“We decided to do what we knew was right and leave the rest to God”

 

By Jeremy Shoemaker

Editor’s note. Mr. Shoemaker has worked as a congressional aide and in state government. He contacted NRLC President Carol Tobias who encouraged him to share his and wife’s powerful story with National Right to Life News Today.

I’ve spent my professional life in the public sector as a staffer, as well as some time in government affairs. I’d be willing to bet that I’ve taken the most non-traditional path to end up here. My teens and early 20’s were quite the definition of a mis-spent youth (story for another day), but my childhood provided me a solid foundation, thanks to great parents. One of the things my parents stressed was to understand why we were pro-life. Amazing how difficult that decision can be when you’re forced to prove it.

My wife Jade and I were married 3 years ago and within the first month, were blessed with the news that she was pregnant. Around 17 weeks, we went in for the anatomy scan and were told that we were having a little boy. Shortly after, we were escorted into a private room where we met with a doctor who told us that they found some fluid in the baby’s chest and didn’t know what it was. We were referred to a specialist.

Our appointment with the specialist was scheduled for a week later and like any new parents, we researched as much as we could beforehand. We didn’t like what we found. Our research concluded and the specialist confirmed that our child had something called fetal hydrops. A condition of this disorder allows fluid to collect in the child’s chest and prohibits the lungs from developing properly. While this often results in a miscarriage, if not, we were told that should the child make it until birth, he would certainly die. They told us we should have an abortion. We refused.

I’m not an emotional guy, but we left the specialist that day broken, crying and faced with the reality that we either needed to abort now, or risk my wife going through with a pregnancy that results in a newborn child dying in our arms 6 months later. Not an easy decision, regardless of how committed to life I professed to be.

We decided to do what we knew was right and leave the rest to God. Due to our refusal to terminate the pregnancy, we were sent to the University of Maryland Medical Center as a last hope. The doctors there gave us our options and my wife underwent 3 separate procedures to shunt our son’s chest and release the fluid. Every procedure was successful temporarily.

About 1 month before his due date, Jade’s water broke. Amazingly, we were staying in Baltimore due to a scheduled appointment the next day. We rushed to the hospital and she underwent the emergency C-section. Our son was placed on a number of machines to help him breathe, etc. We still had hope that he would survive. To this point, we were told that the hardest part was getting him to birth, after that, he had a good chance.

For 8 days, we stayed either in the hospital or at the Ronald McDonald House and prayed. On the 10th day we were told something was going wrong and he needed a complete blood transfusion, which we agreed to do. He did well through the procedure and we were again hopeful. Also, because the hospital now had a surplus of blood, they wanted to test for some very rare abnormalities that they assured us were so incredibly rare, that they’ve only read about them previously. We agreed to the testing.

We received a call when the results returned from our doctors, asking us to meet them. It didn’t sound good. It wasn’t. As fortune would have it, one of the tests came back positive. Literally a one in a million chance and he had it. To this day I can’t pronounce the name of the disorder. We were crushed. After all we’ve been through, this is how it was going to end for our firstborn son. I didn’t understand. . . still don’t really.

He passed away in front of us 4 days later. My wife was finally able to hold him for the first time after he had passed. That kind of pain is quite simply indescribable. It’s in your bones.

For a while at first we were angry, but at who? Then I realized that we were blessed. We had an opportunity to watch him grow inside my wife. We had the best equipment and three appointments a week to watch him live the life he was given. While definitely the most painful experience of our lives, we wouldn’t have traded a minute of it because it was the only time we had with our son.

I feel (and have always felt) that I’ve been put in an unlikely professional position in politics and government, coupled with passion for this issue, for a reason that I can’t identify. I’m not even really one to care much for getting involved in “social issues” with one obvious exception. To think that it is legal in this country to “terminate” children the same age as my son was when he was diagnosed is reprehensible to me and I can’t sit idly by and allow it to continue without at least offering to fight.

If I can be useful or if this story can be useful, please use let me know. I sincerely appreciate all that you do for children like my son Dane. Please keep up the good work and let me know how I can help. There has to be something useful I can contribute.

[Mr. Shoemaker shared the following in a subsequent email exchange with Mrs. Tobias]:

As I mentioned previously, I’m not sure what people should take from our experience. Perhaps it was the front row seat to watching our child grow inside the womb, thus removing any and all doubt that it is a child and not some abstract collection of cells. Possibly it was that it is a parents’ biological obligation, if not their moral one, to fight for the life of their child until the end and not within our power to determine when that end might be. Or maybe the take away is quite simply that life is a gift.

While we didn’t get the 100-year life that we wanted for Dane, we were able to spend 12 days with him. Some parents don’t get that, so from a certain perspective, we were lucky. I remember as he was hooked up to his machines in the hospital, he squeezed my finger. So simple, but I’ll remember it until the day I die.

I understand that this is simply one of hundreds of stories. People always tend to put emphasis or place significance on stories that involve themselves, and I’m sure to some extent that’s what I’m doing now. However, if there is some way that I can use this difficult experience to change one person’s mind about abortion, I have an obligation to try. Maybe, someone in a similar situation with a sick child and the same prognosis, will choose to stick it out and their child will make it…I don’t know.

I also realized that I didn’t share the good news. Jade and I successfully conceived 3 months after Dane passed and now have a healthy 1-year old named Christian Duke Shoemaker.