Meet women who chose life
by Nancy Flanders
Pregnancy can be hard enough even when a woman’s situation and health are good. But for a Catholic woman facing extreme circumstances in a pregnancy, she may also experience heartbreaking societal pressure and medical professionals suggesting termination. With pregnancy after rape, challenging fetal diagnoses, or pregnancy posing risk to the mother, women may be counseled not to carry a “rapist’s child,” their baby may likely die anyway, or life with a disability is too hard, and they shouldn’t risk their lives for their child. These stories are from the other side of those fears — women who bore their children with love and hope, witnessing to a culture of life.
ANALYN MEGISON SUPPORTED BY PRIESTS, NUNS
A law school graduate working in public policy, Analyn Megison was enjoying a night out with friends when she was attacked by an acquaintance. She fought him off but was unconscious and awoke covered in blood and bruises. She reported the attack to police and believed she had prevented her own sexual assault. Then she discovered she was pregnant. Angry that he had succeeded in raping her, Megison was also filled with joy.
“It was a sign of incredible hope and gave me a tremendous amount of strength,” she said. “I had this new life inside of me to protect, and it was a source of healing and strength to know I was going to have a baby.
”Thanks to her knowledge of human development and her Catholic faith, Megison was fully aware that this was a new human being whom she was carrying. Though she had fears, Megison was grateful that her faith supported her. Unfortunately, not all her fellow Catholics reflected that.
“There were many lay Catholics that thought I should have an abortion because of the rape,” she said. “They like to label themselves pro-life, but in the case of my child, there was a lot of pres-sure from those same people to have an abortion.”
Thanks to her personal relationship with Jesus and the support of priests and nuns, Megison got through a difficult pregnancy and gave birth to a baby girl. “You can’t look at someone and think about how they were conceived,” Megison explained. “The opposite of love is fear in so many ways. … Love is going to be stronger than fear when you let it be.”
One of Megison’s sources of strength is the rosary, which she says “tethers you to God.” She is working to change the stigma surrounding women who choose life after rape as well as the stigma for children conceived from rape. Megison advocates for laws that remove barriers so women can freely choose life.
NAOMI KARRELS HELD ON TO HER FAITH
Naomi Karrels and her husband, Michael, were the parents of two young boys when they learned they were pregnant. But at the 20-week ultrasound, the technician became quiet and turned the monitor away. Afterward, the doctor called the family back in and told them their baby girl had anencephaly, a condition in which the brain and skull don’t completely form. Even if a child survives the pregnancy, most die within hours of birth. As Karrels prepared for a second ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis, a friend texted a prayer she said for her.
The couple refused abortion and named their baby girl Grace — providential because through her short life and her death, her parents experienced immense grace.
“It was the exact moment they were doing the ultrasound. I remember it specifically because during the ultrasound, the peace that I felt was something that, given the situation, I don’t know that I would have felt that peace if it weren’t for prayer,” Karrels said.
The couple refused abortion and named their baby girl Grace — providential because through her short life and her death, her parents experienced immense grace. At 36 weeks and six days, baby Grace was born, but unfortunately, she had passed away sometime during delivery.
“Her life allowed me to see how I should depend on God and others more,” Karrels said. “I was raised to be self-sufficient. Needing other people is not something that I’m good at doing, but it became a gift because I was opened up to the knowledge that I’m not alone.
”Since Grace’s birth and death, Karrels and her husband have welcomed another baby girl. They want other couples facing a similar situation to remember to pray and to hold on to God and each other.
“Jesus said, ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit.’ That’s what it felt like. It felt like I was dying to myself and literally letting Jesus be the one to breathe for me,” Karrels said. “Hold on to your faith.”
CASSY CHESSER FOUND SUPPORTIVE MEDICAL CARE
Two days after Cassy Chesser’s hus-band, Matt, left for Afghanistan with the Marines, the pregnant mother underwent an amniocentesis and testing for her preborn child. Before the week was over, she received a phone call that changed everything. Her baby, their second child, had Down syndrome. Chesser held back tears until she hung up the phone and then began to cry. That night, her husband called and surprised Chesser with his calm response.
