Despite popular belief, Disney does not have a corner on the title “The Happiest Place on Earth.” That distinction usually belongs to the Labor and Delivery (L&D) department at your local hospital. Usually. But on the morning I met Sue Reed and her husband Mike, I already knew it was not going to be a usual day.
Sue and Mike married in their early forties. Blessed with one healthy child, Samantha, they were inspired to try for another. After a few difficult starts, Sue turned up pregnant in May of 2003, two months shy of her 44th birthday. They named her Gabriella Grace Reed – or “GiGi” for short.
Since older mothers tend to carry a greater risk of genetic deformities, Sue’s doctors scheduled her for immediate genetic testing. A week after the test, Sue woke with a feeling that “something’s not OK.”
Later that afternoon, a doctor’s call confirmed her suspicion. The doctor told Sue that she was 95% certain that GiGi had Trisomy-18 which meant an extra 18th chromosome.
Sue says, “I struggled to hear more – even as I began shutting down.”
The “more” she was hearing was the doctor telling her that most women opt to terminate these pregnancies.
While Mike and Sue spent the weekend “asking the hard question of what God was doing here,” Sue couldn’t help but recall a pervious abortion she had in her youth “that punctured her heart forever.”
“I knew I couldn’t do it again. I knew in my heart-of-hearts that God made GiGi exactly the way she was supposed to be made. “I know that the scripture says ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.’
“God was asking me to honor this life. She was our daughter with a bad diagnosis, but that was secondary. Nevertheless, it (the diagnosis) was like an end to my pregnancy. With each doctor’s visit, I was sure GiGi wouldn’t have a heartbeat.”
But as GiGi’s heart continued to beat, the doctors began anticipating her live birth. They asked Sue how she wanted to care for GiGi after she was born. Sue remembers the doctor asking with tears in her eyes, “How do you want this to play out?”
Sue and Mike instructed the doctor not to resuscitate, but instead to offer all comfort care. “We just want to meet her and love her – hold her and be with her. We want to meet and love our daughter as long as she is going to be with us.”
The night before the birth, Sue wrote a letter to GiGi in which she explained that “Some people only dream of angels, but I get to actually give birth to one and then hold her in my arms. I am so very blessed. See you tomorrow, Sweet Girl.”
So on Feb 5th at 10:00 am, I entered Labor and Delivery to meet a couple who appeared like any other expectant parents carrying a video camera. Only their video recorder would record the two most sacred moments of life – birth and death – all on one tape. Twenty minutes after Mike and I dressed in surgical scrubs, GiGi emerged looking like a perfect baby.
“I expected a deformed baby,” Sue admitted, “but she was beautiful. It was like a visitor from heaven. It was like God showing me that what we did was the Faith Thing. I remember feeling like my heart was exploding so joyfully. It was like seeing God on earth.
“It struck home that God hears, sees, and answers prayers. Even though I’d wished for a better outcome, I’m grateful that God chose us. I never thought I could walk through something like this. “It’s made me realize how every moment in life is important – even if it was just 80 minutes. I packed a lot of parenthood in those 80 minutes.”
Later Sue added, “Ever since this happened, I think about ‘the moment.’ In life, sometimes we only get a moment. GiGi’s life was that moment.”
“Sometimes love is for a moment, sometimes it’s for a lifetime and sometimes a lifetime is a moment. Learn more about Trisomy 18 and see Gigi’s web site.