A Mother’s Story: God’s Care through Life, Disability, and Death

It is often said that pre-born life is hardly valued in our country and that many abort children with disabilities. I, for one, can relate to the heart-breaking situation of hearing that there is something wrong with your child, but I have never changed my mind about the injustice of abortion. This is my story.

After my husband and I were happily married for sometime we got pregnant and had a miscarriage three times. Our doctor referred us for further examinations, partly because there are genetic disorders amongst relatives. Blood was drawn and DNA testing was done. In the meantime, we were expecting for the fourth time—a blessing from above.

When the results came in after several weeks, we were deeply shocked. There was reason for serious concern. They said our baby would possible have no cerebrum, the largest part of the brain, and that the eyes were implanted the wrong way, due to a “mistake” between the 3rd and 7th chromosome. The verdict? With every pregnancy, there would be 30% chance of a miscarriage, 30% chance of a still-birth, and 40% chance of having a reasonably healthy child, though 5% of the latter could also be a severely handicapped child. As though life can be captured in percentages.

“You’re still young,” the physician said to us in a consoling but somewhat cold manner. “That makes all the difference, right?” My husband was 27; I was 22. All we knew was that One stood above it all. When our daughter was born there was double joy. She was completely healthy and well. I cannot even tell you how happy we were but everything was comprehended in a verse from Psalm 103: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” What a miracle!

One year later, we experienced another miscarriage at 12 weeks of pregnancy, likely due to the same chromosomal disorder. To lose our sweet baby that we would have loved to hold and raise caused much sorrow. But—Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit. Man proposes, but God disposes.

Within the next two years, we received another daughter and a son. We were ever so happy with our little family. Some years later, I was pregnant again and we were delighted. At 20 weeks, we were expected to go for an ultrasound, which wasn’t routine for everyone back then. However, we needed to do this with every pregnancy due to the genetic predisposition for a handicapped child. It was an ultrasound I will never forget.

After a long, ominous silence, during which I intuitively felt that bad news was coming, the ultrasound technician took my hand and said, “Something is wrong with your child.” I remember that I began to cry, and that we were soon joined by my husband and the gynaecologist. But before anyone could say anything, I exclaimed through my tears, “But I will never, NEVER get rid of it!”

Since the medical staff immediately knew were we stood on this matter, no other “options” were offered and we were treated with utmost respect and cooperation. Almost every week there was another appointment and it became clear—our child was seriously handicapped. We didn’t know how long she would live, which caused much tension and insecurity. I had too much amniotic fluid and very much pain during the pregnancy, but the Lord helped me through it every single day. Our child grew according to the book.

Then, at 36 weeks, our Tirza was born. She passed away during her birth. Not because of her handicap, but because of placenta abruption.

Our dear daugther, our sweet child.

Despite her disability and the way her eyes were placed, Tirza was a beautiful baby. I dressed her myself—the few last things I could do for her. Only then I fully realized what it is to miss a child that you have also embraced. My husband and I held and caressed her, as did our parents and other children. We were allowed to take our dearly beloved daughter home prior to the funeral with family and close friends.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

The Lord gave us to believe that Tirza is now eternally with Him—what a great comfort! It would almost be impossible to go through this otherwise, yet the Lord didn’t give us too much to carry. He saved my life, and took our child’s. He measured our shoulders before He put our cross on it.

Our gynaecologist interrupted his holiday to attend Tirza’s birth. Deeply moved, he remarked, “What a beautiful way to give closure to her life.” He explained that with an abortion, parents always have doubts and wonder whether their disabled child would have lived, what he or she would have looked like, and more. “But you have been able to give this a beautiful place in your life,” he said. And that is true. We even have pictures to sometimes look at, and precious memories forever in our hearts.

Despite miscarriages, we received two more healthy daugthers in the years that followed. The last one had to spend two weeks in an incubator at the NICU, and we were so afraid. But again, the Lord was good to us. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death” (Psalm 68:19, 20).

