She was young. Far too young, by most reckonings, to be equipped to cope with tragedy.
She’d been married only a short time when she discovered that she was pregnant…and only a short time later discovered that her baby daughter was anencephalic, incapable of living outside the womb.
Against medical advice and the urgings of many who were close to her, she decided to bring her doomed daughter, whom she named Maria, to term. Maria lived outside the womb for less than an hour. It was long enough to be baptized and loved.
What would you do after such a stroke of ill fortune? Would you be willing to risk another pregnancy without delay? With all your family and friends urging you to wait and reflect? Without any assurance that your tragedy would not be repeated?
Only a few months passed before she conceived afresh. Her joy was tinted with fear, for one child with anencephaly raises the probability that the next one will also be so afflicted. That turned out not to be the case. Ultrasound revealed that her new baby, Davide, had no legs, no kidneys, and no better prospects for surviving the world outside his mother’s body.
Once again, the doctors and many others around her counseled her to terminate Davide en utero. Once again, she refused. Davide lived no longer than Maria. And once again, the doomed child was baptized and loved.
What would you do after two such tragedies? Would you ever again risk a pregnancy? Were you in that young woman’s place – or her husband’s – would you think a third conception to be a sensible course, a risk worth taking?
Yet she did conceive a third time: another boy, Francesco. And wonder of wonders, marvel of marvels, this child would be healthy, entirely without flaw. The young couple rejoiced, for a child to love and raise was among their dearest hopes.
But a third tragedy awaited them in the form of a squamous cell carcinoma in the young mother. The treatment most likely to defeat the cancer would greatly endanger the child in her womb. And the medical authorities, once again, were unanimous in urging her to think first of herself: to allow Francesco to be delivered three months premature. He would live – or die – in an incubator so his mother could receive lifesaving therapy.
What would you do?
That young woman’s name was Chiara Corbella Petrillo. This book tells the tale of her short life. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. I urge it upon you all.
Happy Easter to my Orthodox brethren. May God bless and keep you all.