal our son. The options this specialist told us were as follows: he could
give me the names of clinics to have an abortion or we could "try" to carry
this baby full-term where the outcome would be lethal anyway. He told us
that the delivery would be difficult because of the lack of skull putting
pressure on the cervix, he told us that sometimes the doctors have to break
the baby's bones to get it out of the birth canal, he told us that I would
most likely have a c-section, he told us that this baby probably would not
go full term, he showed us an ugly scientific picture of what our baby would
look like, he told us all of this so we would be "well informed" of what we
were dealing with. Our baby was not given a 15% chance of survival, nor even
1%! Our baby was not going to live and there was no cure for anencephaly.
Horrified, we left. My husband was calm, yet still in shock and crying. He
left his car at the office and drove me home because of how hysterical I
was. I pounded my fists in anger and cried tears in quantities never seen
before. I could not be consoled the entire trip home. Arriving home, I went
straight to my room in order not to scare my little daughter. My mom was at
our home taking care of our daughter, and found out the results of the
sonogram were bad. My brother and sister-in-law came over to console us, and
asked if we needed anything. The only thing anyone could do at this point
was to pray. I called my boss at work and told her the bad news. She was
very understanding and told me to take a few days off from work. We prayed
that God would help us get through this difficult trial.
We took a weekend trip to San Juan, Texas, a 5 hour trip from San Antonio to
visit the Virgen de Guadalupe Catholic Shrine . There we attended a healing
mass and gave all our pain, anger, confusion, and sadness to Jesus and to
the Virgin Mary. We all agreed that we felt the loving presence of our
Mother Mary, Jesus and God. In our hearts, we knew what God wanted from us.
Besides, this wouldn't be happening to us if God didn't think we couldn't
handle it, right? We returned to San Antonio, after a very uplifting and
spiritual weekend. I even returned to work with a totally different outlook
on life. Many were suprised that we had decided to carry this baby to term.
It was not really even a decision, since we knew that terminating this
pregnancy was not even an option. Some were not supportive of our decision,
questioning whether we were in denial of what the doctors had told us. No,
we were not crazy...just full of faith in the plan God had in store for us.
We attended several healing masses and had several church groups praying for
a miracle. We knew that it was God's will whatever the outcome would be.
Certain things in life were not important anymore, especially not material
things. Car breaks down? Oh well. Ariana spills paint all over the white
carpet? No big deal. The car is dirty? So what, it's just a car! Bills,
bills, bills, no money? Don't worry, the bills will always be there and God
will see to it that they get paid. A lot of the anxiety was taken away
after a return visit and consultation with Dr. Garza. I had not seen him in
about a week and was worried what he would say about my decision to carry
this baby. Would he tell me the same horrible things the other
doctor/specialist said? Like an angel sent from God, Dr. Garza supported our
decision and told us that he and his wife would have done the same. He told
me that we would treat this like a normal pregnancy and gave me a tight hug
of assurance. Needless to say, we felt so much better after that visit with
Dr. Garza. Months went by and we were getting closer to the due date. In
subsequent sonograms we even found out that we were having a boy! The
sonographer had asked if we were sure if we wanted to know the sex because
she did not want us to get too attached to our baby. What?? How can you
carry a child for 9 months and not be emotionally attached?! We named our
son, John Raphael. We sent out pregnancy announcements stating his delicate
condition and asked for prayers. We also purchased double-depth cemetery
lots for my husband and I. If Baby John would die, he would be buried on my
side. We hoped and prayed for those few months that Baby John would be
After the New Year, the level of anxiety was very high. This was because
Baby John would be born very soon. Since my due date was January 26th, 2003,
Dr. Garza ordered one more sonogram to see if the baby was in position.
Thank the Lord he was not breech! My doctor says that the heaviest part of
these special babies are the lower part of their bodies and gravity usually
makes them breech. Dr. Garza also ordered that a neo-natal team be on stand
by at the time of delivery just in case. Again, it was rare that this baby
live all 9 months in utero. We also found out at the sonogram, that the
diagnosis had not changed in all that time.