Others often showed no understanding when we were expecting again, which was difficult. Yet we could and still may put our life in the Lord’s hands with a simple trust that He is in control. That brings true peace. As Job said, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Our marriage form expresses this beautifully as well: “For this reason the Lord Jesus Christ…will aid and protect married persons even when they are least deserving it.”

We have experienced this often, especially when times were difficult. This was also the case with our very last pregnancy. Grateful for another child, we learned at 12 weeks that something was wrong. We thought we would carry the baby to full-term, but at 17 weeks her little heart stopped beating. After an induced birth, we buried her besides Tirza. Again, there was much sadness.

It is now one year later and this, in short, is my story. I speak from experience when I say to never, ever end your pregnancy! To dispose of your pre-born child is to touch God-given life—He reigns, not us. Regardless of how difficult it has been, I would have never wanted to abort my children. When people say they want the best for their child, my question is this: If someone is so dear to you, regardless of special needs, how can you abort him or her? Please know that I would take care of your child with all the love of my heart. I work with severely disabled adults who are unable to do anything for themselves and yet, they are able to give love. Because no one is ever created for no reason. And perhaps they are happier than those with the intelligence to reason everything.

All that matters is whether the Lord knows them, and knows you. You may have everything in this world, but without Him, you have nothing.

“Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous to the general public but is known to the editors of The Reformed Pro-Lifer. Together with her husband and five healthy children, she is a member of one of our Reformed congregations. Besides serving her family, she lovingly provides care for adults with severe developmental disabilities.

It Happens In Our Churches

I was standing in my kitchen, one late Monday night, when she told me. She was standing there, talking about life, talking about why things happen the way they do. Why people stay with the people they do. Old memories, old pasts, old regrets. Ties that bind. Those sorts of things. The conversation was light hearted, nothing could have prepared me for what she was about to say.

“You should have had a niece or nephew. Six years ago, you should have been an auntie.”

I wish I had a video camera on my face so I could recall what emotions passed over. I didn’t know what to say, I tried to stay calm. “Oh God…” is the only thing I remember saying. A silent prayer? I don’t know what it was, at the time. She continued talking about it, while I tried to cover any emotion and stay chill. I’d been involved in the prolife movement, but I’d always been scared of saying the wrong thing. Earlier that evening, I had said to a friend: “But how do you know you’re not saying the wrong thing?” This was my time…

I stood there in silence, listening to her continue on about it. “At that time, it was the best decision for me. I was in no condition to be a mother. That child would not have had a happy life.” I had so many questions, I wanted to know how, I wanted to know why. But I couldn’t formulate words. Where were the people that should have been there when she needed them?

We grew up church goers. We knew the difference. We were raised the right way. We heard speakers speak, we heard teachers teach, we heard preachers preach. We knew.

We heard about it from others, from celebrities, from ‘heathens.’ But we thought- no, we knew that church goers would never do such a thing. After all, we knew.

We knew, they know. And we all know the truth. It happens. In our circles, in our communities- it happens. Babies are aborted, within our close, loving supportive circles. The mothers and fathers alike go on to carry the scars, somehow convincing themselves that it was the right decision at the right time.

I sit in church every week. I hear people talk. I hear people tell stories. I hear things. Don’t tell me it’s not happening- right here in our very own communities. Don’t tell me it’s not going on. Don’t tell me that our young people aren’t having pre-marital sex, and don’t tell me that from all those young couples defying the holy bond of marriage, that there are no abortions happening. Don’t tell me there is not a reason our communities oppose graphic imagery so much. Don’t tell me it doesn’t open old wounds, burn old scars.

It had happened six years ago, but that day, my heart broke. It broke for the niece or nephew I had never met. It broke for my sister, who chose to murder her child for lack of what she considered ‘options.’ It broke for the person who performed the abortion- that person who was guilty of murdering my niece or nephew, along with thousands of other children. It broke, and I had to learn how to grieve.

Yet, it also opened for everyone out there who was going through with it. Who wanted to terminate life.

Who didn’t think they could do it. Who truly believed it was the right decision at that time. I sit in the church, I hear, I know. They sit in the church, they hear, they know. My sister sat in that church too. She heard, she knew.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking we’re all okay, because we know.

