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Choosing life despite inevitable sorrow

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Choosing life despite inevitable sorrow: The story behind Abel Speaks

By Kelly and Daniel Crawford

In the summer of 2015, my husband, Daniel, and I discovered we were pregnant and that our first child was a little boy!

On the same phone call, however, we learned that our son was conceived with a life-limiting chromosomal abnormality known as Trisomy 18.

Nothing can prepare you for that moment.

The future you envisioned with your child begins slipping away. Instantly, I had to come to grips with the reality that our baby’s life would more than likely be short if his diagnosis held true.

So, the question instantly emerged: What ought a family do in a situation like ours?

 

A ‘better’ choice?

Some people, such as the first specialist we saw, encourage abortion as a means of hitting reset in order to try again for a “better” one, which is to say, a healthier one.

Others believe it would be “better” to terminate the pregnancy at that point, in the sense that it would be emotionally easier. “If you’re going to lose this child at some point, why torture yourselves by dragging out the inevitable? Wouldn’t it be best and easiest for everyone to just end it now and try again?” 

I believe that this line of thinking is rooted in a caring consideration for the parents and offered with the best of intentions. It’s not hard to comprehend and even empathize with why abortion would be considered in a situation like ours.

However, I humbly propose that such a conclusion is built upon two faulty assumptions.

 

The emotional fallacy

Emotionally, the faulty assumption is that joy and sorrow are incompatible and that anything in life can fall into one of those two buckets—but never both.

I cannot subscribe to that premise for two reasons:

  1. Regardless of your worldview or faith persuasion, the human experience shows us that joy and sorrow are notmutually exclusive. In fact, I think we consistently find that the two are tied at the hip. Is it not true that life is an ever-swirling blend of joy and sorrow, highs and lows, good and bad, peace and conflict and love and loss?
  2. It is also true that as we give our hearts fully to something or someone, this greater depth of love does, in fact, bring about greater levels of potential pain. This is, after all, why it’s hardest to lose the ones we love the most, and I can think of no other situation where my response to a life-limiting illness would be to get it over with and move on as quickly as possible. We also know that as hard as it is to lose a loved one, the sorrow that stems from these losses never negates or replaces the joy we shared and experienced with them.

 

The psychological fallacy

Psychologically, scientific research has shown that women who terminated a child with a life-limiting diagnosis reported significantly more despair, more depression, and more post-traumatic stress than women who continued the pregnancy (Duke University, 2015).

So, it actually benefits a woman’s mental health to continue with the pregnancy in situations like ours rather than choosing abortion.

The spiritual truth

Spiritually, above all else, I’ve come to see and believe that we can take God at his Word.

The Scriptures are abundantly clear:

Yet, we can come to know him more intimately as we share in his sufferings (Philippians 3:10) and trust that our pain is never pointless (Romans 5:3–5) as we keep our eyes fixed on the eternal hope that lies ahead (Revelation 21:1–5) for all who have accepted Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf (Romans 10:9–10).

In the meantime, we have personally experienced the depths of comfort that can be found in Christ and in community (2 Corinthians 1:3–7).

 

Choosing life 

So, the choice we had to weigh was really no choice at all.

If my son’s death was impending, I would not be the one to set that date. Rather than giving our little boy an abortion, we gave him a name, and Abel Paul Crawford’s journey on earth continued.

I carried Abel for a full thirty-nine weeks, and he was born on January 22, 2016. This happens to be same day that Roe v. Wade was passed back in 1973. (I’ve since had two more babies born on January 22, but that’s a different story).

Ultimately, we got to love and take care of Abel for fifteen days after birth.

 

While losing Abel was tragic, the real tragedy would have been if we had kept ourselves from truly loving Abel during the time we did have with him.

The truth is, aborting my son would not have spared Daniel and I an ounce of loss or despair. It would have only robbed us of the joyful memories that forever mark our season with Abel.

I never would have known my son.

I wouldn’t have known what he looked like, and I wouldn’t have heard the sound of his little newborn cry. I wouldn’t have gotten to bathe him, and change him, and feed him. I wouldn’t have seen his full head of brown hair, or his sweetly clenched fists, or his adorable clubbed foot.

I can honestly tell you that our time with Abel was simultaneously the saddest and the sweetest, the hardest and the greatest thirty-nine weeks and fifteen days of our lives. We wouldn’t trade those two weeks for anything in the world, and I cannot fathom giving them up prematurely and voluntarily.

 

Abel Speaks 

As we share our story in public, our goal is never to condemn or offend any families who have chosen a different story for themselves and their child. We don’t want to shame families looking at the past; we want to strengthen families living in the present.

That desire has led us to found a nonprofit organization called Abel Speaks, where we exist to support families who have chosen to carry a child with a life-limiting diagnosis in pregnancy.

Our name comes from Hebrews 11:4: “And through faith, even though he is dead, Abel still speaks.”

 

Our vision at Abel Speaks is that every family we serve will cherish their child’s life and have hope in the midst of sorrow.

We want more stories marked not just by loss but also by joy and hope and life. Stories like Jordon Bailey, who wrote this about her son Ellis, also conceived with Trisomy 18:

I remember being afraid. Afraid to lose him. Afraid OF him. Afraid of a long hospital stay with him. Afraid of bringing him home. And I remember the first time I came across Abel Speaks, when Kelly and Daniel’s blog popped up on a Google search. I stayed up for hours late at night reading every post. Tears streaming down my face. And I can remember the first time I saw a picture of Abel – I can still so clearly remember that moment. It was the first time I wasn’t afraid of Ellis. I was hopeful.

Joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive, and the deep pain we feel from losing Abel is directly and inseparably tied to the pure joy we had in knowing and loving him fully. No restraint, no regrets.

And I can tell you that stewarding Abel’s life has been the greatest privilege of ours.

Kelly and Daniel Crawford operate ABEL SPEAKS {AbelSpeaks.org}, a DFW-based nonprofit that exists to support families who have chosen to carry a child with a life-limiting diagnosis. Their vision is that every family would cherish their child’s life and have hope in the midst of sorrow.