We called our priest and asked him about Baptizing our son. Monsignor Leo
Dolan of St. Helena's Catholic Church did something very special for us and
Baby John. He gave our son a Conditional Baptism using holy water and oils
directly on my abdomen on January 20th. The Godmother was my first cousin,
Sandra who was present at the time, it was also her birthday. It was a
beautiful ceremony with loving and assuring words from Monsignor Dolan. We
felt so happy that our son was Baptized through the Catholic church and that
his home would be with God.
On January 23rd, my doctor checked to see if I had dilated, or if my cervix
was ripe. Nothing had happened, Baby John had not dropped either! Dr. Garza
wanted to see me on the following Monday which was the day after my due
date, to see if anything had changed. He also said that I might have to be
induced. I worried about it all weekend long, and on the evening of my due
date I felt a "little funny". I did not feel pain, I just felt like "it" was
really close to happening. At about 2:30 a.m., my water broke. Again, I did
not feel pain nor contractions, and was very comfortable. My husband
nervously packed a few last minute items while I got in the shower. My
contractions could be felt at around 4:00 a.m., that is when I told everyone
"let's go!" When I arrived to the hospital at 4:30 a.m. I was 7 cm dilated!
My doctor wanted me to have an epidural in case of an emergency c-section. I
did too because if they gave me general anesthesia, I wouldn't see my son in
his first minutes of life if I had a cesarean. With contractions 30 seconds
apart, I was given an epidural at 8 cm. After a couple pushes the baby
wouldn't budge. He was trying to come face first. In order to help, the
nurse pushed down on my abdomen to move the baby out. The doctor pulled him
very hard and our son was born. That specialist was wrong! I did not need a
c-section, I did not have to be induced, my son was not breech, the doctor
did not have to break any of our baby's bones, and he was not stillborn!
Only God can control those things. One thing for certain was God's will to
take our son to heaven.
We were saddened that our son did have anencephaly, but yet happy that he
was alive! My husband cut the umbilical cord and the nurse wiped him off and
put a warm little cap on him before I held him. I did not cry, I just held
him, kissed and hugged him, and told him how much we loved our little angel.
He lived 7 minutes before his ascension to heaven. He weighed 7 lbs, 8 oz.
and was 21 inches long! He also had a big chest and chunky legs. Even though
he had passed away, I gave him his first bath, and dressed him in his little
angel outfit. He had such beautiful white skin, long fingernails and brown
curly hair at the base of his head. I gave him a little haircut and kept one
of his "curlies" in a hair lock box that my mom gave me. We took lots of
pictures and video and cherished these very precious moments with our angel.
My husband, daughter, mother, grandmother, and cousin took turns holding him
and remembering every inch of his little body. After the family left, Baby
John stayed with me and my husband for another 5 hours. When the funeral
home came to pick up our son, that is when my tears started to roll. (I must
say that was the hardest part of letting go.) I was released the next day so
we could complete our son's funeral arrangements.
It has been 3 years since Baby John went to Heaven. We don't ever regret
the decision to carry our son to term. We constantly receive daily
blessings and continue to bless others by sharing our story. We can't
explain "how" we were able to live through this very difficult time, as
losing a child is the most unimaginable pain one can endure. We just know
that by the grace of God and our Blessed Mother, our hearts and souls have
been healed through the greiving process. It may sound strange but we
actually feel "blessed" to have brought our son to this world only to give
him back to the Lord. We don't feel cursed or punished, we felt as though
we were "chosen" to carry this little angel for God's purpose.
For more information on baby John, our pregnancy announcement, funeral program, and more pictures, please visit our website. http://www.geocities.com/babyjohnraphael/index.html .
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-The support, information and encouragement provided by the PPFL parents is not meant to take the place of medical advice by a medical professional. Any specific questions about care should be directed to a health care professional familiar with the situation.