“He said, ‘It’s OK. He’s our son. It’s no big deal,’” Chesser recalled.
With her family and friends three states away, Chesser struggled with lone-liness and spent the next few days crying. She was devastated and concerned. She feared her son would never have friends or would be sick constantly. Her guilt for feeling so badly about her son’s diagnosis brought on more sadness. Then one day, it all just lifted.
“There was a moment when it kind of changed and I was OK with it,” she said. “Those first couple of weeks were really difficult, and I just felt terrible and didn’t have any hope. I struggled a lot. But by the time he was born, it was a nonissue.”
Chesser considers herself lucky because the specialist she met with never pushed her to have an abortion. When she told him she would not be terminating, he put her in touch with a local Down syndrome organization. It turned out that this doctor had researched Down syndrome, and because of that additional knowledge, he could provide an informed perspective.
Chesser was monitored throughout her pregnancy to make sure her baby boy Wyatt was growing properly, and while he looked healthy, his legs and arms were short for his size.
“The doctor said, ‘When he’s playing soccer in five years, he’ll just be the shortest kid on the field.’ He would sit there and joke about how much Wyatt would move around and look at his cute little nose. He was positive, and that helped me a lot,” Chesser said.
Three weeks after Wyatt was born, Chesser’s husband was able to come home early from military duty.
Wyatt is now 6 years old and very healthy. He has some delays, is mostly nonverbal, and needs physical therapy. He likes Mickey Mouse and Frozen,and he fights with his siblings. He doesn’t require anything different than other children, says his mother. He just needs his parents to love him and take care of him.
AMY LUKASIK DEPENDED ON GOD
At a 30-week ultrasound with her fifth baby, Amy Lukasik received a dangerous diagnosis. The placenta had grown through her cesarean section scar, out of the uterus, and into her bladder, ligaments, and muscle tissue. She was diagnosed with placenta percreta and was at risk of bleeding out during the pregnancy until just after delivery. The condition is usually noticed on an ultrasound around 16-weeks gestation, and according to the National Accreta Foundation, women have a 1 in 14 chance of dying.
Some doctors advise patients to abort. However, according to Dr. Donna Harrison, the executive director of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the risk of death comes when the doctor attempts to remove the placenta and the baby from the mother. Whether that is through abortion or C-section, the woman has the same chance of bleeding to death. Doctors should be watching for the right time to remove the child via C-section to save both mother and baby. Since Lukasik was 30 weeks along, her options were to deliver at 32 weeks or wait, but she had to stay within 10 minutes of the hospital.
“Once I’m pregnant, my vocation is to bring this baby into the world the best way possible,” Lukasik said. “My husband and I prayed and stayed up talking about everything and asking God, ‘Why me? You could take this burden from me right now or you can make me walk this path.’ We decided that this was the path that God gave me, so we were going to walk it.
”Despite her strong faith, Lukasik worried about what her family would do and how her husband would handle life alone with five children. She didn’t want to die, but she knew God had a plan for her life and death could come at any moment. She prayed that her husband and children would have peace with whatever happened.
At 37 weeks and two days, it was time. Doctors performed a C-section and then removed the placenta, repaired her bladder, fixed her left ligament, and performed a hysterectomy. Lukasik lost blood during a 7-hour surgery and woke up in intensive care on a ventilator. Through the night she needed life support, but 24 hours after her son Noah’s birth, Lukasik was awake, and the breathing tube was removed. Despite the odds stacked against them, they had both made it through.
Lukasik finds purpose in her suffering by helping women who are going through the same diagnosis.
“I never questioned my faith, but I knew this would be an opportunity to go deeper in my faith and it was time to live it,” she said. “You say you’d die for your children, but this is the time to put up. You are stronger than you can ever imagine, and absolutely nothing is impossible with God by your side.”