Don’t tell me we don’t have any need of graphic imagery, of “Choice Chains” or of the Pro-life movement. Don’t tell me any of that.

Most of all, don’t tell me ‘I know.’ Because she knew too.

Why the Pro-Life Cause Is Important: An Interview with Reverend Cornelius Sonnevelt

What do you feel the Christian’s duty towards the pre-born are?

I cannot express this better than with the words of Psalm 82 (the rhymed version):

         “Do justice for the helpless,
          The orphans cause maintain;
          Defend the poor and needy,
          Oppressed for wrong and gain.”

What made you so pro-life?

1. I was brought up with a strong sense for justice and injustice.  My dad, in particular, was a man who always chose the side of the underdog even when that got him into trouble at times.

2. When I was 17 years old, the Lord came into my life.  From that moment on, God’s Word became the standard for my outlook on issues of life and death.  Especially Psalm 139 had a powerful influence on how I began to see the pre-born.

3. When abortion was about to be legalized in the country of my birth, I attended a huge rally organized by leaders of various churches including the Roman Catholics.  The late Rev. A. Vergunst (by no means a man who preached salvation by works) accepted the invitation to attend this public meeting.  His example and address during that large gathering made a very deep impression on me.

How has being pro-life and the recognition that abortion is happening affected you?

After returning from the mission field in Nigeria, I have always tried to lay these needs before the Lord in my private life and in public.  Sometimes, when posting in front of abortion clinics in the Netherlands, I took my children along.  My wife and I realized that the abortion issue could be shocking for them, but we did not want them to grow up in a vacuum.  Additionally, the fact that the legalized child murder continued unabatedly has often made me depressed.  Will God not avenge the blood of all those helpless children?  Is the hardening mentality in our western societies not a sign of His judgment?  It seems we’re living under a cloud.

What are the biggest obstacles pro-life activists face from religious communities?

1. Indifference.  Many assert that, “of course,” they are pro-life (who is not?), but how many are really wrestling with this in prayer?  How many send letters to the responsible people?  How many go out of their way to make a difference?

2. Complacency.  We tend to think that, no matter what we do, the abortion caravan cannot be stopped.  We get used to the horrible practices that occur in hospitals and clinics.  And so we carry on with our life, our careers, our vacations, and you name it.

3. Active opposition.  There are Reformed people who regard all activism as a kind of good-works religion or, even worse, as outright wrong because “we are not supposed to demonstrate or to protest in the first place.”  This is hard for me to understand.  In my younger years, when I was a member of a communist youth group, I participated in demonstrations, in strikes and sit-ins, and in street battles with the police.  But our methods were totally different (they were often violent), and so was our goal.  We did not fight so much for others but primarily for our own rights, for more freedom, for higher wages, and so on.  Reformed people who actively oppose the work of organizations such as CCBR are either confused or influenced by an Anabaptist, a-political way of thinking.  Of course, they are entitled to their own opinion, but by portraying pro-life activism in a negative way, they undermine the good cause.

Can you think of other obstacles?

Yes, I have come across the idea that a pre-born child does not have a soul until it is a few months old or even until it is born.  This weird idea, cherished by a few ministers in former times, is potentially dangerous today as it plays directly into the hands of the abortion movement.  After all, if a pre-born child has no soul, what is it?  Just a cluster of cells?  A handful of tissue?  A blob?  You may still call it human life, but if it is not a human person, abortion loses much of its pervasive, sinful, and criminal character.  Then there is the innate fear to be seen as a radical, either by the outside world or by the members of your own church community.  And finally, many prefer to have a paid job to being involved with volunteer work that earns you little more than flak and spittle.  Suppose you have the choice between a teaching position with a fat salary and a job with a pro life organization where you must live from gifts―what would you do?

What words of advice do you have for those within our communities who seek to do pro-life work?

1. Pray for a deep compassion with the pre-born and their mothers.

2. Have a little patience with those who oppose you.

3. Go out and do the work with God’s help!